Toyota Glossary

Japanese for 'sign' or 'signal'. A visual aid which highlights where action is required (eg the flashing light in manufacturing plants that indicate the line has been stopped by one of the operators due to some irregularity). Andon is a typical tool to apply the Jidoka principle (also referred to as 'autonomation'), which means the highlighting of a problem, as it occurs, in order to immediately countermeasure the problem and prevent re-occurrence.

Japanese for 'real place', now adapted in management terminology to mean the 'workplace' or the place where value is added. In manufacturing, it usually refers to the shop floor.

Genchi Genbutsu

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When translated, means 'Go & See'. The best practice is to go and see the location or process where the problem exists in order to solve the problem quickly and efficiently. To grasp problems, confirm the facts and analyse root causes.


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Heijunka is a technique to facilitate Just-in-time (JIT) production. Heijunka means production levelling (finding and keeping average production volumes) and is used to smooth out production in all departments, as well as that of the supplier over a period of time.


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Jidoka or autonomation is one of the main principles of the Toyota Production System. It is the principle of designing equipment to stop automatically and to detect and call attention to problems immediately, whenever they occur (mechanical jidoka). In the Toyota Production System, operators are equipped with means of stopping the production flow whenever they note anything suspicious (human jidoka). Jidoka prevents the waste that would result from producing a series of defective items. It also liberates operators from the control of the machine and leaves them free to concentrate on tasks that enable them to exercise skill and judgement, instead of over watching each machine continuously.

Just-in-Time (JIT)

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The Toyota Production System is dictated by the needs of the customer, as we don’t produce anything until there is a need for it. Just in time production means only making what is needed, when it is needed and just in the amount needed. TPS operates a ‘pull’ system. When each vehicle is made to order, a signal is sent for parts to be replaced, thus maintaining the parts and materials inventory at a balanced level. Production and transport take place simultaneously throughout the production sequence.


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Kaizen is a process of 'continuous improvement' which helps to ensure maximum quality, to eliminate waste and improve efficiency. Kaizen improvements in standardised work help maximise productivity at every worksite. Standardised work involves following procedures consistently and, therefore, employees can identify the problems promptly. Kaizen activities include measures for improving equipment, as well as improving work procedures.

Kanban System

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Kanban is a tool used in the Toyota Production System to operate the production system as a pull system. It is a system that provides for conveying information between processes and automatically orders parts as they are used. Every item or box of items that flows through our production process carries its own kanban. Kanbans are removed from items as they are used or transported and go back to the preceding processes as orders for additional items.

Muda means waste and refers, in management terms, to a wide range of non-value-adding activities. For example, anything an operator has to do within a process which does not add value but does add cost. Eliminating waste is one of the main principles of the Just-in-time system. Waste incurs unnecessary finance costs and storage costs. Muda of overproduction and Muda of inventory are the most common ones.

Mura means unevenness (irregularity or variability). Eliminating unevenness or irregularities in the production process is one of the main principles of the Just-in-time system, the main pillar of the Toyota Production System.

Muri means overburden (strain or difficulty). Eliminating overburden of equipment and people is one of the main principles of the Just-in-time system, the main pillar of the Toyota Production System. To avoid overburden, production is evenly distributed in assembly processes.


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Nemawashi is the first step in the decision making process. It is sharing of information about the decisions that will be made, in order to involve all employees in the process. During the nemawashi, the company is seeking for the opinion of the employees about the decision.


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Failsafe devices. Literally means 'error proofing'. Devices in the production process (sensors, templates etc) that automatically stop the line when an abnormality occurs.