Toyotism: Applied ‘’Lean’’

Although historically Toyotism (or “Toyota Production System”) is the ancestor of “Lean Manufacturing”, hierarchically it would be better to present it as an application of “Lean”. Indeed, Toyotism goes beyond the “Lean” philosophy because it incorporates a multitude of concrete tools and presents some more specific principles that stick well to the automotive industry. To apply the “Lean” program does not necessarily mean the full respect of each of the principles of Toyotism! The 14 principles of Toyotism as well as the tools developed by Toyota to apply them give us a concrete example of a company that has been creative to become and, above all, to remain “Lean”. Here is a summary of these 14 principles: 

Establish a long-term philosophy 

  • All your decisions must respect this philosophy, even if some of them go against short-term goals. The credibility of the approach depends on it.

Set up the continuous flow 

  • Your products must always be moving (in small batches, ultimately, one at a time).
  • Limit buffer stocks.
  • Eliminate waste (“muda”).
  • Stabilize your processes.

Use the fired stream 

  • Avoid overproduction by using tools such as “Kanban”.
  • Produce / order on request and in small quantity.

Stabilize the production flow 

  • If possible, produce at a constant rate. Use demand planning tools. Avoid the trap of the end of the month.

Stop to fix problems 

  • Prioritize quality.
  • Empower people to stop a process to report a problem.


  • Level up.
  • Standardization of operations allows the company to learn and improve.

Implant visual controls 

  • Make sure to make the problems visible.
  • Use the “5 S” method.

Make sure the technology is at your service 

  • Do not be at the service of technology.
  • Technology must be claimed and not imposed.

Develop your leaders 

  • Make sure the principles are not just applied from top to bottom of the hierarchical structure.
  • The emergence of grassroots leaders sold to the principles must be promoted.

Train your employees in your culture 

  • As soon as you hire someone, let them know what the company’s culture is. Show that you live it by concrete examples.
  • Such training requires time.
  • Reduce staff turnover.
  • Implement ongoing training on your corporate culture.

Help your partners help you 

  • Consider your suppliers as integral to the success of your business. Help them get better, support them during difficulties.
  • Make sense of the word partner.

Live the problems 

  • Be on site during problems (“Stand in the Circle”). See them personally.

Understandthen act quickly 

  • Make sure you understand the ins and outs of different solutions available to you to solve a problem.
  • Make a thoughtfuldecision butact quickly. 

Learn through continuous improvement 

  • Consult your employees.
  • Encourage them on a regular basis to submit ideas.
  • Organize “Kaizen” events.
  • Continuous improvement is not a project, it’s a way of life.

Many, if not most, companies adhere to these principles, but few integrate them. Common mistakes include blind application and lack of attendance. Adapt them, become “Lean” in your own way! Apply them every day and you will see the sustainable competitive advantage they provide.