Taiichi Ohno and the revolution of consciousness
Taiichi Ohno was born in Manchuria in 1912 and spent 45 years of his working life in the service of the Toyoda family. He started at the company in 1932 as an employee in the textile branch and then landed a job in the automobile department in 1939. He graduated in mechanical engineering, but his real training was hands-on, in the production departments, in close contact with the workings of the machine shops. Ohno is considered the father of the Toyota production system, the man who devised a new way to interpret production as a fluid, constant and continuous process, eliminating any waste, both in terms of building unnecessary components, and of unnecessary work. To get there, Taiichi Ohno challenged old, established rules and completely revolutionised the production process, turning it on its head and reaching what he himself defined as a “revolution of consciousness”. The new industrial company had to be brave enough to let go of the mindset of storing reserves and overproduction. It became imperative to avoid any kind of waste, and produce only what was needed, when it was needed. The American mass production system was no longer adequate for the times; it produced a limited number of models in massive quantities, which no longer seemed to be a sustainable business model. The revolution that Toyota introduced was the polar opposite: achieving lower costs and producing a limited number of many different models.