Toyota History and the Origins of Jidoka

Jidoka - Automation with a human element

When studying Toyota history, it is evident that the invention of Jidoka was the turning point of mass production management.

Jidoka is the method of automatically stopping production equipment or the production line in the event of a malfunction or a defect in order to prevent defects from being produced.

Jidoka is one of the main pillars of the Toyota Production System.

In general, in order to improve productivity at a plant, machinery and equipment are introduced, which automatically produce or process items. However, there are cases where defective products are produced. In those cases, it is necessary to monitor and separate the good products from the rejects. This requires extra manpower. Therefore, it is not necessarily efficient.

Toyota History - the origins of jidoka

The founding Father of the Toyota Production System (TPS), Mr. Taichi Ohno thought that if the machine itself detects abnormality and stops by itself, an operator can then rush to the scene to solve the problem. In so doing, fewer workers are needed to handle multiple processes. He called machinery which stops by itself, “jidoka” or “automation with a human element". Mr. Ohno had worked for Toyoda Boshoku (now called Toyoda Loom Work Co., Ltd.), where a single female worker was handling a large amount of weaving loom machines. He was amazed at the efficiency and high yields.

The reason for the efficiency at the weaving factory was that when a thread was cut, the machine automatically stopped. The machines were so configured that they would stop to prevent defective products from being made.

It is said that this mechanism was invented by Sakichi Toyoda, "The King of Invention". (According to some sources it was actually his son, Kiichirou Toyada, the founder of Toyota Motors, who developed the mechanism).

Mr Ohno moved to Toyota Motors where he implemented the autonomation or jidoka system.

This method developed into the system that dramatically stopped the outflow of defects onto the following process. It was a revolution in manufacturing process management. 

A radical change in manufacturing process improvement

In traditional mass-production based on statistical quality control, it is believed that even with a certain amount of defects, it is more cost efficient to produce many pieces automatically. Therefore, even with extra stock at each production process, production is carried out according to the production schedule.

In contrast, according to The Toyota Production System (TPS), which is based on the thorough elimination of waste or MUDA, it is believed the production of defective products is the worst type of waste. Even by stopping the flow of production temporarily, quality must be built in. And operators at the worksites are authorized to stop the production lines.

Take a deeper look into the elimination of waste according to TPS.

Return from Toyota History to The Toyota Production System.