Toyota's Lean Manufacturing Incepting The Medical Device Industry

These days we live in a truly global marketplace, and every day it seems like the walls which used to separate various industries are becoming more and more eroded.

This is why you have companies such as Siemens rebranding themselves as "Healthineers," taking cues from other social media-friendly brands to get their message out there. Even massive companies such as Amazon are not immune to cribbing from other industries, using the self-service checkouts at many supermarkets as inspiration for its own cashierless convenience store innovation, Amazon Go.

Even the manufacturing industry finds itself vulnerable to this trend. However, some brands, such as Toyota, are actively seeking to inspire other industries.


The innovative Japanese car brand has become famous for its patented lean manufacturing process - The Toyota Production System. The company even has a dedicated Lean Management Centre located in Toyota's Deeside Engine Plant in North Wales, UK.

"Lean manufacturing is the optimal way of producing goods through the removal of waste and implementing flow, as opposed to batch processing," reports Science Direct. "Lean manufacturing is a generic process management philosophy derived mostly from Toyota, and focuses mainly on reduction of the seven wastes originally identified by Toyota. The main principles of lean manufacturing are zero waiting time, zero inventory, internal customer pull instead of push, reduced batch sizes, and reduced process times."

The Toyota Production System has proved so successful in improving the company's manufacturing processes that it has been adopted by many other brands the world over - whether they operate in the auto industry or not.

The latest industry to sit up and take note is the medical device manufacturing sector, which wanted to see how the Toyota Production System works for themselves.

Lean Manufacturing

It's with this goal in mind that several pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing companies were recently invited to the Lean Manufacturing Centre on a fact-finding mission to learn as much about lean manufacturing as they could and see which principles and processes could be applied to their own industry.

"Because of the cost sensitivities of emerging markets, increasing pressures to deliver value to customers and stakeholders, and tightening regulations requiring flawless quality controls, MedTech manufacturing efficiencies are now more important than ever," reports MedTech News. "The ways in which other industries have met such challenges can be instructive. What's really illuminating is how the most efficient makers of high-quality engineered products have adopted two key disciplines: lean manufacturing and continuous improvement."

The Toyota Lean Management Centre assists in more than just the automobile sector. It works with brands operating in the food, chemicals, aerospace, pharma, and MedTech spaces as well. The Centre runs special courses, such as the one attended by these medical device manufacturers, which allow privileged access to the plant for unique study opportunities. The Lean Management Centre employs about 700 people and produces close to 340,000 car engines per year for shipping to vehicle-assembly plants across the globe.

Toyota's lean manufacturing teaches that it's important to create a culture of togetherness and teamwork in which managers and floor staff work as one to cut waste and overcome challenges. Effective strategies cannot be created while managers are sitting in ivory towers, so far detached from the people who ultimately end up implementing them. Instead, lean manufacturing has leaders and managers on the shop floor, talking and working with factory workers to get real insight into where problems are and how things can be done better.

It's normally frontline staff who have the best grasp of what's going on in a company's processes, and it's only by engaging with them and involving them that you can develop real lean manufacturing solutions.

Final Thoughts

There's a whole lot more to lean manufacturing than we have time to get into here, but it's one of the most successful and productive manufacturing philosophies which exists today. Toyota is one of the biggest and most influential brands on the planet - not just in the auto industry - and it has gained that lofty position, in part, through its world-renowned Toyota Production System.

"It's true that some of the easiest and biggest gains from continuous improvement are usually made first, and that it becomes necessary over time to look harder for smaller rewards," says MedTech News. "But, when every member of the company is looking, as they are, at Toyota, small improvements keep on coming in such large numbers that they add up to something truly significant. Medtech companies who are willing to open their minds to these possibilities have much to gain."

You can hear Toyota's Divisional Information Officer for Manufacturing and Engineering Systems, Trever White, speak at Connected Manufacturing Forum 2019, taking place in July at the Hilton Austin, Austin, TX.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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