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The Paradox of Toyota: The Product Development System featured with quick thinking and slow decision making

2017-06-20 •

During the 77th CLGO forum held at Antai College of Economics and Management (ACEM), Shanghai Jiao Tong University on Jun 4, Kimio Inagaki, an independent consultant of Lean Product Development (LPD) explained to students the product development system of Toyota and the art of quick thinking and slow decision making.

As a graduate of University of Tokyo and University of Michigan, Mr. Inagaki worked as Manager of Manufacturing Coordination in NEC Japan, Vice President of NEC America and President of Jabil Circuit Japan.

He has studied extensively in Theory of constraints (TOC) and introduced the theory to Japan for the first time in 1997. Setting up Globaling Inc in 2010, he is currently dedicated to providing strategic consulting to manufacturing companies. He has also written more than ten books on lean management and LPD subjects, such as 《TOC Revolution》,《EMS Strategy》,《Essential Thinking 》 and has translated nine books, including 《Toyota Way》, 《Toyota Lean Product Development System》.He won a Biz-Tech Book Award in Japan in 2001.

During the forum, Mr. Inagaki pointed out that the Lean Product Development model of Toyota is not just simply applying Lean management tools to traditional product development process to improve efficiency, but to change and rethink completely the paradigm of product development.

He identified five key elements in LPD, namely using the “Job to Be Done” (JTBD) tool to understand client value; using Set-based development methods to transfer client value into design decisions; finding breakthroughs via analogical thinking; learning fast and replacing products using swift and low-cost ways, and re-using and recycling knowledge.

Mr. Inagaki also shared the success story of N-Box, a mini car, or light automobile produced by Honda for the Japanese market. N-Box's chief designer used JTBD methods to polish the product concept, always starting from client needs and continuously raising new and relevant questions, and achieved huge market success.

Using the design of a vacuum cleaner as an example, Mr. Inagaki drew a diagram of causality and found two important variables in the process of product design: the volume of the machine and the particle size it draws in, and a trade-off relationship between the two, before using analogical thinking to find a unique solution.

In conclusion, Mr. Inagaki contends that successful implementation of LPD includes four factors: support from senior leadership, experienced team leaders, application of key LPD elements and suitable organization/company scale.

The forum has inspired active thinking for product development paradigm among CLGO students.

Aimed at educating leaders who can apply managerial and engineering expertise, and insights to the Chinese market to domestic and global manufacturing and operations, such forum is an effective way for CLGO students to gain first-hand knowledge of business practice and facilitate co-operation between university and industry. 

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