Eiji Toyoda 1913-2013

Reuters reports the death of Eiji Toyoda today, 3 days after his 100th birthday.

In the late 1940’s, the fledgling Toyota Motor Company was in financial difficulties, and was forced to lay off workers. As part of the agreement, Kiichiro Toyoda resigned in 1950 and turned the helm of the company over to his cousin, Eiji.

Kiichiro had developed the early concepts of Just In Time production, and his father, Sakichi, had developed the early concepts of stopping a process that was having quality issues (jidoka).

Eiji had to deal with a turnaround situation, and challenged the company to reach U.S. levels of productivity on a very short timeframe. As part of that effort, he assigned Taiichi Ohno, a machine shop manager, to make it all work. The result was what we today call “The Toyota Way.”

Though there were obviously many people involved, Eiji has a huge share of the credit for creating “The Machine that Changed the World.”

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