Tag Archives: product development

Book Review: “The Toyota Product Development System”

The Toyota Product Development SystemWriters and readers are in a relationship. Each has responsibilities. The writer is responsible for the structural quality of his writing such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary. (The language should be invisible in high quality writing so that the reader can focus on the content i.e. the writer’s message.) The reader is responsible for being fluent in the language to understand high quality writing.

This book should never have been published just for its atrocious quality of writing. It is filled with spelling mistakes, terrible grammar, and horrid punctuation. These issues, in addition to needless Japanese jargon, car jargon, and undefined acronyms, interrupted reading so often that I had to put the book away every few pages. This is especially frustrating as the book is fundamentally about building quality in into a product! There is no indication that this was done in the production of this book.

I am deeply interested in the product development process. Experience with several companies has shown me that their respective product development process, if it exists as such, is poorly designed, poorly defined, and not effective in operation. So I have been studying—I’ve read Stuart Pugh’s “Total Design”[1], Don Clausing’s “Total Quality Development”[2], and Ulrich/Eppinger’s “Product Design and Development”[3], among other books and papers. Given that Toyota excels at bringing great products to market quickly, I really wanted to learn and understand its approach. So it was with this intent, and Jeffrey Liker’s reputation, that I picked up “The Toyota Product Development System”[4].

The book does not deliver what its title promises. The authors do not provide a model of the product development process, instead discussing the sociotechnical system (STS) at Toyota, the V-Comm communication system, and PDVSM—product development value stream mapping to improve the product development process. This is already superbly detailed in Jeffrey Liker’s “The Toyota Way”[5]. We get it—the product development process at Toyota is grounded in its world leading STS, but what is the process specifically? The authors don’t detail the product development process as I’ve come to expect from reading Pugh, Clausing, Ulrich/Eppinger. Perhaps that is a failure on my part.

How are design inputs collected and/or developed? How are those inputs converted into engineering terminology? If Toyota doesn’t use the House of Quality, what does it use? How are engineering requirements converted into sets of concepts? There is no usable explanation of set-based concurrent engineering. For crying out loud, Jeffrey Liker wrote several papers on this! What is the method for vetting various concepts? How does detailed engineering happen i.e. converting requirements into drawings? How are those concepts verified and/or validated? What type of testing is performed or skipped? When is it done? None of the things that would help a design and development engineer to understand the design and development process at Toyota is covered in any useful way.

When these questions are touched upon, they are done so piecemeal and superficially; disconnected from one another. The authors make the reader work very hard to extract nuggets from their writing. The discussion often happens in the context of an example, but the examples require you to know car terminology! So if you don’t have experience in the automobile industry, good luck trying to figure out what the authors are trying to communicate. (Thank you Google & Wikipedia for helping me see what is meant.) The matter is made worse by the fact that an example doesn’t carry through between discussion of topics.

One final note, there is a ridiculous amount of adoration of Toyota’s results that borders on worship. I didn’t care for that, especially when what I was looking for—the description of process—was missing. I didn’t buy the book for the authors to tell me how good Toyota is and how bad everybody else is. I already know this. It is unfortunate that several masters in lean wrote rave reviews for the book. I wonder if they bothered to actually read it. I am now less inclined to be guided by their reviews and recommendations. My suggestion to you is you skip this book. It isn’t worth anyone’s time.

Links
[1] Pugh, Stuart. Total Design. Addison-Wesley Publishers Ltd. 1991. ISBN 0-201-41639-5

[2] Clausing, Don. Total Quality Development. ASME Press: New York, NY. 1993. ISBN 0-7918-0035-0

[3] Ulrich, Karl T., and Steven D. Eppinger. Product Design and Development. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education. 2012. Print. ISBN 978-93-5260-185-1

[4] Morgan, Kames M., and Jeffrey K. Liker. The Toyota Product Development System. New York, NY: Productivity Press. 2006. Print. ISBN 1-56327-282-2

[5] Liker, Jeffrey K. The Toyota Way. New York, NY: McGraw Hill. 2004. Print. ISBN 0-07-139231-9

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