TPS Simulation

5-Step TPS Simulation - (Toyota Production System)

This 5-step event (an optional sixth step is provided as an added activity to focus on supply chain involvement) uses the training methods generally recognized as the Toyota method for introducing lean flow to new team members. Typically performed as the "Paper Airplane" simulation, the LeanMan version eliminates the reams of wasted paper and saves a few trees.

The TPS method focus more on the flow and eliminating waste from the process, and less on immediately trying to reduce the number of human elements in the process. It is based on respect for the worker and the tribal knowledge the worker possess; the transfer of that knowledge and associated responsibility for the process to the new trainee via cross training; and developing respect for the process and acceptance of the responsibility by the new trainee. It is also about using the talents of the workers to improve the process and continually seek perfection.

The key to the TPS simulation is in the Learn-Do-Teach technique of passing on learned experience and tribal knowledge that comes with successfully performing work.

  • The first run of the simulation uses very vague instructions, no photos, and the facilitator answers all questions with "just read the process" or ignores the person, plus the participants are not allowed to talk. They are told to get to work. Unfortunately, this simulates the typical old school work environment still in practice in many shops. Facilitators - be warned. This one will get their emotions running high (ticked off!) but it is a necessary step to begin the change process.
  • In the second run, participants switch seats again, but more detailed instructions with photos are provided and the facilitator stops the simulation to provide help for each question asked. Talking is still not allowed, but the participants are encouraged at each point process station to ask questions and to improve by whatever means the participant can suggest (without changing the basic parameters such as batch size).
  • In the third run the participants switch seats again, but only after the "experienced" person teaches what they know and the "student" accepts responsibility for carrying on the process as taught. Participants are encouraged during the simulation run to share ideas and to discuss flow with each other and work out improvements between stations using their shared tribal knowledge of the process. The facilitator becomes a mentor and resource if asked for help.
  • The remaining runs continue to rotate the participants and continuous improvements are encouraged between each run, always with the question: what would make the customer more satisfied. The facilitator guide provides suggested changes at each step to help guide the team to stay on track toward a lean flow.

This simulation requires one Car Factory Kit of materials per team, but the LeanMan recommends you perform this event with two teams running simultaneously for metric comparisons. It's also a lot of fun when you get a bit of competition going. The focus is on the transformation from non-lean to lean flow, and improves worker understanding, worker communication, cross training, building team relationships, taking ownership of the process and quality, and focus on customer satisfaction. The team is continually attempting to divine what constitutes customer satisfaction.

After each simulation run, the team gathers what they have just seen and felt, they calculate Earned Value metrics for the run, and then attempt to answer the critical question - "What would make the customer happier?" Then the team adjusts the flow, kanbans, visual signals and talent assignment and, based on their ideas and suggestions, run the simulation again to improve speed and efficiency or reduce more waste.

TPS [Toyota Production System] 5-Step Event



Each team requires at least 8 participants per car kit. The actual number can be a bit variable as needed at the last minute, based on how many participants are available. Additional labor points for head and tail lights can be quickly inserted as optional stages in the flow to accommodate participation. (Note: The head and tail light material is available at any office supply store. See the Read Me file on the USB Drive)

A single facilitator can easily control two TPS teams running simultaneously. The set up work has been done for you with the included printed and laminated participant placemats which contain the point process detail instructions. Additional sets can be printed as needed from the USB drive and laminated. We recommend one Deluxe Car Factory Kit and one Companion Kit, or add any of the other Car Factory Kits listed below.

This simulation event works well with shop floor workers, but is also a good training experience for line supervisors and managers because it delves into the human side of work and role expectation, and how to capitalize upon the natural talents of the team members, and the transformation of the supervisor from trail boss to mentor and adviser.

The LeanMan highly recommends adding the Teaming with Success presentation to help complete the transformation process by developing an understanding of the human side of accepting change in a team. It's a great way to end the event.


A 40 page color printed facilitator guide is included which provides the facilitator with lists of things to observe and point out to the people, comments to verbalize during the simulation to add clarity or specific awareness, and suggestions for improvement for the next step.

Event time is 110 minutes for the simulations and discussions between runs, plus additional time for any of the several support PowerPoint presentations if used. Room size should be medium to large conference room, allowing at least three tables per team and seating 2 or 3 people per table. Be sure to allow room for observers and for the conveyance people to move materials between the departments.

Also recommended: The ToyodaWay Games Set. This fun addition to the event is a great way to start off the day. Participants have fun playing the games while they learn the 14 philosophies of the Toyoda family that form the foundation for the TPS system.

Products Compatible With This Simulation

    Deluxe Car Factory Simulation
    Deluxe Car Factory Simulation
    • The Deluxe Car Kit presents the five principles of Lean Manufacturing through comprehensive lecture presentations and hands-on simulations.

      LeanMan Grand Car Factory Simulation
      LeanMan Grand Car Factory Simulation
      • The LeanMan Grand Simulation Package is a reduced cost bundle of the Deluxe Car Factory Simulation, the VSM, the Kanban and the Heijunka events packaged into two double-deep containers.