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There are often questions as to the terminology of Lean.  This page is your reference to the terms most used in the Toyota Production System and how they translate to English.  The terms and definitions are from the TPS Glossary, Toyota Hand Book.








3 Reals

The 3 Reals (Reality, Real Place, Real Thing), the GEN's in Japanese stand for: GENJITSU,   GEMBA, and GEMBUTSU

 yon esu


4 S (SEIRI, SEITON, SEISO, SEIKETSU), revised later to 5 S (GO ESU)

 go esu


(SEIRI, SEITON, SEISO, SEIKETSU, SHITSUKE), 5 points of workplace organization and maintenance


Actual Item

Actual item, real thing

 jikkou takuto taimu

Actual Takt Time

Actual takt time, provisional takt time (see takt time), takt time that includes non-standard operating time in calculation.

 tottara totta

Auto Select

Specially designed rack showing what parts in a kit have been pulled and what parts remain to prevent confusion and missed parts, take-it-took-it



(pronounced gee dough kah) Stopping a line automatically when a defective part is detected. Exceptions handling in real time.

 rotto seisan

Batch Processing

Batch processing, batch and queue.



Bottleneck, constraint, problem area that slows down the whole

 haiya- houshiki

Call Part Delivery 

On-call delivery, Unscheduled time and scheduled quantity conveyance. Associated with components requiring pallet quantities, a call mechanism is used to "call" for a know quantity of parts, requiring a forklift.

 koutei no nagare ka

Continuous Flow Processing

One of the three basic requirements of Just-In-Time. This means eliminating the stagnation of work in and between processes and carrying out one-piece-at-a time production.

 saikuru taimu

Cycle Time

Cycle time, operator cycle time is equal to total time required for a worker to complete one cycle of an assigned job process (including waiting, walking, etc.) and thus completing a work piece to pass on to the next process, machine cycle time is equal the total time it takes a machine to complete one cycle (including work piece loading and unloading times) and thus completing a work piece to pass on to the next process.

EPE Interval (EPEI)

Fundamental concept to lean manufacturing. The EPEI is the time it takes to run through every regular part produced in a process. Knowing the EPEI helps determine the manufacturing lot size and supermarket quantities for each part produced in a manufacturing process, as well as the number of Kanban cards in the replenishment loop.


Equipment Capacity

Rate of operation, equipment capacity against requirement.


Fixed Delivery Route

Fixed-course pick-up, MIZUSUMASHI (pronounced me zoo sue mah she), water spider, milk run.

 shoujin ka

Flexible Manpower Line

This means preparing a production line so that it can meet changing production requirements with any number of workers without lowering productivity. In contrast, a fixed-manpower line is one which always requires a fixed number of workers and no upward or downward adjustment can be made in it to meet changes in production demand.

genchi genbutsu

Go and See

Go and see for yourself. Go see the problem. This is the belief that practical experience is valued over theoretical knowledge. You must see the problem to know the problem.

 kouten kan hikitori kanban

Inter-process KANBAN

Inter-process (between process) Kanban, are used for parts that are supplied internally. The Kanban indicate to the conveyance process in the plant which items have been used by the following process and need to be withdrawn from the previous process.

 koutei nai Kanban

Intra-process KANBAN

Intra-process (within process) kanban, are used within secondary processes. Example, between casting and machining.

 jasuto in taimu


Just in time, JIT, supply of only what is needed to only where it is needed and only when it is needed.



(pronounced kah ee zen) Continuous Improvement. A series of activities whereby instances of Muda are eliminated one by one at minimal cost, by workers pooling their wisdom and increasing efficiency in a timely manner. Kaizen activities typically empathize manual work operations rather than equipment. Also, Kaizen in not an activity to be performed by specialist, but can be – in fact should be – performed by all employees at each job site.



(pronounced kahn bahn), system, KANBAN card.   A method of JIT production that uses standard containers or lot sizes with a single card attached to each. It is a Pull system in which work centers use a card to signal that they wish to withdraw parts from feeding operations or suppliers. The Japanese word Kanban, loosely translated, means card, billboard or sign.

 kanban saikuru

Kanban Cycle

KANBAN cycle, delivery cycle, KANBAN coefficient, frequency of deliveries after a KANBAN card is issued.

 shouryoku ka

Labor Savings

Partial replacement of manual labor by machines. The savings on labor; however, is not to the extent of saving one unit of manpower.

chaku-chaku rain


(pronounced tcha koo tcha koo) line, load-load line, work cell which normally allows one operator to merely transfer (i.e. load) finished pieces from machine to machine, returning to the first machine within the machine cycle time of the first machine.

 unten jikan

Machine Automatic Time

Machine automatic time, machine cycle time minus work piece loading and unloading time (see SAIKURU TAIMU).

 shoujin ka

Manpower Savings

Improving work procedures, machinery and equipment to free workers from particular jobs on a production line consisting of one or more workers.

 poka yoke

Mistake Proofing

(Pronounced poe kah yo kay) Commonly referred to as Error-Proofing or Mistake-Proofing. The aim of Poka Yoke is to design devices that prevent mistakes from becoming defects by giving the earliest possible warning to enable response to abnormalities. Poka Yoke devices sense abnormalities and take action only when an abnormality is identified.

 konsai umpan

Mixed-Load Conveyance

Any plant transport vehicle loaded with more than one type pf parts. Use of mixed loading makes it possible to increase frequency of delivery without lowering conveyance efficiency, i.e. without increasing the total number of deliveries. This in turn allows the amount of inventory kept at each process to be decreased. It also permits the delivery schedules to be more easily adjusted according to production changes.

 tadai mochi

Multi-Machine Handling

Multi-Machine Handling means that one shop worker will move along a group of machines or pieces of equipment and operate them to perform multiple jobs by himself. Those machines and equipment are grouped together because of the similarity of processes involved or similarity of the machines used.

 takoutei mochi

Multi-Process Handling

In Multi-Process Handling, one shop worker will move down a row of machines or equipment arranged in the order of the flow of production processes and will perform all necessary jobs within the Takt-Time.



Operational availability (standard reading is: BEKIDOURITSU, not KADOURITSU), equal to the time a machine is on divided by the time it is engaged in value-adding work.

 ikko nagare

One Piece Flow

One-piece-at-a-time production, one piece flow

 sagyou hyoujun

Operation Standards

The general name for standard procedure and conditions of all jobs. Operation standards ensure that standardized work is carried out correctly at each jobsite. The information is available at each jobsite on worksheets based on diagrams, quality check standards, QC process charts, safety standards, etc., and are aimed at achieving quality, quantity, cost and safety targets. Examples include, operation instruction sheets, quality check sheets, work standards sheets, etc…



(pronounced moo ree), overburden, forcing



The process closest to the end customer where flow begins. The point in the value stream where production is scheduled.

 hikitori kanban

Parts withdrawal KANBAN

“Withdrawal” Kanban, has two types of Kanban to withdraw parts from the preceding process to replace the parts that have been used. (1) Scheduled Quantity (Inter-Process, in-house), 


How often work is released and monitored

hoshin kanri 

Policy Deployment

The selection of goals, projects to achieve the goals, designation of people and resources for project completion and establishment of project metrics.

 yobou hozen

Preventative Maintenance, PM (or) Autonomous Maintenance

A preventative and predictive maintenance system for equipment, in which operators and maintenance staff work together to; modify the equipment so the operator can identify abnormal conditions visually, establish standards so the operator can perform cleaning, lubrication and inspection, Countermeasure failure causes and continuously improve the equipment effectiveness.

 shikake kanban

Production Instruction KANBAN

“Production Instruction” Kanban are attached to parts which a preceding process has produced. These Kanban are removed from the parts by the following process when the parts are pulled or withdrawn and are returned to the preceding process for the next production instruction (job). The timing is controlled by a set quantity of usage.

 ri-do taimu

Production Lead-time

Production lead time, time between acceptance of order to shipment regardless of actual production time

 heijun ka

Production Smoothing

(pronounced hey June kah) Keeping total manufacturing volume and mix as constant as possible. Synonymous with level load scheduling or production smoothing.



Productivity, equal to the number of accepted and sold units produced divided by man-hours used to produce it.

 atokoutei hikitori

Pull-based Manufacturing

An essential part of any Build-To-Order strategy. Having set up the framework for Flow, the next step is to only produce what the customer needs. Pull means that no one upstream should produce goods or services until the customer downstream asks for it.

 bacchi houshiki

Push-based Manufacturing

The production of items required by a given schedule planned in advance. Push based manufacturing is typically associated with producing products to forecasted demand.




 jun biki

Sequence Part Withdrawal 

Sequential parts withdrawal, sequenced part supply. Associated with components requiring sequential pull to the operator work area based on variables such as color. The components are sequenced into a Kanban, such as a dolly/cart and delivered by a timed delivery sequence route. (Least desirable delivery method due to number of touches)


Shop Floor

GEMBA, shop floor, on the line, on site



Sifting, SEIRI (pronounced say ree), segregate and discard

nagara sagyou

Simultaneous Operation

A production system where seemingly unrelated tasks can be produced by the same operator simultaneously.



Sorting, SEITON (pronounced say tone), arrange and identify

 shiji bira

Specification Manifest

This paper (also known as a build sheet) is attached to a vehicle or product giving instructions concerning the parts to be fitted to the vehicle or attached to the product. The instructions are expressed in codes. The advantage of this paper is that information and the product move along together.


Spick & Span

Spick and span, SEIKETSU (pronounced say ket Sue), revisit frequently

 hyoujun temochi

Standard In-Process Stock, Standard Work in Process

One of the three elements making up standardized work this is the minimum quantity of parts always on-hand for processing in and between sub-processes. It allows the worker to do his job continuously in a set sequence of sub processes, repeating the same operation over and over on the same order.

 hyoujun sagyou

Standardized Work

The Toyota Production System organizes all jobs around human motion and creates an efficient production sequence without muda. Work organized in such a way is called standardized work. It is made up of three elements: takt time, working sequence and standard in-process stock.



Supermarket, a shop floor substation for staging parts before they are finally placed on the line.

 gaichuu buhin nounyuu kanban

Supplier KANBAN System

Scheduled Time (Supplier Kanban)



Discipline, SHITSUKE (pronounced sheet soo kay), good habits, motivate to sustain



Sweeping and washing, SEISO (pronounced say so), clean and inspect daily

Takt Image

Any visual, at-a-glance way to monitor whether a process is meeting its takt time. Such as a Heijunka box, schedule point board, etc.

 takuto taimu

Takt Time

Takt-Time is equal to the net operating time divided by customer requirements.

 rinji kanban

Temporary KANBAN

Temporary Kanban, are usually paper Kanban that have identifying mark and used as a one term fix until new Kanban can be produced and entered into the system. Most often used when a plan-to-actual audit of the Kanban in circulation is found to have lost Kanban.

 teiji futeiryou umpan

Timed Delivery Route (Small Parts)

Scheduled time and unscheduled quantity conveyance. Associated with internal timed delivery routes supporting the manufacturing operations. Small parts with container allowing for hand load and unloading into operator flowracks.



SENSEI (pronounced sen say), instructor, usually refers to an external consultant.



(pronounced moo rah), unevenness, lack of reliability


Value-Added Work

(pronounced she go toe) Any activity that transforms material or information into a product a customer is willing to pay for.

 me de miru kanri

Visual Factory

Visual control, visual management, the visual factory. Being able to walk into an area, department or plant and understand the state of the business in five minutes or less without asking anyone, turning on a computer or opening a book.  



(pronounced moo dah), waste, non-value-adding,



Work in process

 sagyou tejun

Working Sequence

One of the three elements of standardized work. It refers to the sequence of operations in a single process which leads a floor worker to produce quality goods in the moist efficient way.