As an admirer of Toyota, it came as a surprise that an American grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, is an important predecessor of the vaunted Toyota Way.
Piggly Wiggly was the first to:
• provide checkout stands
• price mark every item in the store
• feature a full line of nationally advertised brands
• use refrigerated cases to keep produce fresher longer
• put employees in uniforms for cleaner, more sanitary food handling
• standardize product location, so customers who know the location of their favorite products in their local store knew where they were in every store.
• design and use patented fixtures and equipment throughout the store
• franchise independent grocers to operate under the self-service method of food merchandising
The story is that the Toyota Production System, originally called “Just-in-Time Production,” builds on the approach created by the founder of Toyota, Sakichi Toyoda, his son Kiichiro Toyoda, and the engineer Taiichi Ohno. The founders of Toyota drew heavily on the work of W. Edwards Deming and the writings of Henry Ford.
When these men came to the United States to observe the assembly line and mass production that had made Ford rich, they were unimpressed. While shopping in a supermarket they observed the simple idea of an automatic drink resupplier; when the customer wants a drink, he takes one, and another replaces it. The principles underlying the TPS are embodied in The Toyota Way. The supermarket was Piggly Wiggly.