12 julio, 2024

Shigeo Shingo: who he was, biography and main contributions

Who was Shigeo Shingo?

Shigeo Shingo (1909-1990) was a Japanese industrial engineer known for his influence in the productive industrial sector, thanks to the development of concepts that contributed to the operational improvement of Japanese and international companies throughout the 20th century.

He grew up and developed his career in Japan, and later had an influential professional presence in the United States. Shingo is considered a world leader in manufacturing and industrial theories and practices.

It is also recognized for the existence and application of the Toyota Production System, which marked a before and after in the simplification and maximization of efficiency in the operational stages of production.

The components of this system began to be adopted by other companies throughout the world, with great influence and presence of Shingo himself.

In the same way, Shingo exposed other industrial engineering concepts applicable to production systems worldwide, such as «poka yoke» and Zero Quality Control.

He was the author of multiple publications. Today an award is given in his name to the best operational innovations in the industrial and productive area.

Shigeo Shingo Biography

Early years and studies

Shigeo Shingo was born in the city of Saga, Japan, in 1909. He studied at the Higher Technical School of Engineers, where he learned about the concepts of the Scientific Organization of Work, developed by the American engineer Frederick Taylor.

Later he studied at the Yamanashi Technical University and in 1930 graduated as an engineer. Almost immediately, Shingo began his professional experience working as a technician for a Taipei railway company.

During this stage, he began to observe the operational dynamics of the different stages of the work, as well as the efficiency of his workers.

He reflected and conceived the ability to improve and maximize the efficiency of industrial operational processes. He deepened Taylor’s concepts and was instructed in the fundamentals of scientific management and in the organization and management of the flow of operations.


Over a decade later, Shingo was transferred to a munitions factory in Yokohama. After analyzing and studying the operating conditions, Shingo practically applied his flow operations concepts in one of the torpedo manufacturing stages, increasing productivity exponentially.

At the end of World War II, he began working with the Japanese Management Association, where he was a consultant and adviser on improving the administration and management of production processes in factories and industries. Until the mid-50s, he advised and applied his concepts in more than 300 companies.


He began working at Toyota in 1969, after successful experiences with companies such as Toyo and Mitsubishi during the 1950s.

Shingo’s initial function at Toyota was to reduce production times in the installation stage, high times due to human and mechanical errors.

The engineer developed a technique through operational analysis that allowed reducing production times. Shingo developed systems that minimized human error and provided qualities to the machinery for precise assembly.

The effectiveness of his concepts and applications took him to the United States, thanks to the help of an American who was also in charge of translating his articles and books into English.

Together they first brought Shingo’s ideas to the West, through private consulting. Thus, Shingo was able to appear before North American university audiences.

most important contributions

Toyota production system

Although the belief that Shingo was the creator of the Toyota Production System has become popular, he was actually in charge of analyzing it in depth, as well as translating and disseminating it worldwide.

However, Shingo was an influential piece in the consolidation of this system as an example of operational effectiveness.

The Toyota production system is a socio-technical mechanism that encompasses all the internal techniques of production, communications and marketing, among other aspects, that Toyota manages.

It is governed by a series of practical and philosophical techniques that transcend the merely commercial nature of a company, giving it a more personal approach.

Shingo’s participation in the conception and consolidation of this system consisted in the development of innovative techniques blended with the existing physical conditions and the performance that managers were looking for. The Toyota Production System also came to be called «just in time.»

This system includes the fulfillment of general objectives: discard overload, inconsistency and waste.

The fulfillment of these objectives is present in all departments and business levels. This philosophy is governed by the phrase “do only what is necessary, when it is necessary, and only the amount necessary”.

Toyota defines the concepts around its system as “automation with a human touch”.

It is claimed that the implementation of this system led Toyota to be the company it is today, and has also motivated other companies around the world to apply their own versions of the system to maximize its effectiveness.

Push and pull system (Push&Pull)

This operational management technique consists of the systematization of the necessary material to be manufactured at each stage of production. It is divided into the push and pull process, each with its own qualities and levels of stiffness.

The pull system, or pull, consists of the manufacture or acquisition of material according to the demand necessary for later stages. It is considered a flexible system that adapts to the parameters of the «just in time» philosophy and technique.

This system manages production based on demand, resulting in smaller inventories and much lower chances of failures in each product. This technique is applied at times when innovation is sought.

Instead, the push system, or push, organizes its production based on future scenarios or as an anticipation of these. It is a technique based on planning, therefore, it is much more rigid than its counterpart.

The magnitude of production is projected in medium to long-term forecasts. Presents qualities contrary to the system pullsince it generates large production inventories whose costs are compensated at different commercial scales.

Poka Yoke

It is a technique devised by Shigeo Shingo. It is a system that guarantees the quality of a product, preventing it from being used or operated in an erroneous way.

The poka yoke has also been popularized informally as a foolproof system, even though its purposes have great importance in the final quality and performance of a product.

Shingo introduced this system during his work with Toyota, and conceived the following aspects as its main characteristics: not allowing human error during the use or operation of the product and, in case there is an error, highlight it in such a way that it is impossible for the user to ignore.

It is a quality control technique that focuses on the simple and straightforward, alluding in some cases to common sense for the detection of faults or errors both in the product, evidencing a flaw in its manufacturing process, and for the user who does not is doomed to the loss of a product due to misuse.

The poka yoke technique has positive effects on production chains. Some of these are: less training time for workers, elimination of operations related to quality control, elimination of repetitive operations, immediate action when problems arise and a work vision oriented towards improvement.

shingo method

It consists of a series of thoughtful and practical guidelines that highlight Shingo’s philosophy on quality and industrial and business dynamics. This method is applied and disseminated through the Shingo Institute.

The Shingo method encompasses a pyramid divided by the different techniques promoted by the Japanese and their applications in the industrial production scenario.

This pyramid is accompanied by a series of principles that, for Shingo, should guide every worker towards excellence, regardless of their hierarchical position.

Some of the principles promoted by Shingo are: respect for each individual, leadership with humility, the search for perfection, scientific thinking, focus on the process, ensuring quality from the beginning, the value of the technique Push&Pullsystems thinking, creating constancy and purpose, and creating real value for the consumer.

Shingo, unlike other innovators of processes and industrial management, took into account the existing human aspect in the internal dynamics of factories through its workers, and the capacity of its techniques also maximize the effectiveness of labor. .


Rosa, F. d., & Cabello, L. (2012). Precursors of quality. Virtual University of the State of Guanajuato.
The Shingo Model. Retrieved from shingoprize.org.
Shingo, S. (2006). A Revolution in Manufacturing: The SMED System. Productivity Press.

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