Monozukuri: The Art of Manufacuring

Combining the Technical System with the Social System

What is ‘Monozukuri’?

Monozukuri literally means:  mono= ‘thing’ and zukuri (tsukuru) ‘process of making’;

→ the process of making or creating things.

But the literal translation does not convey the real connotation of mono-zukuri.

Not just ‘making things’…

The word has an more intense meaning; ‘the art of making things‘ is about having a state of mind, the spirit to produce not only excellent products but also have the ability to constantly improve the production system and its processes.

Professor Takahiro Fujimoto (Manufacturing Management Research Center, University of Tokyo) has defined monozukuri as:

“the duplication of design data into a material.”


“the art, science and craft of making things.”

The Japanese Institute for Trade and Organisation (JETRO) describes monozukuri as:

‘having the spirit of producing excellent products and the ability to constantly improve a production system and -process.’

… beautiful, isn’t it….

Technical System and Social System

Looking at organizations, Monozukuri sees two things coming together:

  1. The processes, equipment, information; all those things needed to create value aimed for; ‘The technical System’
  2. The people, their communication, behavior, attitude etc.; ‘The Social System’

Most of the Improvement Programs mentioned on this site, have a strong focus on the ‘Technical System‘: the technical & business side of the organisation. However, many organizations experience the most problems in the field of behavior, motivation, change management etc: in the ‘Social System’.

Monozukuri comprizes both. When Human behavior and Technology go flawlessly together, most exceptional performances can be achieved. 

Monozukuri Kata

a Kata is a routine, a ‘form’ that is practiced in the ShuHaRi learning system until it becomes ‘muscle memory’: it becomes automatic behavior. 

The Monozukuri Kata has 6 main elements (‘Keys’)

  1. True North
  2. Visualize all Losses
  3. Eliminate all Losses
  4. Create Flow
  5. Standardize
  6. Be Respectful

What is Kata?

To understand ‘Kata’ better, you need to know there is no singular or plural for the word Kata; so one Kata can comprize 108 Kata…

The Monozukuri Kata is the highest level and consists of 6 (main) Kata (I call them Keys, to make it a bit more understandable). The six keys form Monozukuri’s ‘ground structure’.

Since you never know where and when you will need to exercise a certain action, you will be trained to perform the right behavior at any time, regardless the actual situation.

In the Martial Arts, a small set of movements (e.g. defending from a fist towards the face) is one Kata which may have poetic names like ‘Bringing the tiger to the mountain’ or ‘Picking the needle from the bottom of the see’.   

The routine (Kata) that the pupil studies, will have a series of e.g. 8, 24, 42 or even 108 of such sets of movements.

Styles and Principles

Depending the ‘Sifu’ (teacher) and his lineage, those forms and movements my show differences; we call them ‘Styles’. Looking at our Improvement Programs, we might call each program a ‘style’. The style can have a different focus and contain different elements, depending on the environment where its was developed. But looking beyond the differences we will recognize the similarities, the elements they all need to deal with.

Studying all those programs, you will discover they are mostly based on the same ‘principles’. 

A principle is a guideline that is always true; you can not bargain on a principle.

Example: “What goes up, must come down” 

The following book describes -for each of the monozukuri keys- a multitude of Principles and Guidelines: 

Steven Blom ( has been writing a book on monozukuri which is published in 2012.

It describes the subject from the Zen-Buddhist point of view.

The book can be downloaded in Dutch here

download monozukuri info

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