The Story of Sakichi Toyoda – Toyota Industries Corporation


Sakichi turned 18 in 1885. He learned about the new patent monopoly law. he pored over this and he quickly became convinced that he had found the way forward. At that time, he decided to take advantage of his own wisdom and devote his maximum efforts to invention as a means to create something new.

“Western civilization is based on machinery. Machines are powered by steam. Machinery powered by steam requires coal, which is expensive. Some method must be devised to replace steam as the motive power.” so thought sakichi. Using trial and error methods, Sakichi experimented with various permanent and unlimited sources of power. he did not succeed. in this way, sakichi continued to meditate. At some point, he became interested in the handloom used by local peasant families. sakichi thought that if he could find a way to improve the efficiency of the handloom, he would benefit many people. sakichi went to work. working in a barn, he built and destroyed several looms. some people began to think of him as strange. immersed in his efforts, this did not bother him at all. In 1890, Sakichi traveled to Ueno in Tokyo to visit the Third National Machinery Exhibition. Many new Japanese and foreign-made machines were on display. sakichi was deeply impressed. so much so that he spent every day of the following month visiting the exhibition, determined to understand how each of the machines worked. In the fall of the same year, Sakichi’s first successful invention was achieved. It was known as the Toyoda wooden hand loom. Sakichi received the first patent from him for that loom in 1891. He was 24 years old.

Unlike earlier looms, the Toyoda wooden hand loom required only one hand to operate instead of two. it eliminated the irregularities of the woven fabric thus improving the quality. increased efficiency by 40 to 50 percent. however, the loom was still manually operated. this limited further improvements to speed and overall efficiency. so sakichi turned his attention to inventing a power loom. In 1892, Sakichi opened a small factory in the Taito district of Tokyo that used several of the Toyoda wooden handlooms invented by Sakichi. he did this for various reasons. he wanted financial independence to better pursue his career as an inventor. he needed funds to support his efforts. He also thought that he could confidently recommend his invention to customers using it himself to confirm its superior performance. The fabrics made by the Sakichi factory were distributed to wholesalers and enjoyed a good reputation. sakichi managed the operation while he continued his inventive efforts. Unfortunately, the factory did not work well and had to close after a year of operation. sakichi returned to his hometown. soon after, he went to visit an uncle who lived in toyohashi city in aichi prefecture. he decided to live in his uncle’s house and continue his efforts to develop a power loom. To provide funds for his efforts, Sakichi invented the highly efficient Toyoda winding machine in 1894. This was an epoch-making development.

To promote the manufacture and sale of his new machine, Sakichi soon established Toyoda’s agent Ito Shoten Co. in Nagoya. This later became Toyoda Shoten Co. and then toyoda shokai co. Once sales of the winding machine were underway, Sakichi turned all of his attention to inventing a power loom. he didn’t take long. In 1896, he perfected the Toyoda power loom, Japan’s first power loom constructed of steel and wood. the throwing, picking up, and hitting motions were all powered by steam. it was also equipped with the automatic weft stop mechanism. the machine was relatively inexpensive and greatly increased productivity and quality. one of the first to recognize the excellent performance of the new loom was a customer of toyoda shoten co. called tohachi ishikawa. he proposed opening a weaving business. he and sakichi were soon partners. they founded okkawa mempu co. in handa city of aichi prefecture. The high-quality cotton fabric woven by the new loom has earned a reputation for excellence. Sakichi used not only a steam engine but also an oil engine as a power source for his loom.

the loom soon caught the attention of mitsui bussan (now mitsui & co., ltd.). in 1899 they proposed the creation of a loom manufacturing company. igeta shokai co. was established, with sakichi overseeing the production of power looms as chief engineer and fully devoting his efforts to further invention. however, economic conditions were poor and the company was falling on hard times, making it increasingly difficult to develop. Sakichi eventually left the company and founded the independently managed Toyoda Shokai Co., where he devoted himself to invention and research. sakichi continued to strive to improve his machines. looms used a bobbin to hold the weft. when the plot ran out, the mechanical loom had to be stopped to replace it. it was clear that this downtime greatly decreased operational efficiency. sakichi set about the task of inventing a device that could automatically replace the shuttle when the plot was over.

in 1903, sakichi invented the first automatic shuttle-change mechanism that automatically replenished the weft yarn without stopping the operation of the machine, producing the world’s first automatic shuttle-change loom, type t, equipped with this mechanism . kanegafuchi boseki co. he attached this shuttle change mechanism to his wide looms and conducted performance tests. The test results, however, were not so favourable, because Sakichi had entrusted the construction and previous tests to others. Reflecting on this experience, he developed an unshakable conviction that a product should never be sold unless it has been carefully manufactured and thoroughly tested. in the commercial test, with totally satisfactory results. As will be discussed later, Sakichi later traveled to the United States and Europe on an observation trip. he visited dr. jokichi takamine at his home in new york. dr. takamine was known worldwide for being the first person to successfully extract taka-diastase and adrenaline. dr. takamine explained that an inventor should never put his invention in the hands of others until it is developed into a practical product with useful social results and that this is an inventor’s responsibility. sakichi was inspired and took this advice to heart.

in 1905, sakichi invented the toyota power loom, type 1905, equipped with the improved warp take-off mechanism. the loom also had a robust structure, made of wood and steel. This was followed in 1906 by an improved version called the Toyota Power Loom, Type 1906. The 1906 Type greatly improved the efficiency and quality of weaving. In 1906, Sakichi also realized what he considered to be the other ultimate goal besides the invention of the power loom: to invent an energy-efficient circular loom that weaved cloth through optimal circular motion. Until then, looms used a horizontal reciprocating motion to move the shuttle that transported the weft and fabric. By contrast, the circular loom used a circular motion to move the shuttle, and weft insertion and beating were performed silently and uninterrupted. this has never been done before.

in 1907, on the recommendation of mitsui bussan, toyoda’s loomworks, ltd. (now howa machinery, ltd.) was established with funds provided by investors in tokyo, osaka and nagoya. this newly established company assumed control of the plant and employees of toyoda shokai co. Sakichi assumed the duties of managing director and chief engineer and continued to devote his efforts to invention and research. However, because the new company did not allow commercial trials for which Sakichi had such strong conviction, he set up his own individually operated commercial trial. plant (later toyoda shokufu kikui kojo) in 1909. toyoda’s loomworks, ltd. He was eventually beset by poor business results, causing Sakichi great concern as he was the chief engineer handling invention and research and a director who could not neglect the management of the company. In 1910, Sakichi resigned from Toyoda’s Loomworks, Ltd. And he went on a sighting trip to the United States and Europe to start anew.

sakichi went to the west coast of the united states from where he crossed the country. he visited many weaving mills in the upper east coast region. Although he was amazed by the scale of these operations and their experimental facilities, he saw many weaknesses in the looms that operated there and was not very impressed. sakichi then traveled to england where he visited loom makers and weaving factories in the manchester area. this viewing trip instilled in him confidence in the superiority of his original loom. he made his way back to japan renewed.

After returning to Japan from his observation trip to the United States and Europe, Sakichi worked to raise capital and in 1911 established the independently operated Toyoda Jido Shokufu Kojo (Toyoda Automatic Weaving) as a testing ground for his inventions in the nishi-ward noritake-shinmachi area, nagoya. this is now the site of the toyota memorial museum of industry and technology. the successful development of the automatic loom from him. At that time, his name was changed to Toyoda Jido Boshoku Kojo (Toyoda Automatic Spinning and Weaving Factory) because the factory also started spinning. Benefiting from the buoyant economic conditions during World War I, the spinning and weaving business continued to expand year after year. With the goal of running smooth business operations under these favorable circumstances, Toyoda Boshoku (Toyoda Spinning and Weaving Co., Ltd.) was established in 1918 with investments from close friends and relatives. sakichi became president, but risaburo toyoda, sakichi’s son-in-law, who held the position of managing director, effectively managed the company.

in 1918, after ensuring that the toyota boshoku was in good hands and running smoothly, sakichi set out on a solo journey to china. he made a detailed study of the weaving industry in china, especially in the shanghai area, before returning to japan. in 1919 he again traveled to shanghai with the intention of living there almost permanently. he spent a year procuring a site to build a manufacturing plant. the finished plant was enormous, covering approximately 33,000 square meters (356,000 square feet). sakichi ran the plant as a sole proprietor for a year before reorganizing it into a toyoda boshoku sho (toyoda spinning and weaving mill) in 1921. there he engaged in research aimed at completing the development of an automatic loom and a circular loom. Sakichi reportedly proclaimed “Open the window. It’s a big world out there!” to the people around him who were concerned about starting business in shanghai.

While traveling back and forth between Shanghai and Nagoya, Sakichi worked with his son Kiichiro Toyoda and his subordinates to expand efforts toward completion of an automatic loom. Realizing the need for a trial facility where a large number of automatic looms would be installed, Sakichi built Toyoda Boshoku Kariya Shiken Kojo in 1923 in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture. In 1924, following a series of important patents and new inventions and while conducting commercial trials, the Toyoda Continuous Shuttle Change Automatic Loom, Type G, was completed. more than 30 years had passed since the young sakichi decided to dedicate his life to invention.

The automatic shuttle changing mechanism installed in this loom allowed automatic replacement of the shuttle and supply of weft yarn without loss of speed during high-speed operation. Other features included a shuttle change guide, automatic weft break stop, automatic warp break stop, and other devices to provide automation, protection, health and safety. this loom delivered the highest performance in the world in terms of productivity and textile quality. an engineer at platt brothers & co., ltd. of England, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of textile machinery at the time, admiringly referred to this loom as “the magic loom”.

The invention and perfection of his automatic loom, however, did not lessen Sakichi’s passion for invention, as making a circular loom remained his lifelong goal.

Following the successful development of the automatic loom, on November 17, 1926, the incorporation meeting of Toyoda Automatic Loomworks, Ltd. (now Toyota Industries Corporation) was held at the Toyoda Boshoku Headquarters in Nagoya City. The establishment of the Toyoda Automatic Loom Factory was officially registered the next day, November 18. Risaburo Toyoda, Sakichi’s son-in-law, was appointed president. Kiichiro Toyoda was CEO. As stated in the Articles of Incorporation of Toyoda Automatic Loomworks, in addition to the manufacturing and marketing of spinning and weaving machinery, a primary objective of the company “shall be to pursue related research and invention.” This was an unprecedented concept that originated from Sakichi’s experiences.

G type automatic loom soon became well known not only in Japan but also in the world. Focusing on the excellence of the g-type automatic loom, platt brothers & Co., Ltd., a world-leading textile machinery manufacturer based in England, has proposed a transfer of patent rights. In 1929, Toyoda Automatic Loomworks entered into a patent rights transfer agreement with Platt Brothers that provided the rights to produce and market the Type G Automatic Loom in countries except Japan, China, and the United States. The worldwide recognition of a Japanese invention and the request by a foreign company for the transfer of patent rights were a truly remarkable event in Japan’s technological history and instilled confidence in many Japanese people. Sakichi Toyoda passed away in October 1930, having devoted his 63 years to invention. to commemorate the company founder, who was the spiritual supporter of toyoda companies, a monument was built on the first anniversary of his death and a sakichi bust was erected on the fifth anniversary. By 1935 there were eight Toyoda companies and over 13,000 workers. In order to express our corporate philosophy and instill it thoroughly in all employees, the top management of Toyoda Companies put together the “Toyoda Precepts” to clearly crystallize the spirit of Sakichi Toyoda.

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