Toyota Motor is methodically going about the task of increasing the efficiency (and lowering the cost) of automotive manufacturing, with its most visible project: a massive upgrade to its 660,000 units a year Takaoka assembly plant.

Toyota CEO Katusuaki Watanabe predicts that the upgrades will make the Takaoka plant "a model for Toyota plants of the future." The plant is the model for clone facilities in the U.S., Canada and France, and innovations proven at Takaoka will plug right in at sister facilities around the world.

Don't expect radical new high-tech to be part of Toyota's factory of the future - Toyota's forte is assembling proven small-scale innovations into new systems that are greater than the sum of their parts. Takaoka's upgrades include:
  • a new welding system that dramatically cuts the cost of jigs and tooling
  • a "set parts system" that delivers a kit of parts for each vehicle so line workers don't have to sort through parts bins for the right part
  • new stamping presses that use servo-motors to replace hydraulics, combined with high-speed delivery robots
  • a new paint process that eliminates the need to dry the base coat, plus faster electro-static rust-coating.
It doesn't sound too earth-shaking, but the changes will up the production on each line from 220,000 units a year to 250,000 while simultaneously shortening the line. Increases in productivity and efficiency at Takaoka should have a nice impact on the bottom line - the plant produces Toyota's high-volume models, including the low-margin Corolla and Yaris.

[Source: Automotive News]

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