It is widely disclosed that, Toyota is implementing new technology and lean production methods in its factories in Japan’s industrial heartland to compete with Tesla and other automakers in the battery electric vehicle market. The world’s best-selling automaker aims to close the gap by combining innovative technology with its renowned lean production methods that have been used for decades to eliminate inefficiencies in manufacturing.
During a tour of a plant in central Japan, Toyota showcased its latest developments, including self-propelled assembly lines, massive die-casting, and even hand polishing techniques. One example of thrifty ingenuity is a method for making high-gloss bumpers without paint. The mold is hand polished to a mirror finish, adding shine to the bumper.
Toyota has also automated three-decade-old equipment using robotics and 3D modeling, allowing it to operate at night and on weekends. These improvements have tripled the productivity of the equipment. Kazuaki Shingo, product manager at Toyota, emphasized that their ability to respond to changing times lies in their engineering and technology expertise based on the Toyota Production System (TPS).
The TPS revolutionized modern manufacturing with its lean production system, just-in-time delivery, and “kanban” workflow organization. These methods have been widely adopted across various industries and studied in business schools worldwide. They played a significant role in Toyota’s rise from a postwar upstart to a global giant.
However, when it comes to battery electric vehicles, Toyota has been overshadowed by Tesla’s tireless innovation and market-leading profitability. Under new CEO Koji Sato, Toyota announced an ambitious plan in June to ramp up its production of battery electric vehicles after facing criticism for being slow to embrace all-electric technology.
Goldman Sachs reported that Toyota accounted for only about 0.3% of the global electric vehicle market in 2022, highlighting the need for a stronger offering in their lineup. This challenge is not unique to Toyota, as Detroit’s Big Three automakers have also cited competitive pressure from Tesla while facing wage demands from the United Auto Workers union.
One area where Toyota excels is in its self-driving production lines, where electric vehicles are guided by sensors throughout the assembly process. This technology eliminates the need for conveyor equipment and allows for greater flexibility on production lines. In a demonstration, electric vehicles moved forward without roofs, enabling easy insertion of parts with the help of robotic arms and autonomous forklifts.
Toyota also showcased its prototype of “gigacasting,” a die-casting technology pioneered by Tesla that produces larger aluminum parts than previously used in automobile manufacturing. Similar to Tesla, Toyota plans to produce electric vehicles in modular sections to reduce parts. However, they have their own innovations as well. By working with die casting for years, Toyota has developed molds that can be replaced quickly, reducing mold change time from 24 hours to just 20 minutes and increasing productivity by approximately 20%.
Additionally, Toyota has introduced an autonomous transportation robot at its Motomachi plant in Toyota City. The robot transports new vehicles across a large parking lot, eliminating the need for truck drivers who would typically perform this task manually. This automation reduces driving time and physical strain on truck drivers.
Toyota aims to have 10 robots operating at Motomachi next year and may consider implementing them in other plants or selling them to other companies.
The climax, Toyota is leveraging new technology and its renowned lean production methods to compete with Tesla and other automakers in the battery electric vehicle market. Through innovations such as self-propelled assembly lines, gigacasting technology, and autonomous transportation robots, Toyota aims to increase productivity and efficiency while closing the gap with industry leaders like Tesla.
Source: It is widely disclosed that