Toyota, the world’s top-selling automaker, is utilizing its renowned lean production methods to close the gap in the battery electric vehicle (EV) market. In an effort to catch up with competitors like Tesla, Toyota is combining new technology with its lean production system, which has been successful in reducing inefficiency and excess costs in manufacturing for decades.
During a recent plant tour in Japan, Toyota showcased its latest advances in EV production. The automaker demonstrated self-propelled assembly lines, massive die casting, and innovative techniques such as hand polishing to create high-gloss bumpers without paint. Toyota has also automated three-decade-old equipment using robotics and 3D modeling, tripling equipment productivity.
“The strength of Toyota’s manufacturing lies in our ability to respond to changing times,” said Chief Product Officer Kazuaki Shingo. He credited this adaptability to the company’s engineering and technology expertise anchored in the Toyota Production System (TPS).
Toyota revolutionized modern manufacturing with its lean production system, known for its just-in-time delivery and continuous improvement principles. While these methods have been widely adopted across various industries, Toyota has lagged behind Tesla in the battery EV market. However, under the leadership of CEO Koji Sato, Toyota announced a plan in June to ramp up its production of battery EVs and address this deficiency.
One key innovation highlighted by Toyota is the implementation of self-propelled production lines, eliminating the need for costly conveyor equipment and allowing for greater flexibility. Additionally, the automaker unveiled its own version of the die-casting technology called “gigacasting,” which can produce larger aluminum parts for EVs. Toyota estimates that mold changes using their die-casting technology can be done in just 20 minutes, significantly reducing production time and improving productivity by 20%.
Toyota is also focusing on improving efficiency within its plants by introducing self-driving transport robots. These robots will replace the manual task of ferrying new vehicles across parking lots, reducing physical burden for employees and increasing productivity.
As Toyota strives to enhance its presence in the EV market, other major automakers are also facing challenges in transitioning to electric vehicles. Detroit’s Big Three automakers, citing competition from Tesla, are currently negotiating with the United Auto Workers union regarding wages, which recently led to an unprecedented strike.
Toyota’s efforts to integrate lean manufacturing methods with new technology in EV production demonstrate its commitment to catch up with rivals like Tesla. By leveraging its expertise and experience in lean production, Toyota aims to bridge the gap and become a leader in the rapidly growing battery EV market.
– “Toyota Aims to Catch Up with Tesla in Electric Vehicles, Leans on Chemists, Engineers” – Reuters
– “Toyota to halt operations at all Japan assembly plants due to system failure” – Nikkei Asia