Innovative Manufacturing Methods: Toyota’s Approach to Catch up with Tesla in Battery Electric Vehicles

Toyota, the world’s top-selling automaker, is making significant efforts to bridge the gap with Tesla and other competitors in the battery electric vehicle (EV) market. By combining new technology with its renowned lean production methods, Toyota aims to improve manufacturing efficiency and reduce costs.

During a recent plant tour in Japan, Toyota showcased its latest advances in EV production. The automaker revealed the use of self-propelled assembly lines, massive die casting, and hand polishing techniques. For example, Toyota demonstrated a technique to create high-gloss bumpers without paint. Instead, the mold is meticulously hand polished to achieve a mirror-like finish.

To enhance productivity, Toyota has automated processes through robotics and 3D modeling, allowing 30-year-old equipment to operate at night and on weekends. These advancements have tripled equipment productivity, according to Toyota. Chief Product Officer Kazuaki Shingo emphasized the strength of Toyota’s manufacturing lies in its ability to adapt to changing times and leverage the Toyota Production System (TPS).

The TPS revolutionized modern manufacturing with its lean production, just-in-time delivery, and efficient workflow organization. Toyota’s methods have been adopted widely across industries and studied in business schools globally. However, in the EV market, Toyota has lagged behind Tesla, which has excelled in efficiency and profitability.

Under CEO Koji Sato’s leadership, Toyota has announced an ambitious plan to boost its presence in the battery EV market. Goldman Sachs reported that Toyota accounted for only about 0.3% of the global EV market in 2022, highlighting the need for a more compelling EV lineup.

Toyota’s innovative manufacturing methods include self-propelled production lines that guide EVs through the assembly process using sensors, eliminating the need for expensive conveyor equipment. The automaker also showcased its prototype of the “gigacasting” technology pioneered by Tesla, enabling the production of larger aluminum parts for vehicles. Furthermore, Toyota has introduced self-driving transport robots to ferry vehicles within its plants, reducing manual labor and increasing efficiency.

Toyota aims to have 10 of these robots operating in its Motomachi plant next year and is considering their implementation in other facilities. Additionally, Toyota may offer these robots to other companies, further expanding their potential impact.

By leveraging its manufacturing expertise and adopting new technologies, Toyota is determined to catch up with Tesla and establish a stronger presence in the battery EV market.

– David Dolan, Reuters