By on January 23, 2011

A factory that can make cars fast should be the goal of every automaker. The higher the throughput, the lower the cost. Japanese companies had for long been on the leading edge of efficient and flexible production. Now, Toyota has made a big step forward, reports Reuters.

Introduced in a new factory of Toyota subsidiary Central Motor Co, the production line is shaped like the letter “U”. It allows for more than one task to take place at once on a vehicle. The engine can be installed in the front while underbody parts are added in the back. In a way, Toyota introduced multithreading to car manufacturing that had been sequential since Henry Ford.

The new technique has shortened the assembly line length into one-third of what it would have been. Toyota also saved 40 percent on capital expenditure. When you are faced with a strong currency like the Japanese are, you can either move production abroad, or make production at home more efficient.

Toyota had said a few weeks ago that it wants to lower the break-even point of its Japanese operations by improving manufacturing processes.

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20 Comments on “Toyota Cuts Line Down To A Third...”

  • avatar

    Kaizan. Constant improvement. Just wait until they put it into all their other factories.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    This really needs more explanation.

  • avatar

    Why think only 2 dimensionally?  Have robot arms directly above each car.  You could hang catwalks from the ceiling incase something needs to be serviced on that arm. 

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    In some plants Toyota DOES think in three dimensions.  I toured one Toyota subsidiary plant in Japan where (due to land constraints) they had inadequate parts kitting space on the main floor, and so did this work on the second floor, dropping down to each main-line workstation parts already grouped and sequenced for that station.  Thus the main-line worker did not need to check parts (as in “Do I have the right turn-signal stalk for this European-spec Camry?”), as the team upstairs handled it.  Sped up tasks and saved acreage.  Not the same as “robots from above” (not to be confused with Canadian band Death from Above 1979!), but still a nice innovation.

  • avatar

    “The engine can be installed in the front while underbody parts are added in the back.”   Whats the big deal at GM Oshawa they have been installing the motor/tansmission cradle and the rear axle/brakes in the same work station for years, it’s called the marriage station.   At this station the sub assembled underside of the car, engine, trans, exhaust, fuel and brake lines, rear axle, etc are mated up to the trimmed out car body.   There are many other examples in the Oshawa plant where the front and back of the car are worked on simultaneously.   Toyota did not invent car assembly and this new assembly procedure is nothing new.

    • 0 avatar

      this new assembly procedure is nothing new.

      Wow, you were able to determine that from just this article?  I’m impressed.

    • 0 avatar

      GM Assembly Division was doing that at least since the 80x (Citation) cars. The line with a carrier holing the engine, trans, rear axle etc. was at the bottom and the carriers holding the body (upside down U shaped btw) were overhead. Two hydraulic pistons, one at each end of the lower carrier, would extend and push the lower assembly up to the body. I remember a lot of multi-threading in trim as well.

  • avatar
    older and somewhat understandable

  • avatar

    Boring cars, lack of anything to set those cars apart from the rest, typical too high beltline with tiny windows, bobbling cars on windy days, brake too high in relationship to gas pedals, all FWD cars, no sweet exhaust note, not so impressive handling, and did I mention boring.

  • avatar

    I am holding out for swarms of nanobots.

  • avatar

    Taking the announcement at face value, what’s the improvement in unit cost to be expected from this development?

    And is there an advantage to taking the lessons learned in this development into an existing plant?

    • 0 avatar

      “The new technique has shortened the assembly line length into one-third of what it would have been. Toyota also saved 40 percent on capital expenditure”
      Looks like 40% in capital expenditures and possibly up to 1/3 less line workers needed could put a nice bump in the bottom line. And it will show up as Toyota replaces its older lines.

  • avatar

    There is a wild price competition with Hyundai. This may be a card to win. The question is, can they maintain homogenious quality? A this provides nice and cheap flexibility.

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