Toyota, the world’s leading automaker, is determined to regain its competitive edge in the electric vehicle (EV) market by blending cutting-edge technology with its renowned lean production methods.
At a recent plant tour in central Japan, Toyota showcased some of its latest innovations, offering a glimpse into its strategy for catching up with EV pioneer Tesla and others.
One of Toyota’s ingenious techniques is the production of high-gloss bumpers without using paint. Instead, skilled workers hand-polish the mold to achieve a mirror finish, giving the bumper its shine.
This thrifty approach exemplifies Toyota’s commitment to efficiency.
Moreover, Toyota has automated three-decade-old equipment using robotics and 3D modeling, tripling equipment productivity.
This upgrade allows the machinery to run efficiently during nights and weekends. According to Toyota, these improvements are crucial in their pursuit of excellence.
Kazuaki Shingo, Chief Product Officer of Toyota, emphasized their ability to adapt to changing times, attributing their strength to the Toyota Production System (TPS).
This system, which includes lean production, just-in-time delivery, and kanban workflow organization, revolutionized modern manufacturing and has been adopted worldwide.
While Toyota’s relentless focus on continuous improvement and cost reduction propelled it to global prominence, it has been outpaced in the EV market by Tesla.
However, under the leadership of new CEO Koji Sato, Toyota announced an ambitious plan to expand its EV offerings.
Currently holding only about 0.3% of the global EV market, Toyota recognizes the need for a stronger EV lineup.
One of Toyota’s notable innovations is the implementation of self-propelled production lines for EVs.
These lines use sensors to guide EVs through the assembly process, eliminating the need for expensive conveyor equipment and enhancing production line flexibility.
Additionally, Toyota unveiled its “gigacasting” die-casting technology, capable of producing larger aluminum parts than ever before in the auto industry.
Toyota’s die-casting molds can be quickly replaced, reducing mold change time from 24 hours to just 20 minutes, resulting in a 20% boost in productivity.
Furthermore, Toyota has introduced self-driving transport robots at its Motomachi plant, which ferry new vehicles across a massive parking lot.
This innovation reduces the physical burden on workers and enhances efficiency, with plans to deploy ten such robots by next year.
Toyota’s commitment to innovation and efficiency in the EV market, combined with its decades of manufacturing expertise, positions the company to make significant strides in this rapidly evolving industry.