Did you ever see a local morning news broadcast in L.A. when rain is falling or predicted? It's like the world is going to come to an end before the next commercial. This is similar to some of the "winter survival" warnings that occur in Detroit, where it is known to snow. Yet it is announced as though this is something completely unexpected and a huge challenge, despite the fact that things like snow happen with predictability and while the conditions are challenging, they are not necessarily insurmountable, the "weather teams" reporting from hither and yon notwithstanding.
This same sort of franticness seems to be associated with the 2007 Toyota Tundra pickup truck, at least in Detroit. Batten down the hatches. Toyota is taking a serious run at the full-size truck market!
Let's review: It rains. It snows. Toyota is building a full-sized pickup.
Some things just happen.
The Geography of Big
Yes, it is true. The '07 Tundra is a big truck. The sort of "Detroit iron" that one associates with, well, Detroit. This probably explains why, in part, the upper body was developed and engineered by Toyota Technical Center. . .in Ann Arbor, due west of Detroit. That's right, a bunch of folks who live, eat, and breathe the same way/things as their brethren who work at the companies renown for their full-size pickups. They were also responsible for central control of the development there in southeastern Michigan.
And, yes, there was styling done by Calty Design Research-in Newport Beach, California, and Ann Arbor-by people who have spent years and years and years looking at and driving trucks. Per usual for Toyota vehicle development programs, there were styling proposals sought from three sources. In this case, Calty, Toyota Motor Corp.-Design (Japan) and Hino Motor. What is unusual is that for the first time ever in the history of Toyota, a decision about the styling was not made in Japan. Rather, the models were displayed at Calty and the decision regarding the design direction was made based on that.
The chief engineer for the Tundra is Yuichiro Obu. He is not a native of Michigan, nor of California. Yet he has a thorough-going familiarity with things American. The Tundra is his third North American development project. The first was for the original Camry Solara, introduced in 1998 as a '99 model. This was followed by the present generation-the seventh-Tacoma pickup, introduced in '05. He observes: "I am certain that staging the viewing at Calty influenced the decision greatly."
But there was something more to the design of the Tundra besides just the styling of a big vehicle. While cross-functional development is thought to be a matter of course at Toyota, Obu explains that for the development of the Tundra, "For the first time ever, manufacturing teams from both Texas and Indiana were required to work with designers at Calty studios prior to design sign-off to ensure that what was drawn could be manufactured."
The Geography of Big, II
The first generation Tundra, which was introduced in June 1999 (it succeeded the T-100 pickup), was produced at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana (TMMI), a plant that was built for the production of the Tundra. TMMI was modeled on the award-winning Toyota Tahara Plant. In subsequent years the Sequoia SUV and Sienna minivan were added to the TMMI lineup.
But to gain more capacity for full-size pickup production, a decision was made to build a new factory. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas (TMMTX) was established. Ground breaking at a site near San Antonio-2,000 acres, a former cattle ranch-occurred in October, 2003. They built not only an $850-million 2.2-million ft2 facility to stamp, weld, paint, mold, and assemble trucks, but also 1.8-million ft2 of additional facilities for on-site suppliers.
How's It Look?
Senior creative designer, Craig Kember, Calty: "We saw this as a big opportunity to design a truly 'bad-ass' truck with capability to match for the American full-size truck buyer."
Pretty much sums it up.
Minding the Gaps
So there were the production people and the designers. The production people talked about reducing the panel gap size. Fit and finish are key differentiators, so tight gaps are perceived to be better, they figured. The designers had a slightly different point of view. They figured that because they were developing a big truck, the bigness required slightly wider gaps, not narrower gaps. The conclusion? Bigger gaps-repeatably produced.
They Obviously Know Something About Trucks
Although decried for, in effect, "not understanding trucks," if the midsize truck market is taken into account then the fact that the Toyota Tacoma has a dominant position there (total 2006 sales: 178,351), up against the likes of the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon (2006 sales: 93,876/23,979), Ford Ranger (2006 sales:92,420), and Dodge Dakota (2006 sales: 76,098), so clearly they've learned a little something about the product. And on the subject of trucks and truck development, Hino Motor Ltd., which has been producing heavy- and medium-duty trucks commercially since 1946, and which happens to be a Toyota affiliate (Toyota owns 50.1% of Hino Motor), assisted in the development of the '07 Tundra. It also participated in chassis development for the Land Cruiser and Sequoia.
The biggest knock on Toyota trucks heretofore was that they weren't big enough. That is addressed. There are three cab sizes. Three bed sizes. All of them are bigger than the products they replace, as in being longer (up to 10-in. longer, taller, and 4-in. wider). There is the two-door B-cab with a 78.7-in. standard bed or a 97.6-in. long bed. (All beds are 66.4 in. wall-to-wall wide.) There is the double-cab C-cab model with forward hinged rear doors that is available with the same bed sizes. Then there is the D-cab, the four-door CrewMax, with a 66.7-in. bed. (What the CrewMax gives up in terms of bed size, it makes up for on the inside, with seating for six people, and a rear seat that has 10 in. of fore and aft travel and 44.5 in. of rear leg room and a seat back that can recline a total of 32°.) The overall length of the vehicles range from 209.8 in. for the B-cab with a regular bed to 247.6 in. for a C-cab with the long bed.
Another Important Metric
There are powertrain choices, too. There is a 236-hp 4.0-liter V6 that provides 266 lb-ft of torque. There is a 271-hp 4.7-liter V8 that provides 313 lb-ft. of torque. And last but certainly not least, an engine that has the first truck block Toyota has cast in the U.S. (at its Bodine Aluminum plant in Troy, MO, with a low-pressure process) and which is assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama in Huntsville, a 381-hp, 5.7-liter V8 that produces 401 lb-ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm.
Here's the metric: When the 5.7-liter, mated to an all-new six-speed automatic, is under the hood of a B-cab, and a trailer is hooked up to the one-piece hydroformed receiver structure (it is attached to the frame with 12 bolts; it is assembled in place prior to the installation of the bed), there is a towing capacity of 10,800 lb.
The Meaning of "Special"
According to Obu, the word "special" has "important weight" within Toyota product development. Absent carryover powertrains, there are "virtually no" carryover parts from the previous generation Tundra or the current Tacoma. "That's a big commitment to resources," he says. Realize that one of the things that Toyota is well known for doing is developing vehicles with carryover parts. "Second, and most importantly," Obu says, "with the 'special' designation came the mandate that the Tundra project would need to be North American self-reliant." So it was to places like Ann Arbor and San Antonio, rather than Toyota City.
As is widely known, one of the fundamentals of the Toyota Production System is just-in-time delivery of parts and/or assemblies. The right thing at the right place at the right time. In one regard, the TMMTX facility is a center of excellence when it comes to JIT. There are 21 on-site parts and components suppliers. And one of those suppliers-Avanzar Interior Technologies Ltd.-is literally on-site, as in within the walls of the factory.
Avanzar is a joint venture between Johnson Controls and SAT Auto Technologies. The company supplies seats and interior trim parts for the Tundra. The seat manufacturing operations of the firm are intimately integrated within the assembly plant such that if someone happened to be walking along the line within the 2.2-million ft2 facility and made a slight turn in, he'd be within Avanzar space-a 6,600-ft2 area-without even knowing it.
Avanzar has one facility where seat frames are manufactured. It's about a mile away from the main TMMTX plant. The frames are shipped to the other Avanzar facility, which is within the truck plant.
Electronically, a build order for a specific set of seats for a specific truck is sent to the Avanzar facility within the plant. They have not more than 85 minutes of lead time to build the seat to order and to ship it via an overhead system straight to the assembly line. It should be noted that while Johnson Controls has extensive experience working with Toyota directly or with other joint ventures (e.g., Trim Masters Inc. is a joint venture company that includes Johnson Controls, Toyota Boshoku and Toyota Tsusho), generally, it has a lead time of approximately four hours for seats to line side. But in Texas that's greatly reduced. It should be noted that there are more than 300 component part numbers for a front seat and that for those seats Avanzar works with 35 suppliers. For its external suppliers it keeps 1.5 days worth of inventory on hand. For the internal suppliers, it maintains just two hours of inventory.
The fact that there are medical personnel on site at TMMTX is not unusual. Let's face it, any operation that has several hundred people working with or around assembly equipment is likely to have medical help ready to spring into action in the case of an accident or injury.
But they're taking things even further there. They've established the Toyota Family Health Care Center, a 19,000-ft2 facility. That's "family" as in spouses and children of TMMTX team members, as well as the operation's suppliers. This operation offers primary and preventative health care, including family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, dental, optometry, rehab and physical therapy, radiology, lab services, occupational health services, and an on-site pharmacy.
Just imagine how lean principles can cut the waiting time in a doctor's office.
Yes, there are robots in the facility. More than 300 in the weld shop, alone. Then add more for the paint shop, and the number gets to almost 400. There are more robots at TMMTX than there are at the Toyota plant in Princeton, Indiana, which is, in effect, the "mother plant" for San Antonio, as it is where the previous generation Tundra was built. Overall, in weld and paint the operations are approximately 90% automated. (In the painting operations in order to minimize paint waste (the plant uses water-borne primer and color coats), the paint is contained in cartridges so that colors can be changed as needed without the need to purge lines.) The andon boards in the plant are giant plasma screens. Yes, there is a lot of impressive technology on site. But there is a greater focus on people than on machinery. People build trucks. Robots and andon boards help. So there is a real emphasis on the 2,000 people working two shifts at the plant. As Don Jackson, senior vice president, Quality and Production, TMMTX, points out, while cost is certainly a consideration in the manufacture of the vehicle, "It's not cost first. It's safety, environment and building in quality." Then you get to the cost. In addition to which, he observes, that the "two big pillars of the Toyota Way" are "continuous improvement" and "respect for people." There's no mention of robots or plasma screens.
The Answer Is Kitting
How do you keep the line side as open as possible? How do you make sure that even though you're building to order-not batch-and there are as many build variants as there are that you put the right pieces on the truck? This second question could be answered by having an abundance of parts at line side from which to choose. This might not lead, however, to the right parts being selected.
Of course, by having that many parts-and realize that as a full-size pickup, there are plenty of sizeable components-this would mean that the first question about an open line side would remain unanswered.
So what they've done at TMMTX is implemented a kitting program. Parts are pre-picked and packed (some containers look like oversized versions of canvas shoe organizers). These mobile parts carrriers travel along the line with the particular vehicles.
Another benefit: it minimizes the use of forklifts and other material handling devices on the factory floor.
The Answer Is Reversed
How do you ease the assembly of a full-size pickup? There are things like the implementation of electric wrenches instead of pneumatic nut runners. But that only gets you so far. A bigger way: assemble the frames upside down. By doing it this way it is easier to put in wiring, suspension, and other components. Then when it is time to attach the body, flip the truck and continue.