|As would be expected in a Toyota plant, there is a Kaizen Area in the main assembly portion of the facility. (The main areas of the plant are Assembly; paint; body Weld; Stamping; and Plastics.) Team members from the floor work in this area to improve processes.|
This month, the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, Inc. (TMMI), plant in Gibson County, Indiana, near Princeton, is undergoing its ramp-up to full production of a new full-size pickup truck, the Toyota Tundra.
There are several interesting aspects to this. For one thing, the ground breaking for the 1.6-million ft.2 plant occurred on May 8, 1996. On December 10, what was called the "line-off ceremony" was held (which is when most of the photos shown here were taken). The saleable vehicles start being made this month. The time preceding the line-off involved on-line training of the associates, most of whom came from the southwestern area of Indiana and didn't have automotive production experience.
In between the groundbreaking and the line-off, the people at Toyota seem to have figured that they had something good on the way, as they announced on March 31, 1998, a 400,000-ft.2 expansion, which brings the entire plant to 2-million ft.2. And it added $500-million to the original project's $700-million, to bring in the entire project at $1.2-billion.
The reason for the addition is simple. Not only are pickups selling in vast quantities, sport utility vehicles, which are increasingly based on pickup platforms, are doing very nicely, as well. (And both types of vehicles provide high margins to the manufacturers, and we can only imagine that given Toyota's manufacturing capabilities, they'll be in great shape in this regard.)
The original plant had a capacity of 100,000 vehicles. The addition brings with it a 50,000-unit capacity. In the fall of 2000, there will be an as-yet unnamed (or unannounced name) sport ute rolling out of TMMI.
For the first model year (2000), there will be 107,000 Tundras built (this is based on a 1.5-year long model year). Then, for the 2001 model year, according to Don Dees, general manager, Manufacturing & Quality Planning at TMMI, they'll be producing 92,000 Tundras and 46,000 SUVs (for a total of 138,000 units). The 2002 model year calls for, at this early date, 88,000 Tundras and 60,000 SUVs, which brings the total to 148,000 units, just shy of full capacity.
"We have the ability to mix and match volume as needed," Dees remarked. Which is one way of saying that you should take those numbers with a grain of salt: If the market wants more than 60,000 model 2002 SUVs, you can bet that TMMI will turn on a dime to provide them. (The previously made comment about margins needs an additional comment at this point now that the production numbers have been cited. Dees pointed out that the margins won't be as high as those of the traditional domestic automakers because they all need the same dies and tools to make the vehicles, and the volume at TMMI isn't as big as is typical of truck plants.)
In addition to TMMI having a new manufacturing facility, it must be kept in mind that this is a new plant producing a vehicle Toyota hasn't built before—anywhere (outside of some validations performed in Japan). Explained Kevin Higgins, market planning manager for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. (Torrance, CA), "Tundra is all new, from the chassis to the engine to the sheet metal. It will be offered in ½-ton capacity, available two-wheel or four-wheel drive, regular cab with 8-ft. bed and access cab with 6 1/2-ft. bed. It will come with a V8 or V6 engine."
|All of the outer body panels are stamped within TMMI. According to Don Dees, there are just one shift's worth of parts held; he noted that when he worked for General Motors, which was prior to joining Toyota, there was typically five day's supply held in the assembly plants. there are three major stamping lines (all Komatsu presses) at TMMI and one blanking line (fromVerson). There are pits in the floor for future press installation, so perhaps more production will be on its way to TMMI.|
So there is a new plant. A new vehicle—a vehicle with no back-up source in Japan. That's extraordinary for Toyota, since the norm is to have a back-up in Japan. (Of course, there isn't much demand for full-sized pickups in Japan. "Our approach is to manufacture where there is demand, which is why we're not building this truck in Japan," Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda, chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., explained.) And since there is no vehicle production in Japan, there aren't any back-up parts there, either.
In addition to which, there has been a concerted effort to increase the number of North American-sourced parts. TMMI has eight times the North American part numbers of any of the other Toyota facilities in the U.S. and Canada (Georgetown and NUMMI; Cambridge, Ontario) and two times the number of North American suppliers. There are a total of 160 North American suppliers to TMMI, including 15 that have never supplied Toyota prior to the Tundra. According to Dees, 1,081 part numbers (42% of the total) are sourced from overseas, with the remaining 58%, or 1,454, being sourced in North America.
A new plant. New vehicle. New suppliers. And new people.
According to Norm Bafunno, general manager-Production, as of December, 1998, there were 55,000 applications submitted and they were still accepting more. The total number of jobs (of which less than 10% are administrative), which will be reached in the fall of 2000, when they'll be running a second shift and producing the SUV, will be 2,300 people. "We want to retain the people we hire," he remarked. Which explains the 24-hour assessment that applicants go through—including a day of work (simulated, but a day of work just the same).
Because there is a new group of workers with a diverse background, training is essential. TMMI president & CEO Seizo Okamoto notes that determining how to perform the training was a challenge. "First we trained the team leaders. Then we did the pilot build with the team leaders. Then the team leaders taught the team members. It was very efficient," he says.
A new plant. New vehicle(s). New suppliers. New people. Very unlike Toyota. But unless something catastrophic happens in the market (according to Kevin Higgins's numbers, there are 1.5-million full sized pickups registered each year, of which nearly 75% are ½-ton models; 1998 registrations were up over 1997; and the full-size segment retains owners at a rate of 71%, which is higher than any other vehicle segment), Toyota is likely to succeed with this whole new approach. And if the pickup market were to tank, what company would be more likely to be able to modify its manufacturing in comparatively short order?