Here's a flock of articles about the new Toyota San Antonio plant that opened last week:
Plant President Hidehiko “T.J.” Tajima said the goal was “to build trucks where they are sold â€” in Texas.”
The assembly line won't be producing at maximum capacity until March, officials said.
Also next year, the plant will be opened on a limited basis to allow the public to see its complex operations.
Reminders of the automaker's culture of “kaizen” — or continuous improvement — are everywhere as workers with “Team Texas” badges run slow-speed test production of the Tundra, a product Toyota has called the most important in its history.
A rope along the assembly line allows any worker to summon help and stop the line if needed to address a quality problem. Parts follow trucks in the making in wheeled kits that resemble closet organizers — an innovation that saves space and time
Workers are encouraged to post their thoughts on the root causes of any glitches on big pieces of white paper after asking the “Five Whys” — a style of critical thought pioneered by Toyota founding father Sakichi Toyoda.
“Our belief in the ‘Toyota Way' is to make sure everyone does the same thing steadily,” said Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas President Hidehiko “T.J.” Tajima. “It sounds simple but it's very important to make sure things are done properly.”
Toyota Motor Corp. said higher-than- expected expenses for construction materials and labor, due in part to Hurricane Katrina, drove up costs for its San Antonio pickup plant by 50 percent from an initial estimate.
Note Toyota says nothing about being “forced” to increase vehicle prices as a result. They understand that prices are set by the market.
Toyota's big truck launch targets Texas, Bubba (Reuters)
Interesting “voice of the customer” discovery:
When Toyota researchers saw silver miners in Wyoming who kept trucks idling with the air-conditioners on for a full shift, they saw an opportunity by adding more powerful cooling system and knobs that can be manipulated without taking off work gloves.
In a sign of its importance to the automaker, Katsuaki Watanabe, Toyota's president, will make a rare American appearance to dedicate the factory.
James P. Womack, co-author of “The Machine That Changed the World,” which studied Japanese companies' American operations, agreed that the Texas plant was fraught with symbolism.
“Tundra in Texas marks the complete Americanization of Toyota,” he said. “There are no segments left to conquer and no part of the country overlooked.”
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