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Toyota San Antonio Starts Production

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The Toyota truck plant in Texas has started production. For all of the talk this week from the Big 3 about yen/dollar valuations and advantages that Toyota has with importing vehicles, it sure is strange that Toyota would keep building plants here in North America, right?

CNBC had a report yesterday and had a panel discussing this, the topic on screen about the Big 3 was something like:

“Lousy cars or currency valuations?”

Back to Toyota:

In January, Toyota will start shipping trucks to distributors. Toyota plans to get at least four trucks to each of its 1,200 dealers during the week of Feb. 12. Officials are mindful that 2006 models of the Tundra still are being built at Texas' “mother” plant, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, and it wants to sell those trucks before the 2007s go on sale.

Here is an earlier article about the media unveiling of the plant.

Toyota will ramp up the plant slowly, focusing on quality:

A Tundra will roll off the assembly line every 73 seconds, which is still below the rate needed to hit the plant's planned capacity of 200,000 trucks a year. There are plenty of gaps along the assembly line and workers stand around a little more than they do in a mature plant. But it's all part of the maturation process.

“The assembly line is moving quite slowly,” Miller said. “It's moving at the rate we wish it to, to make sure everyone is comfortable with their jobs.”

The article talks about a change in part presentation:

Parts no longer are lined up exclusively to the side of the assembly line. Workers now get “kits” that contain all the parts they'll need to work on a particular truck through a particular section of the line.

Toyota Texas President Hidehiko “T.J.” Tajima said kitting is a common practice in Japan, where seven or eight different vehicles are being built along one line.

Tajima said it makes sense to use kits here, even though there is only one vehicle built on the line.

“We have variations of cabs, variations of (beds), and each variation means more than one truck,” he said.

The second article also talks about the value of on-site suppliers for the Toyota plant.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent book is the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus. He is currently writing his next book, tentatively titled Measures of Success.

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