Toyota is implementing innovative manufacturing strategies to close the gap between itself and Tesla in the electric vehicle (EV) market. The automaker believes that by combining its renowned lean production methods with new technologies, it can become more competitive in the EV space.
During a plant tour in Japan, Toyota showcased its latest advances in EV manufacturing. This included self-propelled assembly lines, massive die casting, and even traditional hand polishing techniques. The company has embraced automation and robotics to enhance productivity, with three-decade-old equipment being automated through robotics and 3D modeling. Toyota stated that these improvements have tripled equipment productivity.
Chief Product Officer Kazuaki Shingo emphasized the strength of Toyota’s manufacturing lies in its ability to adapt to changing times. The Toyota Production System (TPS), which encompasses lean production, just-in-time delivery, and workflow organization, has been key to the company’s success for decades. Toyota’s methods have been adopted across various industries and are widely studied in business schools.
While Toyota has been known for its hybrid vehicles, it has been lagging behind in the EV market. Under new CEO Koji Sato, the company announced a plan to ramp up its production of battery EVs, acknowledging the need to catch up with competitors. Goldman Sachs reported that Toyota accounted for only about 0.3% of the global EV market in 2022.
One of the innovations Toyota is focusing on is self-propelled production lines, which eliminate the need for conveyor equipment and provide greater flexibility in production. The company also showcased its gigacasting technology, which allows for the production of larger aluminum parts. Toyota has developed molds that can be quickly replaced, reducing downtime and improving productivity.
Additionally, Toyota introduced a self-driving transport robot that ferries vehicles across a parking lot at one of its plants. This reduces the physical burden on truck drivers and increases efficiency. The company aims to have 10 of these robots operating by next year and may also consider selling them to other companies.
Toyota’s efforts to combine its lean production methods with new technologies demonstrate its determination to compete in the EV market. By embracing innovation and improving efficiency, the automaker aims to catch up with Tesla and become a significant player in the industry.