Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) recently held an informational session, Toyota Monozukuri Workshop, under the theme of Changing the Future of Carmaking. Executive Officer and Chief Production Officer Kazuaki Shingo explained the inheritance and evolution of the Toyota way of monozukuri (manufacturing) by changing plant environments, and changing the future of automobiles through human-centered manufacturing. Various monozukuri technologies being developed at the Teiho, Myochi, and Motomachi plants were also on display.
Table of contents
- Chief Production Officer Kazuaki Shingo
Monozukuri skills and technologies revealed at the workshop
- Basic tenets of Toyota’s Monozukuri (Founder’s philosophy / High level of skills and technologies)
- “Monozukuri is Hitozukuri” (“Making things is to nurture people”) Front line capabilities are forged by people supporting Monozukuri
- Monozukuri technology to support the future
Presentation: Chief Production Officer Kazuaki Shingo
“For the benefit of others”―Realizing this philosophy by “utilizing the Toyota Production System as the foundation for front line capabilities”
- The origins of Toyota’s Monozukuri and TPS can be traced back to Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Motor Corporation, and even further back to Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of the Toyota Group. Sakichi developed the hand loom as a way to “help my mother, who worked hard every night weaving, and wondered if there was a way to alleviate her work a little.” This later led to the development of the G-type automatic loom, the foundation of the Toyota Group.
- Established by Sakichi’s son, Kiichiro, the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works’ Automotive Department (now Toyota Motor Corporation) was only a small company when it was founded. With insufficient materials and funds, the company adopted two approaches to manufacturing, automation and just-in-time, which created the foundation for what would later be known as the Toyota Production System (TPS), a human-centered manufacturing approach that facilitates work and maximizes the use of human resources.
- That willingness to do things “for the benefit of someone other than yourself” and the TPS-based “human-centered” approach to manufacturing have been passed down to the people working at Toyota in the present time.
In this workshop, we will introduce an approach to manufacturing that embodies the technologies unveiled at the Toyota Technical Workshop held in June. The theme of this workshop is Changing the Plant Environment and the Future of Cars through Human-centered Monozukuri.
I have been in charge of development for many years, and helped develop the hybrid system for the first-generation Prius and on planning vehicles such as the Corolla, Prius, and Yaris. I was honestly surprised when I was offered the position of CPO, but I believe it was because of the great expectation that in an age when there is no right answer, development and production should transcend barriers and work together like a venture company to create the future. Also, Chairman Toyoda told me that he wanted our plants to be places where workers could be more energetic and active. I would like to share with you three things I felt during my six-month visit to the sites.
First, wherever I go at Toyota, I sense that the same spirit of wanting to make someone’s work easier and making everyone smile, a spirit that has been present since the company’s founding is still alive and well at the genba. Just as when Sakichi Toyoda invented the automatic loom, that startup power is still alive and well today: creating something out of nothing, making improvements, and introducing attractive products to the world.
The second is that monozukuri that is highly skilled and technologically advances is being truly passed down. In automation, even as human operators teach robots how to achieve both high quality and high productivity, human operators are raising the level of their own skills and in turn teaching these improved skills to the robots. This cycle is continuing and the skills and technologies refined ever more.
The third is training human resources and strength of the workplace. We realized that the power of the genba is to have TPS take root, to have everyone feel a passion for manufacturing and pursue kaizen themselves, and to train people for just those things. This genba power has enabled us to achieve a full lineup of 10 million units, answering the diverse needs of our customers.
The automotive industry is now entering an era of transformation, a change in the game where survival is at stake. It is precisely because we are in such an era that it is increasingly important to firmly pass on Toyota’s techniques, and the three things I felt on the genba, the monozukuri strengths that only Toyota possesses.
From here, I would like to talk about my thoughts as CPO on the evolution of monozukuri. I want to change the future of carmaking through Toyota’s skill. To achieve this, we need to evolve monozukuri through the fusion of skills/technology and digital & innovative technologies, and to shorten lead times, to be agile and continually take on challenges. Toyota has a TPS-based technique called lead-time reduction. I believe that the strength of Toyota’s manufacturing lies in increasing the speed of evolution and responding to the changes of the times.
We will also change the future of monozukuri by changing the plant environment landscape. To do that, I am willing to break the production department status quo. This is where I want to show my resolve as CPO. We will halve processes using Toyota’s skills and digital and innovative technology. We will eliminate the barriers between development and production to provide new mobility quickly. We will also work to resolve issues at the foundation of monozukuri, such as factory carbon neutrality and logistics. We will achieve all these through the power of the genba, where people and technology help each other.
Toyota has been and will continue to be a pioneer in new eras, mass-producing happiness for all by creating a genba with people at the center, where work is done to make someone smile, where gratitude overflows, and people can work with enthusiasm. Let’s change the future of cars with Toyota’s skills!
Basic tenets of Toyota’s Monozukuri (Founder’s philosophy / High level of skills and technologies)
Start Up Studio (Teiho Plant)
- Since its foundation, Toyota has encouraged people who share the same passion to gather on the shop floor to share their wisdom and ingenuity, and through their advanced skills, create and mass-produce new products.
- In 2021, a new “Start Up Studio” was established at the Teiho plant.
- To respond quickly to the growing needs for new manufacturing processes in preparation for a full model change to a mobility company, Toyota set up a lounge at the plant where team members can meet and openly exchange ideas and opinions. Immediately adjacent to the lounge is a so-called “Monozukuri Studio,” a place where ideas can be quickly materialized, including prototype development, and where mass production technology development may also be undertaken. An example of the type of work being introduced there is a handmade prototype of a hybrid motor.
- We also have an activity called “Takumi Kobo” where we evolve the sheet metal skills of our master craftsmen to create attractive products. Takumi and junior artisans work together to make creations by challenging themselves to the limits of their materials from the absence of blueprints. In this way, they pass on the skills they have developed. This approach is utilized in the development of new products and people.
The skill of Takumi (master crafting), a founding principle of Monozukuri (Myochi Plant)
- Toyota employs many highly skilled manufacturing professionals called Takumi. The professional Takumi show the true value of their skills in delicate work and high-quality product finishing at a level that robots cannot yet achieve.
- In this case, as an example, Toyota revealed the craftsmanship required to meet the strict performance requirements for winning races. The extremely complex internal structures of ultra-high-performance engine components used in motorsports are molded using core cages, and are realized by the fine-tuning of every single gram using artisanal molding techniques. The ultra-high-performance engines realized by our aluminum casting technology are forged in the field of racing, and the knowledge gained from this process is later reflected in mass-produced vehicles. Toyota’s concept of creating ever-better cars through motorsports is closely linked to the skills of our craftsmen.
Takumi decorative techniques enhance the individuality of cars (Motomachi Plant)
The skills of our Takumi engineers and the evolution of processing technology have made it possible to realize highly unique designs that were previously considered too difficult. While we aim to deliver high-quality, mass-produced cars, we also hope to offer cars that are uniquely matched to the tastes of each individual customer. We would like to introduce some examples of our efforts.
High-gloss, “Piano Black” style bumper using paintless technology
- By polishing the mold uniformly with Takumi skills to a perfect mirror finish without a single scratch, it is possible to mass-produce high-gloss “Piano Black” style bumpers in the original material color without the need for painting. Bumpers created with this paintless technology will be used in actual vehicles, starting with the Crown Sport.
- Eliminating the need for painting will also reduce CO2 emissions from painting operations, contributing to a carbon-neutral plant. In addition, this process improves scratch repairability, as some scratches can be removed by simply wiping them away.
Incremental molding technology*1 for plastic bumpers
The world’s first application of incremental molding technology, which applies the skills of master craftsmen to hand-formed sheet metal and plastic bumpers. By performing additional processing on the bumper, we have achieved a seamless design and a canard-integrated*2 bumper with improved aerodynamic performance. In the future, we intend to use this technology to provide customers with further expansion of design and function.
*1 Incremental molding technology: A molding method where a bar-shaped tool is continuously pressed against a material. The method can now be applied to plastic resin, in addition to metal materials.
*2 Canard: A type of aerodynamic part for automobiles to control airflow around the body. It is usually attached to the bumper as a separate component.
Laser Processing Technology for shaping sharp character lines
Car bodies have lines known as “character lines” implemented to enhance the appeal of their design, generally created by press forming. However, depending on the shape and part, it may be difficult to create sharp lines by press forming. To solve this problem, we have developed a technology to form sharp character lines by additional laser processing after press forming. By utilizing our accumulated laser processing technologies, we fine-tune the output of the laser to achieve character lines with attention to detail in the way the lines pass and disappear, contributing to the creation of cars with a high level of design quality.
Master sheet metal workers show their high level of skill with an elaborate hammered pattern
Utilizing the sheet metal skills with hammers that we have continued to inherit through the creation of prototype vehicles, we will begin offering one-of-a-kind handmade scuff plates as accessories for the new Century model to be unveiled on September 6. The plates are made by hammering thousands of points on a thin stainless steel plate without distorting it and with an awareness of the elongation of the material to create a wood pattern known as “quarter grain.”
“Monozukuri is Hitozukuri” (“Making things is to nurture people”) Front line capabilities are forged by people supporting Monozukuri
- At Toyota, we believe that “Monozukuri is Hitozukuri.” The philosophy of “doing things for others,” combined with wisdom and ingenuity, advanced technologies and skills, and the development of human resources equipped with these qualities are the company’s front line capabilities and the very foundation of Monozukuri. Even if technology advances and robots are further integrated into production processes, it will be humans who are equipped with the knowledge of the Toyota Production System that will be able to think of further improvements. With an eye towards ever better manufacturing, Toyota believes it is important to train people based on the Toyota Production System, encouraging the associated skills of masters to be passed on to the next generation, all with an eye towards continuing to advance and evolve Monozukuri.
- Through daily improvements, as we continue to work through the cycle of challenging ourselves to continue to reduce lead time, the ability of the front line to respond to evolving customer needs and changing times will support our Group competitiveness and our efforts to build more than approximately 10 million vehicles annually.
Staff Development to support mixed-flow production lines (Motomachi Plant)
- The Motomachi Plant produces various powertrains (BEV, FCEV, HEV, ICE) and different shapes/silhouettes (sedan, minivan, SUV) of cars that support Toyota’s multi-pathway approach and address customer needs on the same line.
- Each car requires a different working posture and work variation, which places a greater burden on workers than usual. Here, too, wisdom and ingenuity based on the TPS principle of “making someone else’s job easier” are reflected in every part of the line, supporting car manufacturing for mass production on ever-changing lines.
See this Toyota Times article for more information.
- Up to now, we have promoted human resource development through steady improvement activities, quality education, leader training, and the development of multi-skilled workers. The results of these efforts support our mixed-flow production lines.
Passing on Takumi skills through digital technology (Teiho Plant)
- Passing on the skills of craftspeople is a common challenge for many companies in the manufacturing field. Since many of those skills are practical (or tacit) knowledge, it is difficult to acquire the techniques by simply conveying them in words.
- Toyota is using digital technology to visualize those practical skills, developing tools to pass on the skills in an easy-to-understand and simple manner to the next generation, and using these tools for staff training. By digitally analyzing the skills of craftspeople, we are also looking into the possibility of automating these skills in the future.
Monozukuri technology to support the future
Changing the plant status quo and the future of manufacturing
- Toyota is also taking on the challenge of further advancing manufacturing by integrating the skills/technologies that support the workplace with digital and innovative technologies.
- One of the front-line capabilities that Toyota has continued to protect to date is the ability to shorten lead times. By refining this capability, we can respond quickly to changes, and at the same time, we are working on next-generation manufacturing and solving social issues without fear of failure.
Equipment manufacturing using a digital twin (Teiho Plant)
- To deliver products that customers want at the time they want, it is necessary to start up production facilities capable of manufacturing products in a timely manner. However, in the process of launching new production facilities, defects and difficulties may be found that were not anticipated on the drawings, resulting in wasteful redoing and long lead times.
- To address this issue, a digital environment was utilized to create a 3D model, or digital twin, first, allowing equipment designers, manufacturers, and customers, to identify potential defects in advance. As a result, the knowledge and experience of Toyota’s front-line workers are incorporated into the 3D model from the design stage, and the equipment can be introduced as a highly refined system to the shop floor without having to be redesigned, cutting the lead time from design to the start of production in half.
- Many people, both inside and outside the company, are involved in building the facilities that produce cars. The more widespread the use of digital twins in equipment manufacturing, the greater the potential to further reduce lead time and promote productivity improvements.
Productivity Improvement of existing facilities with digital twin (Teiho Plant)
- By creating 3D models of existing facilities and adding improvements inspired by front line skills, we are working to improve productivity with reduced lead times. We are taking on the challenge of creating Toyota-style Monozukuri through an interactive digital twin that reflects digital improvements in the real workplace. This approach has also led to the additional automation of work.
- At the Teiho Plant mold and equipment parts processing facilities, material loading and other operations that had previously relied on human labor were improved and automated using the 3D model, which was then able to be reflected at the real facility. Productivity tripled, and lead times were reduced to one-third of the previous times.
Next-generation BEV practical demonstration line (Motomachi Plant)
- At the current workshop, Toyota revealed part of the preparation status of the next-generation BEV production line announced at the Toyota Technical Workshop held in June 2023.
- On the next generation BEV production line, we aim to change the status quo for manufacturing for the new modular structure and self-propelled production to account for 1/2 of the process and plan investment.
- Improving work efficiency, increasing productivity, and shortening lead times are what TPS does best. We are taking on the challenge of creating new products by combining the experience and skills we have cultivated in car manufacturing to date with new technologies.
- The three-part modular structure (front, center, and rear) allows work to be performed in an open environment, which improves work efficiency and productivity and reduces processes compared to work conventionally performed with people inside the frame.
- Toyota insources all kinds of technologies for its equipment and vehicles. The self-propelled conveyance with finished vehicles that was put to practical use at the Motomachi Plant was achieved by combining control technology cultivated through the development of autonomous driving with sensor technology for recognizing people, vehicles, and the environment installed at the plant. This technology has now been applied to enable stable traveling at extremely low speeds, at the level of a conveyor. Applying this technology to next-generation BEV lines greatly improve line layout flexibility.
- This can significantly reduce production preparation lead time and plant investment. A simple conveyor-less process has already been implemented on some welding lines at the Motomachi Plant. We will provide feedback on issues and further develop a self-propelled assembly line for the next-generation BEV line.
Giga casting (Myochi Plant)
- The workshop revealed prototype equipment for the Giga casting technology at the Myochi Plant that was announced at the Toyota Technical Workshop held in June 2023.
- Giga casting requires periodic replacement of casting molds, which usually takes about 24 hours. Toyota has a wealth of knowledge about molds used for low-pressure molding and die-casting, with casting technologies cultivated in engine manufacturing and other fields from the company’s founding to the present. By utilizing this knowledge, an ingeniously designed mold has been developed that enables quick mold replacements. This reduces the lead time required for mold change to approximately 20 minutes, reducing wasted operation downtime.
- Furthermore, the use of proprietary analysis technology improves the quality of castings, thereby reducing the number of defective products. These TPS-based waste reductions ensure high productivity.
All-solid-state battery development line (Teiho Plant)
- All-solid-state batteries for BEVs, which was announced at the Toyota Technical Workshop held in June 2023, are undergoing product development, and the method for mass-production is being developed with the aim of commercialization in 2027-28. At the current workshop, Toyota is showing the process development site and a part of the planned mass production methods.
- Unlike liquid batteries, all-solid-state batteries have ions moving through a solid, so ideally, the anode, cathode, and solid electrolytic layers should be tightly adhered to each other without gaps. Toyota has achieved the difficult process of stacking batte.ries at high speed and high precision without damage to the battery materials in anticipation of mass production, using an innovative mechanism and synchronous control technology.
Development line for the popularization version of next-generation batteries (bipolar lithium-ion batteries) (Teiho Plant)
- The bipolar lithium-ion battery, the popularization version of the next-generation battery announced at the Toyota Technical Workshop in June 2023, is currently undergoing product development and the development method for mass production with the aim of commercialization in 2026-27. Today, Toyota revealed a coating process as part of the method development site for mass production.
- In the coating process, to maximize the performance of inexpensive lithium ferro phosphate (LFP), the paste must be applied to the metal foil evenly and in large quantities at a speed that allows for mass production. Toyota will be able to use its 26 years of battery production knowledge gained from HEVs and the equipment for applying high-speed coating technology developed for FC (fuel cells) to achieve this.
Carbon-neutral manufacturing (Motomachi Plant)
- Toyota will accelerate three initiatives to achieve carbon neutrality in manufacturing: daily improvements, innovation in Monozukuri, and the use of renewable energy and hydrogen.
- As part of our daily improvement activities, we utilize powerless equipment using “karakuri” (a mechanical gadget that helps improve productivity and reduce costs), and we have previously introduced airless painting technology to make the coating process more compact as a manufacturing innovation. In addition, we are promoting the use of renewable energy and hydrogen in cooperation with our partners in various countries, in accordance with regional characteristics.
Reference Airless Coating News Release (March 2020)
Addressing logistics issues with vehicle handling robots (Motomachi Plant)
- The logistics industry, including finished vehicle logistics, is facing a chronic shortage of labor, stemming from a reduction in transportation capacity due to stricter regulations on driver working hours, aging drivers and transport workers, and a high turnover rate. These are issues not unique to Toyota, but have been identified as issues for the industry as a whole, and there is an urgent need to reduce the workload of drivers and transport workers and to create an environment in which they can work with peace of mind.
- Toyota has installed roofs at loading/unloading areas at plants and ports across Japan to improve the working environment for drivers so that they can work safely even in bad weather.
We are also working to improve the vehicle pickup process by drivers and haulers at finished vehicle yards. Vehicle transportation at the finished vehicle yard is currently done manually, and there is a chronic shortage of staff. Another issue is the physical burden of the work, which involves walking long distances outdoors.
- The Motomachi Plant introduced a Vehicle Logistics Robot (VLR) to reduce manpower and workload. It has the versatility to raise, lower, extend, and retract the cargo bed depending on the vehicle height/wheelbase to accommodate vehicles of different sizes. In addition to high-precision autonomous movement, a control system centrally manages the movements of multiple robots to monitor safety and enable transport along optimal routes. Also, unlike human transport, there is no need to open and close doors, enabling efficient arrangement of vehicles without gaps as a more efficient use of the yards.