Toyota Plant Tour

HQ is only 1.5 hours away by train from Nagoya!!! Toyota Kaikan is pretty magnificent. 50,000 engineers work in their design building at headquarters, and about 50% of employees commute from other parts of Nagoya. The tour started this morning at Toyota Kaikan Museum, which, after being to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Technology, is just not nearly as impressive. But, it's cool to realize that the city was renamed Toyota City once the car manufacturing business boomed. (Also, Toyota comes from the Founder's last name, Toyoda.)

The factory tour was conducted from a catwalk above the factory floor. Probably done for efficiency's sake, but it made the plant seem less impressive than the Audi plant I went to years ago. (Granted, I think the Audi facility was much larger, vs Toyota's operations over Toyota city span something like 15 plants.) We weren't allowed to take pictures so I don't have any of the inside of the plant. But we did get to see how they monitor assembly line flow and how the workers can alert their supervisor to any problems.

So impressions about Toyota/Japanese culture:

  • They literally read the brochure for the English tour. It's their script. It's kind of weird because the tour guide definitely had more things to talk about but mostly didn't deviate from what was already written down.

  • Attention to detail is a big deal here. Everyone is responsible for ensuring that the car has no defects in assembly. Many things are automated, like painting and welding, and there are even robots to bring the cars between assembly lines.

  • The plant I went to (Motomachi) assembled 90,000 vehicles in a year. That's roughly 250 vehicles produced every day.

The Mirai, a hydrogen fuel-cell car that is in production at the Motomachi plant.

Definitely appreciated that they had models for all types of individuals, not just the average-sized male.

There's even a movie about the creation of the Toyota Automobile! (Backstory: Toyoda went around the UK and the US while he was trying to expand his market share for the textile machines he patented, and noticed that automobiles were becoming common in those countries, and decided that Japan needed to create an automobile, too.)

The neat pen that everyone got at the end of the tour. "Good Thinking, Good Products" is literally what it says. Given that a lot of the manufacturing practices were improved by the assembly line workers, I wonder if creativity is hindered here by the monotony of assembly, or if Toyota is still able to have innovation at the various levels of management.