2.1 – The bare truth

In order to follow the creation of a brand new Toyota Auris our tour of Burnaston begins in the Press Shop. It’s here that steel is shaped and moulded to form the panels that will become a bare bodyshell. Carl Smith, a Press Shop veteran, is here to talk us through the process.

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2.2 – Preparation is key

The first step in the production process is to prepare the raw steel that will be used to make our vehicles. Sheet steel arrives in huge 45-tonne rolls before it is chopped and formed to make the individual components that will be welded together to make each car.

In a single shift, Burnaston will devour up to 5,000 metres, or around 300 tonnes, of steel building up to 750 vehicles a day. That’s one car every 66 seconds. No wonder steel needs to be delivered daily to keep Burnaston on its production schedule!

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2.3 – The science behind the steel

Over the course of a year the factory will use enough metal to stretch right the way around the Earth. However, not all the steel used in the production process is the same; it varies in thickness, width, strength and weight, according to how and where it will be employed.

Some of the lightest steel is in fact the strongest, and it is used to both help the car withstand accident impacts and reduce bodyweight. The properties of each steel type determines the process and speed with which it is formed into parts.

Before it can be used, the steel is subjected to an intense, 16-point scrutineering process in the raw materials laboratory to confirm its quality in the key areas of strength, flexibility and mechanical properties.

Microscope examinations range all the way from 10x magnification to electron microscopy, while Toyota has one of just four machines in the world that can test the friction level of the steel’s surface. Testing the steel to this level not only stops imperfections having an impact on quality but allows Toyota to apply exact control over the way the steel reacts in the presses during the forming process.

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2.4 – Orders arrive

Vehicle production starts in earnest at 7:30am but orders begin to arrive at the factory an hour earlier. Orders come from all over the world, with Avensis models being exported to Japan and Auris being shipped across Europe. Each car is built to order, so a complex computer system is put in place to keep track of order details, determining specification and type.
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2.5 – The car takes shape

Before the steel is shaped it has to be prepared. Each steel roll is delivered to a machine that unrolls the coil and smooths the metal so it is perfectly flat. The metal is then cut into sheets and stamped into the individual panels that make up the car’s basic structure. There are 40 different machines in the Press Shop, producing around 1,600 different parts, so the presses have to be fitted with specific dies – heavy metal templates that give each piece of steel its unique shape.

There are hundreds of different dies that have to be swapped in and out of the presses. These are not just for current models but for all other Toyota models built at Burnaston over the years. Making these heritage panels means owners of older cars can still source official factory-quality parts for body repairs.

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2.6 – Massive machinery

Burnaston’s presses, named ATR1, 2 and 3, are the biggest machines in the factory, each being as big as a house. They work by pressing the steel between forming tools to an incredible 3,500-tonne pressure, equivalent to loading 500 London double-decker buses on to an area no larger than a postage stamp.

When all three presses are operating at once, new panels up to two metres long can be made almost every second. Although the machinery is huge and the pressure is immense, even a speck of dust in the dies can compromise the quality of the part.

The finished panels are gathered into racks, where they are passed in sequence to the welding teams.

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