5.1 – The transformation begins
The Assembly Shop is best described as the heart of the Toyota factory in Burnaston. It is the part of the production line where in just three-and-a-half hours each painted bodyshell will become a fully functioning car.
During that time it will undergo over 300 different processes, including having its wheels, engine and seats fitted. It will even be filled with fuel and coolants, ready for the road. Hundreds of highly skilled technicians work in complete harmony to produce a new car every 66 seconds.
5.2 – Doors off, protection on
As soon as the bodyshell arrives in the Assembly Shop the doors are removed and sent to another line to have their trim, glass, speakers and mirrors installed. The body, meanwhile, has covers laid in strategic locations to protect the paintwork and components from potential damage.
Each process is carefully engineered to be as smooth and efficient as possible. Even the shape and height of each member is considered when designing the various stages of production. For instance, smaller and more nimble teams will usually work on interior trimming, climbing in and out of the cars to fit carpets and dashboards.
5.3 – Smart tools work faster
In order to maintain the factory’s 66-second takt, or cycle, time, members use smart tools programmed to offer live feedback on performance. The speed and power of each tool can be adjusted depending on the experience of its user; so in effect, these tools learn and develop with the factory’s workforce.
An example of this is the electric gun used to secure attachment covers to the hybrid inverter – a key element of each hybrid model’s electric drive system. The factory cannot risk cross-threading the nuts that hold the cover in place, because if a damaged bolt thread broke off and became trapped inside the inverter it could catch fire.
The electric gun is therefore programmed to stop turning if resistance exceeds 1.5 Newtons. With such a low limit set, member skill improves as only the correct set-up and angle of approach will allow the gun to operate.
5.4 – Building by numbers
Because assembly is so complex, each process is broken down into a series of work steps. In turn each work step comprises individual job elements. Detailing exactly how every step in this task should be carried out is a Job Element Sheet, and there is currently more than 19,400 of these sheets in use – approximately 60 per process.
Job Element Sheets are used to train members. They are referred to by supervisors when carrying out regular checks, and are also at the heart of the Assembly Shop’s Kaizen process of continuous improvement. It’s a detailed system designed to ensure complete consistency and the same high quality, durability and reliability in every Toyota, every time.
5.5 – One size doesn’t fit all
After the trim line, each car moves to the chassis line where the mechanical components are installed. The front suspension, brakes and gearbox are sub-assembled in a separate area and added to the car after the engine. Finally, the car is filled with fuel and coolant liquids.
The line is carefully designed so that each member can carry out their tasks quickly, comfortably and safely. Which means positioning and shaping work stations so there is a minimum amount of reaching and stretching.
Members are additionally supported by a fleet of over 140 purpose-built AGVs – automated guided vehicles – that provide essential support, bringing the right parts to the line at the right time. They are programmed to follow magnetic strips on the floor and to make specific stops.
5.6 – Sitting comfortably?
Back on the main assembly line, the next step is to fit the carpets and seats. Incredibly, the seats aren’t ordered for delivery from the suppliers until the car is lifted from the Paint Shop and is on its journey to the Assembly Shop. However they arrive in time, and after fitting it’s time to reattach the doors and add finishing exterior trim parts such as the windscreen wipers and badges.
The car is now carried across to its final destination – Quality Assurance – but there are other departments we need to visit first.