Toyota Outlines Future Production Processes
The new strategy is rooted in the basic principles of the Toyota Production System (TPS), which includes a willingness to do things “for the benefit of someone other than yourself” and a “human-centered” approach to manufacturing. “What caught my attention the most was seeing see the famous genchi genbutsu (real place, real facts) now being done via video,” notes Obara. “Toyota engineers designed a vest to hold a camera, so remote people would not need to be on site to see it all.”
Toyota’s next-generation EVs will be built upon a new modular structure in which car bodies are divided into three sections: front, center and rear. The center section will house solid-state batteries, which offer faster charging and longer range than conventional batteries. Giga-casting is one of the new production technologies that will make these modular structures possible. Currently, the rear section of the Toyota bZ4X EV is made with 86 sheet metal parts and 33 press processes.
“Whereas a typical changeover might take 24 hours and require a large crane, giga-casting molds, which weigh more than 100 tons, leads to even greater time loss,” says Shingo. “Our new approach to giga casting divides molds into two types: general-purpose molds that remain mounted on the machinery and specialized molds whose shape differs by car model. During a replacement, only the compact specialized molds detach themselves automatically from the general-purpose molds.” With these just-in-time mold changes—replacing only what is needed, when it is needed, in the quantity needed—Toyota is aiming to bring lead times down to 20 minutes or less.