Canadian Manufacturing

Toyota focusing on production and design innovations

Toyota officials said requirements and emissions improvements are changing so quickly that lines must adjust frequently to parts changes.



TOYOTA, Japan—Toyota is putting renewed focus on production and design innovations after getting a wake-up call from its massive recalls.

A highly flexible assembly line that grows or shrinks over a weekend to adjust to demand was among the innovations Toyota Motor Corp. showed in production technology.

It also highlighted special stamping that allows car doors to be carved into moulded shapes and instantaneous laser welding.

Toyota had a stellar reputation for quality until massive recalls that began in 2008.

Executive vice-president Atsushi Niimi said the recall fiasco showed that Toyota had neglected improvements in production while pursuing growth.

Niimi and other Toyota officials said requirements for models are changing so quickly, and emissions improvements in engines coming so fast, that lines must adjust frequently to minor parts changes.

Reporters were given a tour of auto plant anatomy never shown to the public at Motomachi factory in the city named after Japan’s No. 1 automaker. No photography was allowed, but visitors were given demonstrations of motorized stamping that was faster and quieter, as well as adjustable casting and welding methods that cut costs, save time and are kinder to the environment.

Toyota said the metal stamping technology is new and developed within the company.

The new stamping, which also produces sharper shapes on car exteriors, will be introduced for the limited edition iQ subcompact model going on sale in a few months.

Also demonstrated was a new paint technology that allows different shadings without causing an uneven surface. Officials said they hope to make cars with custom paint jobs and contoured stamping to order.

Like other Japanese automakers, Toyota is recovering from a difficult 2011, when production was disrupted by a supply

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