Saturday, November 5, 2016

Toyota Manufacturing Plant, Georgetown, Kentucky

Toyota Manufacturing Plant, Georgetown, KY

We have unusual luck at arriving at venues at the right time.  It happened again at the largest Toyota manufacturing plant in the world in Georgetown, KY, just north of Lexington. 

We had been impressed with the plant's size as we drove around to find Entrance 2 for visitors,  one of seven entrances.  This is an 8.1 million square-foot facility, or the equivalent of 169 football fields. The plant employs 8,000 team members and produces 550,000 cars a year that are sent all over the world.

We arrived to find tours are booked days, if not weeks, ahead.  We were so informed.  Then the administrator said, “We just had a group arrive one member short.  Do you want the single?”  Carla said, “Wayne, take it. I’ll stay and read.”   A few minutes later he was  motioned over and told there had been another cancellation.

We produced picture ID, underwent a security check, relieved ourselves of cameras and cell phones and were added to a group.

The first Camry built in America stands in the lobby, a 1988 car that has 26 miles on the speedometer. A brief movie provided background on the Toyota company with an emphasis on how It was partly made successful because of its use of teams workers who could exchange tasks with each other and who were free to make suggestions to management to improve both their work arrangements and the cars.   

Many of their management ideas came from the American W. Edwards Deming who had trouble selling his ideas on how to use teams to improve production to the large American automobile companies.   Shortly after  Toyota's use of the team concept, the company established the reputation for well built cars and took over a leadership role in quality control.

Our group, divided into three smaller groups, were seated in carts with safety glasses and ear phones and began the tour in the Lexus section of the plant.  Emphasis was placed on how much of the work is done in the plant and how much of the materials come from America. 

This includes the steel sheets that are stamped into car parts, a mostly automated process.  The largest number of robots in the plant were used to weld the metal parts into cars that were then put in a bath of paint.  We were not allowed in that section because the smallest foreign particle can cause problems.

What we did see in great detail was the actual construction of the cars where human talent is still a major factor.  We saw both long lines of Lexus and Camrys in all states of being put together.  Over the workmen was a cord that can be pulled at any time if something was wrong or needed fixing.  We were told it was often used.

 The cars on the track were sometimes loaded high, sometime at mid section and sometimes low depending on what was being added to them.  Engines were being installed in 45 seconds.  The engines by the way are made here with an additional 50,000 to be sent to other factories.

Our guide stressed how well workers are taken care of.  Overtime is measured in 6 minute segments and is frequently given because of the demands of the job.  There is onsite child care and educational opportunities.

No car is built unless a request has been made for it and that car is made to fit that request.  Special arrangements are made for the parts, including doors to arrive at the just right moment to be put on the car.  Given the range of colors of cars that seemed remarkable.  Each car is carefully tested at the end of the line, and we saw cars being driven for the first time.

We have not often seen a factory in full operation and found this interesting and in a way exciting.  Although we would not want to be one of the people working on the line, we are impressed by how they are treated very respectfully.

Outside the Toyota Manufacturing Plant in Georgetown, Kentucky

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