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Toyota Stakes New Technology And Conventional Wisdom In The EV War

Toyota Stakes New Technology And Conventional Wisdom In The EV War
To make up for lost ground in battery electric vehicles, Toyota has turned to self-propelled assembly lines, enormous die casting, and even traditional hand polishing at its facilities in Japan's industrial heartland.
The top-selling automaker in the world believes that by fusing new technology with the well-known lean production techniques it has employed for decades to extract inefficiencies, including excess costs, out of manufacturing, it can close the gap with Tesla and others.
During a facility tour in central Japan last week, the automaker showed off some of its most recent innovations for the first time. It also displayed instances of frugal innovation, such as a method for producing high-gloss bumpers without the need of paint.
The bumper's sheen comes from manually polishing the mould to a mirror finish.
Other three-decade-old machinery used to produce parts can now be operated overnight and on weekends thanks to robotic automation and 3D modelling advancements, which, according to Toyota, have tripled machinery productivity.
"The strength of Toyota's manufacturing lies in our ability to respond to changing times," Chief Product Officer Kazuaki Shingo told reporters on the tour.
He cited the technical and technological know-how rooted in the Toyota Production System, or simply "TPS."
With its just-in-time delivery, lean manufacturing, and "kanban" workflow organisational techniques, Toyota changed modern manufacturing. Since then, its techniques have been used in hospitals and software companies everywhere, and they are frequently discussed in boardrooms and business schools throughout the globe.
Toyota's rise from a post-war upstart to a global powerhouse was aided by its constant focus on cost reduction and ongoing improvement. But another indefatigable developer, Tesla, which has leveraged its own efficiency to generate market-leading profitability, has outpaced it in battery EVs.
After years of criticism that the manufacturer of the popular hybrid Prius was dragging its feet in embracing fully electric technology, Toyota in June revealed an ambitious plan to increase the number of battery EVs. This was a significant move under new CEO Koji Sato.
According to a June report from Goldman Sachs, the Japanese manufacturer will only make up approximately 0.3% of the global EV market in 2022. A more potent model would be the "missing piece" in its inventory.
It is hardly the only automaker coping with the difficulties of switching to EVs. In order to counter the United Auto Workers union's pay demands, which last week resulted in an unprecedented simultaneous strike, Detroit's Big Three automakers have pointed to competitive pressure from Tesla.
Toyota is emphasising its self-propelled production lines, where electric vehicles are directed by sensors along the assembly line. The technique allows for more flexibility in production lines and eliminates the need for conveyor equipment, a significant cost in the car assembly process.
In a demonstration, EVs crawled along without a roof, enabling the insertion of parts. Car seats were lowered into the EV bed using a Fanuc robot arm. An autonomous forklift nearby removed more seats from a container.
A prototype of the "gigacasting" die-casting process, which was developed by Tesla and produced aluminium parts much larger than those previously utilised in the auto industry, was also displayed by Toyota.
Toyota claims that it will construct EVs in modular portions to cut down on parts, similar to Tesla. However, it also highlights some of its own advances. It has years of experience dealing with die-casting and has created moulds that can be swiftly changed, which is occasionally required in gigacasting.
Toyota claims that instead of taking 24 hours as usual, changing the mould now just takes 20 minutes. A 20% increase in productivity is predicted.
A self-driving transport robot that transports new automobiles across a 40,000 square metre (10 acre) parking lot has also been implemented by the manufacturer at the Motomachi facility in Toyota City. Normally, drivers would accomplish this before loading cars onto carrier trucks.
Truck drivers must walk an average of 8 km (5 miles) a day to get automobiles, which cuts into their driving time and increases their physical workload in a position with a high turnover rate.
The automaker stated that after ten of the robots are operational in Motomachi by the end of next year, other plants would be taken into consideration. The robots might also be sold to other businesses.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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