I’m embarrassed to say this. Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever toured a manufacturing plant. It’s embarrassing because my husband, mom, dad, brother and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins all chose careers in manufacturing. And yet, I had only a passing idea of the environment they worked in until yesterday, when I toured the Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky (TMMK) plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.
TMMK is simply huge. “This was like three to four plants in one,” said John Feldman, a Cincom Control account executive who worked several years in the Detroit auto industry. TMMK does most every aspect of production in-house: stamping, body welding, painting, assembly, inspection, testing. Even Toyota’s power train engines and plastics like the instrument panels are Kentucky-made at the plant. According to Feldman, this is different from how U.S. automakers traditionally do manufacturing, where suppliers provide assembled parts and the automaker plant takes over at assembly.
Some interesting facts learned on the tour:
- Approximately, 2,000 Camrys, Camry Hybrids, Avalons and Venzas are produced daily from this plant.
- It takes a car 20 hours to be produced, with nine of those in painting.
- Seats are ordered just four hours before they are installed. (Talk about just-in-time manufacturing!)
- There are not separate manufacturing lines for each model. The models are interspersed on a single line as they are ordered. This implies a large amount of organization and robot coding must be in place for this to run efficiently.
Some other insights I gathered:
Communication is Important – Toyota has processes in place to ensure their line employees receive and give information. Besides lunch, employees receive two 15-minute breaks. The first five minutes of each break is a communication meeting with their team. They also have their famous andon cord, a cord line employees pull whenever they spot an error that allows them to halt the production line. The main purpose of the cord may be quality, but it also empowers employees to make decisions and have an interest in the final product.
Dirty Factory is a Misnomer – The plant was spotless and well organized.
It Takes More Than One Company to Make a Car – As I rode around the plant on the tram, I looked up and saw names like Cincinnati Milacron, Konecranes and Komatsu (all Cincom customers!) on the robots and machines assisting the line.
Customer Mentality – Each team considers the team in front of them on the line as their customer. If you do your job well, then it makes it easier for the team in front of you. Not only does it promote teamwork, but quality too!
If you’re near Georgetown, Kentucky, and are interested in seeing how modern manufacturing works, TMMK runs tours on a regular basis Monday through Friday.
Photo credits: Lou Washington