Visit to Toyota plant

By: Visie Partners in: Valenciennes
Last Wednesday, members of Supply Chain Network (SCNet) had the opportunity to visit the Toyota Yaris plant in Valenciennes, France. The atmosphere was relaxed and we had good and interesting conversations during the trip. We exchanged our perspectives one to one and in small groups.

We arrived half an hour early at the Toyota factory. Because of this, we needed to wait before we could enter the reception area. As in lean, we learned that being in time is different from being on time.

In the Toyota plant, we have had an introduction about the plant and its production. Currently, 1.119 Yaris cars are produced per day, at a takt time of 60 seconds. This means that production time is about 19 hours. The plant can handle a takt time of around 45 seconds, between the cars that leave the assembly line. We have seen the newly painted cars, with multiple colors in graphical shapes. 

It was interesting to see that Toyota is still using cardboard Kanban cards, as an element of the Toyota Production System. An example of the low-tech focus of lean. As part of Toyota’s visual management, they had large Andon screens with information about the product flow and the numbers achieved. On one of the communication boards, we could see ‘4S’. Toyota does not use the fifth S (sustain), of 5S. The reason is that sustaining standard practices is an inherent part of standardization. 

The difference between the French plant and other Toyota plants is that there is a stop between each of the three 7-hour shifts. This time is used for maintenance. The assembly line is split in areas, were the product undergoes more than one operation. When part of the operations have been delayed, other operations have time to catch up, before the product moves to the next stage. The lead-time in production, from the pressing department until a finished car, is between 14 and 21 hours. The plant has a push-pull barrier at the body parts inventory. They are pressed in batches of four hours of work. This means that batches consist of around 220 units. In the welding department about 90% of the work is done by robots and the other 10% by the workers. There is an area with a maximum capacity of 40 cars, that are diverted from the assembly line for solving quality issues. If more capacity is needed, the production line automatically stops.  

New production personnel are not selected by education, but primarily by their motivation and commitment to deliver high quality products to the consumer. There is a short trial assembly line for training purposes, to learn how the work should be done within takt time. The role of employees is critical in only passing quality products to the next stage. If the line is stopped, an optimistic music starts playing. This sends the message, that it is positive to stop the line: an opportunity for improvement or prevention of an error in the product has been identified.  

Toyota demonstrates a great commitment to environmental sustainability. This French Toyota plant needs 30% less manufacturing space than a similar plant. They also have reduced energy by 57%, solid waste has been reduced by 58% and water usage by 72%. 

After a great dinner in Machelen, close to Brussels, we arrived back in Raamsdonksveer, the office of Toyota Netherlands, at 10:30 PM. Overall, it was a very inspiring day!

In 2020 SCNet and Visie Partners will organize more interesting events. 

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