Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Toyota Megafactories Review

National Geographic Channel’s hit series Megafactories recently showcased Toyota’s vast factory in Melbourne, Australia. Megafactories, also known as Ultimate Factories, has already profiled some of the biggest car makers in the world and now it is Toyota’s turn. With exclusive behind the scenes footage on the massive car company that employs over 2,500 people to produce 100,000 cars and beyond in one year.
The Plant and the People
Toyota faced a daunting task: to create an Australian Camry Hybrid that is environment-friendly with more functionality. The colossal factory featured was the one responsible for creating Camry and its Hybrid version and Aurion sedans. The local Camry version was a huge challenge for the factory and its personnel because the model only used engine directly shipped from Japan.
The executive director of Toyota Australia, Chris Harrod, disclosed that the idea of producing home-grown Camry Hybrid had always been a part of Toyota’s strategy. The Hybrid is known for having an enormous engine, thus posing as a daring test to the Australian factory. Harrod also admitted that there had been quite a number of struggles the moment they began the production. First, they had to compete with other factories of Toyota around the world to gain the right to build AR Engines. Mark Taylor, Toyota Australia’s Powertrain Department Manager expresses his happiness about the news.
Another challenge that they had to face was the gutting of their ageing plant as part of the AR Engines project. For $330 million, the plant was rebuilt from the ground up to provide the way for the hybrid engine production. Harrod, Taylor, and company had to welcome VIP visitors to the upgraded powertrain in just 12 weeks. The results have been great though as the whole facility looks brand new, according to Chris Harrod.
The factory is extremely immense, spreading over 75 hectares of land comprising of 7 separate plants. However, the plant in the hotseat is the only one that has its own sections for paint, weld, resin, assembly, and engine among others. They have brought together all significant operations under a single roof.
The Production Process
All Toyota cars undergo heavy and noisy metallic presses. The “press” is where both external and internal panels are made and consists of four heavy-duty stamping robots that press on 450 panels every hour. Overhead, there are cranes weighing 35 tonnes that constantly move around to transport different parts of cars. Everything happens quickly, accurately, and on time. Steel sheeting is sent to the factory very hour, 16 times a day. For the whole year, there are about 40 million kilos used by the plant. The steel sheets receive almost 2.5 tonnes of pressure.
Next to the stamping comes the unit production where 40 robots and some crew members share the gruelling work of welding. Every inch of the unit is carefully welded into place. For instance, in the sub-frame of the Toyota engine has 11.5 metres of welding done. Another important part of the Camry Hybrid production is painting which robots do for a more precise and faster result, often requiring only 58 seconds per three kinds of painting jobs. After the paint has dried, the inspectors will check the quality of the car. The weld plant is different from the unit plant. It is comprised of mainly robots – over 280 of them to weld the car’s body. To complete the production of the car, there are at least 235 processes to be done involving almost 13,000 parts to combine and almost 2 km wires used.
More about the Toyota Australia Factory
Toyota Megafactories also covered the history of the factory including the fact that the plant is special to the entire Toyota company. Australia was the primary western country that invested in manufacturing where building cars enabled the company to learn lessons that have supported its success globally.
Today, Toyota remains to be the world’s leading automotive company with Chris Harrod detailing that Australia has been the best-selling company in Australia for over 10 years now. With several robots and dedicated personnel, there was no doubt that the powertrain was able to deliver an amazingly styled and high quality Australian Camry hybrid using local skills, passion, and technology.

A self confessed car-nerd, Erin Warbrook just had to check out this episode to see where her Toyota Camry was born.