Toyota Motor Corporation - Plant Tour and Museum: Toyota's Aichi Headquarters
It is the world's largest automaker and is talked about in universities the world over for its innovative approaches to manufacturing. Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki-gaisha), headquartered in Toyota City in Aichi Prefecture (capital: Nagoya), is well worth a visit by anyone interested in automobiles, engineering, manufacturing and technology.
World famous terms from the Toyota Production System like kaizen (continuous improvement), jidoka (automation and humans together), poka-yoke (fail-safing) and just-in-time all come to life on the tour. The tour begins at the bus terminus outside the Toyota Kaikan Museum that is on the campus of the global headquarters. You journey by luxury motor coach for about 20 minutes to the Tsutsumi Assembly Plant (one of 12 plants in Toyota City).
Toyota assembly line
The plant is an expansive campus and the journey in the motor coach will take you through a large part of it. The first point is the tour of the assembly line. On my visit they were busy filling an order for 120,000 third generation Prius's Toyota's flagship hybrid automobile. The line also produces the Camry, Premio, Allion, Wish and Scion tC but they numbered few compared to the Prius. The tour takes you over a bridged walkway that passes through the ceiling rafters adjacent to automated conveyors. You get a birds-eye-view of everything. Jidoka is the main theme in the assembly area humans and machines working together. Auto assembly is still labor intensive but it is a lot more efficient than before.
Toyoto welding shop
The second point of the tour is the welding shop. This is where all of the metallic parts of the body are assembled and welded together. The thing you will notice most about the welding shop is the lack of people and the dense population of robotic apparatus applying exact welds to every seam of the vehicle. The welding shop is the scene you see in books and on television that typify the advanced processes of the Toyota Motor Corporation.
Toyota manufacturing processes
Auto assembly at the plant is in four stages. The welding and assembly shops are stages two and four respectively. Stage one is the stamping process where they take rolled steel and form it into body parts. Stage three is the painting process. Stages one and three are not part of the tour for practical reasons. The stamping takes place in large enclosed machines and the painting takes place in booths and tunnels. Neither is conducive to sightseeing.
Toyota Kaikan Museum
Following the tour of the assembly and welding shops guests are returned to the Toyota Kaikan Museum by motor coach. On my, tour this time was spent as a session where guests asked the tour guide a range of questions that she carefully answered.
The Toyota Kaikan Museum is a large facility that features a show room with all the latest models from both Toyota and Lexus. You can learn more about the Toyota Production System, the history, technology and future plans. After all of the touring, you're probably in need of a snack so you can enjoy the Starbucks Coffee and outdoor seating area. There is no better way to complete your tour with a browse of the gift shop where you will find original Toyota merchandise some of it is not badly priced.
Toyota tour details
Free tours are offered in English by the Toyota Motor Corporation Monday through Friday starting at 11:00 AM. All tours start and end at the Toyota Kaikan Museum, 1 Toyota-cho, Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, 471-0826.
Guests need to arrive by 10:30 AM. Phone +81 565 29 3355 for more information or visit toyota.co.jp and find information under the 'corporate responsibility' tab. Advanced reservations are necessary. My recommendation is to make your own way to Toyota Kaikan Museum (maps and directions available on the Toyota website). The tours offered by travel agencies are a little over-priced but offer convenience to those who are not comfortable navigating their way off the beaten track.
Other Toyota Museums in Nagoya are the Toyota Automobile Museum on the Linimo Line near Geidai Dori Station and the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry & Technology close to Sako Station not far from Nagoya Station.
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