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Camry project shaves off another 10 months

Toyota's redesigned Camry will appear this month just 26 months after its project launch, a schedule 10 months shorter than the previous generation.

2001 Management Briefing Seminars index
Already a world benchmark for rapid vehicle development programs, Toyota shortened the schedule for its U.S.-built bread-and-butter vehicle through a series of changes, including more advanced information technology and the early involvement of factory workers, said Gary Convis, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, the subsidiary that produces the Camry.

"Our people really helped us avoid a lot of the problems we encountered in the past," Convis said after a presentation Wednesday at the Management Briefing Seminars. "Often, things look good on paper. But when you consider them from the perspective of actual production, you discover a problem that didn't occur to you."

The previous-generation Camry took 36 months to design and execute in 1997. The current-generation Avalon, launched in 2000, took 33 months.

Team members and engineers at the Camry plant in Georgetown, Ky., studied drawings of the upcoming vehicle and the plant layout and asked for 1,200 changes in the new Camry's design. Changes were as small as the routing of wires through the dashboard and the pressure required to insert fasteners into panels.

Advances in Toyota's engineering communications also helped speed up the project, Convis said. Project participants in Georgetown helped resolve questions using digital cameras to show real-time images of plant tooling and conditions to designers and suppliers at Toyota's U.S. and Japanese technical centers.

"We were almost able to get things engineering-approved just from camera images," Convis said. "Toyota is trying to get better at IT."

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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