By 6:15 a.m. on February 28, workers flowed steadily into the Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile factory for the first day of serial production.
Bundled up against the bitter cold, most of the 1,800 workers came by car or city bus, although a few hardy souls rode bicycles.
By 6:30 a.m., the last few stragglers raced from the parking lot into the factory.
A Valeo representative arrived to hand deliver a set of ventilation ducts. Across the street at the NKY Logistics Center, workers unloaded 10 trucks of incoming parts. The scene outside was deceptively calm.
That changed dramatically at 11 a.m. with festivities celebrating the start of production. After brief speeches by Czech politicians, TPCA President Masatake Enomoto and Executive Vice President Jean Pierre Chantossel, the first car rolled down the line: a bright yellow three-door Peugeot 107. A five-door
silver Toyota Aygo and a three-door red Citroen C1.
A day before the Geneva auto show launch for the three vehicles, the factory event signalled change. The challenge moved from huge undertakings – erecting a 300,000-unit plant, training thousands of workers, building infrastructure to feed the plant – to simply manufacturing cars on schedule and without flaws.
The first day was deceptively easy: just three cars rolled out the door. But output will increase to 25 a day this week. By spring 2006, production is scheduled to peak at one car a minute – about 1,100 a day.
To make a joint venture assembly plant run by Toyota and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen work smoothly takes adaptations to local conditions.
For starters, some Kolin-area residents see disruptions not as activity inside the plant, but on the roads outside.
“People who live on the main way to TPCA are protesting,” says Kolin deputy mayor Jirií Buric.
The TPCA factory’s promised direct connection to the D11 motorway from Prague is unfinished, diverting plant traffic onto local roads. So a two-lane connection road was substantially improved.
Traffic will only intensify as the production ramps up. Every car rolling off the line uses 10.5 cubic meters of components brought in. Once at 1,100 cars a day, that is 11,750 cubic meters of parts daily, so TPCA executives want better roads.
“The most important advantage we have here is the logistics,” says plant head Enomoto.
Based on value, TPCA sources 80 percent of components from within the Czech Republic.
Few line workers have cars. Many live far from Kolin, often staying locally during the workweek and returning home only on days off.
To compensate, TPCA replaced the five-day workweek. Employees work 10-hour shifts four days a week with three days off. So do workers at Lear Automotive, which assembles seats next to the factory.
“This is not customary here, but it certainly has advantages for those who travel long distances to work,” says Josef Blecha, director of the labor office in Kolin.
TPCA will add a second shift in June and a third in September, pushing the workforce above 2,800.