BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc. will begin rolling out some new information technology practices to its engine plants this year, and then to suppliers in 2007.
Among them: an Internet-based version of the venerable Toyota supply chain-tracking system it calls "kanban." The Toyota engine plant in Huntsville, Ala., will adopt e-kanban next year, Jim Bolte, North American vice president of information systems, said at the Automotive News Manufacturing Conference on Tuesday.
Bolte also is vice president at the Huntsville engine plant, in charge of administration and manufacturing.
Bolte says Toyota will spend relatively little on IT this year -- less than 1 percent of manufacturing revenue. But it will be trying to make every dollar count.
"Technology must add value," Bolte said. "It must improve a person's job. If it doesn't do that, we don't invest the money."
The Huntsville plant now uses touch screens on the assembly line that allow workers to send images and quality questions to other work stations or through the Toyota system. Workers can use the system to call up other images of work in progress, or to get additional work instructions.
Bolte said Huntsville will be working closely with Toyota's truck plant in San Antonio when it opens next year to help trim the time between a customer vehicle order and delivery. He declined to specify Toyota's target for customer orders. But he said "two to three weeks are realistic. We're not building Dell computers."
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