KOLIN, Czech Republic - Toyota designed a plant for its joint venture with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen here that matches or even exceeds the high standards the Japanese carmaker has set at other facilities.
The new Kolin car plant is even more compact than Toyota's factory in Valenciennes, France. Robots are used extensively despite low-labor rates, even for simple handling tasks.
Innovative welding and painting systems are designed for maximum flexibility. And, as expected, employees practice the full range of Toyota's proven and much-copied lean production techniques.
In many ways, the Kolin plant is a typical Toyota facility. The principles of efficient production that Toyota has established over the years are practiced in full at Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile, including kaizen, jidoka and just-in-time.
Continuous improvement activities, kaizen, will enable the plant to quickly reach a takt time of one minute, says Masatake Enomoto, the departing TPCA president who oversaw the setup of the plant. (Takt means the process time at each station on a production line.)
Toyota took charge of the manufacturing aspect of the joint-venture project, while one of PSA's key responsibilities was purchasing.
German paint shot
In Kolin not only is the Toyota Production System (TPS) in widespread use, but most of the manufacturing equipment is sourced from Japan. The one exception is the paint shop, which was supplied by German paint specialist Eisenmann.
By designing production lines that are very compact and making maximum use of overhead systems, the new Czech facility needs even less floor space than Toyota's assembly plant in Valenciennes, says Jean-Pierre Chantossel, TPCA vice president.
Manufacture at Valenciennes and at Kolin appears to be very similar - though equipment suppliers sometimes vary and the French plant incorporates a plastic injection molding shop while the Czech one does not.
Both facilities include a stamping shop that makes some of the stampings needed in body assembly.
"We didn't want to outsource external surfaces and key structural parts for quality reasons," says Chantossel, citing in particular the risks involved in transportation. The Czech assembly plant produces 51 of the 320 to 330 stampings needed to make the TPCA-produced models - the Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1.
The stamping facility is equipped with a blanking line and two tandem stamping lines, each composed of four presses. Hitachi Zozen Fukui supplied the presses.
Transfer between stations is performed automatically by Kawasaki robots.
"It's a bit slower than using a transfer press but more reliable," says Jiri Cerny, general manager for production engineering.
Only 50 people are needed to keep the shop running at any one time.
Toyota claims that tool-change time on the Kolin presses is one of the fastest in Europe. The process to change four stamping tools weighing up to 26 tons in total takes less than six minutes. The shop works with small batches and changes tools about eight times a day.
French company SNOP and Japanese firm Futaba supply the 280 stampings that are not manufactured in-house. SNOP already had a facility in the Czech Republic, located 120km from Kolin.
Futaba's factory 80km away has the greater volume of work. It delivers 32 truckloads a day to TPCA, while SNOP's daily volume fills only 10 trucks. Both companies perform some assembly operations as well as stamping. TPCA retains ownership of all its suppliers' tooling although suppliers are responsible for design and manufacture, Chantossel says.
The body shop employs up to 236 people a shift. There are also 199 welding and handling robots made by Nachi and Kawasaki.
The welding of small subassemblies is only 50 percent automated but the final car body welding is fully automated.
One innovation is using robots to pick up complete car bodies and lift them up onto overhead conveyors or to bring them off an overhead conveyor. The Nachi robots used for this task have a payload of 980kg, enabling them to lift fully welded bodies weighing 350kg to 400kg, Cerny says.
"They are known as the Godzilla robots because of their size," he says.
Cerny is secretive about the technology used in the framing station where the geometry of the entire body is created. The systems used for clamping the major subassemblies together and for spot welding them are both highly innovative, he claims.
The welding line "enables us to weld any mix of models coming down the line in any order," he says. He adds that other OEMs mostly have to weld cars in small batches.
Kolin's paint shop is just as flexible as the body shop. Using a cartridge system, TPCA can paint every car a different color without incurring any major losses of time, expense or paint.
Although it is highly automated, the paint shop requires permanent manning of 142 people.
No automation is evident in the trim and final assembly shop where almost 420 people work at any one time. Modules such as instrument panels and front and rear bumper modules are prepared internally, alongside the main assembly line.
A Peguform plastics plant produces the raw instrument panel and bumpers in Nymburk, 17km away.
In line with just-in-time principles, Toyota organizes regular deliveries of parts from suppliers. Once full production is reached, 200 trucks a day will bring parts to the Kolin plant. Each truck will have picked up consignments from up to seven different suppliers.
The assembly line has two small storage areas: one for large parts such as wheels, bumpers and seats and one for small parts. Forklift trucks for large parts and tow trucks for smaller ones bring components to the assembly line.
The only complete modules supplied in sequence are seats that come from a new Lear facility adjacent to the assembly plant.
But wheels from Hayes Lemmerz are also supplied in ready-to-mount condition. They are prepared by supplier Eurofit in the center that NYK Logistics of Japan has set up next to the assembly plant.
Kolin relies on two main logistics companies: NYK is responsible for returning empty packaging to suppliers; and Gefco, a PSA subsidiary, is in charge of finished vehicle logistics. Both Gefco and NYK are involved in the so-called milk run collection of parts from suppliers.
Done in 10 hours
The Kolin plant is lean and flexible. Every car built is produced according to an order.
One of the first operations in the body shop is to stamp the VIN code on the body and assign an order number to it. Just 10 hours later, final assembly is complete.
The plant allows for only the tiniest of errors. It operates with almost no buffers between major production steps. The conveyor linking the body and paint shops holds just 20 units. The conveyor between paint and assembly shops holds 30 units.
The production lines are organized into small, unassociated areas so that, if an operator notices a problem and pulls the Andon cord to stop the line, this does not affect the entire shop. However, with only two or three units between each area, problems have to be cleared up within three minutes to prevent a major incident.
The TPCA project created about 7,000 jobs in the automotive components sector in the Czech Republic, he added, with 80 percent of parts by volume being sourced locally. A total of 150 Tier 1 suppliers are involved in TPCA production.