KOLIN, Czech Republic -- Toyota Motor Corp. 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 plants.
The new Kolin car plant is compact. Robots are used extensively despite low labor rates, even for simple handling tasks.
Welding and painting systems are designed for maximum flexibility. And 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 factory. The principles of efficient production that Toyota has established over the years are practiced in full at Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile, including kaizen (continuous improvement), jidoka (fixing problems right away, where they occur), and just-in-time delivery.
Kaizen, the practice of making constant refinements, quickly will enable the plant to reach a process time of one minute at each assembly line station, says Masatake Enomoto, the departing Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile president who oversaw the setup of the plant.
Toyota took charge of the manufacturing aspect of the joint venture, while one of PSA's key responsibilities was purchasing.
Not only is the Toyota production system in widespread use in Kolin, 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.
The plant includes 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 plant Vice President Jean-Pierre Chantossel, citing in particular the risks involved in transportation. The Kolin plant produces 51 of about 325 stampings needed to make the models built there: the Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1.
The stamping shop has 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.
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 as much as 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 company Futaba supply the 280 stampings that are not manufactured in-house. SNOP already had a plant in the Czech Republic about 75 miles from Kolin.
Wheels from Hayes Lemmerz arrive ready to mount at the Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile plant in Kolin, Czech Republic.
Futaba's factory 50 miles away has the greater volume of work. It delivers 32 truckloads a day to the Toyota-PSA venture, while SNOP's daily volume fills 10 trucks. Both companies perform some assembly operations as well as stamping. Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile retains ownership of all its suppliers' tooling, though suppliers are responsible for design and manufacture, Chantossel says.
The body shop employs as many as 236 people a shift. There also are 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.
Robots pick up complete car bodies and lift them onto overhead conveyors or bring them off an overhead conveyor. The robots used for this task can lift fully welded bodies weighing 770 to 880 pounds, Cerny says. "They are known as the Godzilla robots because of their size," he says.
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 relatively new in Europe.
The welding line "enables us to weld any mix of models coming down the line in any order," Cerny says. He adds that other automakers mostly must weld cars in small batches.
Kolin's paint shop is just as flexible as the body shop. Using a cartridge system, the plant 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 142 employees.
No automation is evident in the trim and final assembly shop, where about 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, 10 miles 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 as many as seven 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 plant's body shop has 199 welding and handling robots.
But wheels from Hayes Lemmerz International Inc. also are supplied in ready-to-mount condition. They are prepared by supplier Eurofit at the site NYK Logistics of Japan has set up next to the Toyota-PSA plant.
Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile relies on two main logistics companies: NYK is responsible for returning empty packaging to suppliers, and Gefco, a PSA subsidiary, is in charge of logistics for finished vehicles.
Done in 10 hours
The Toyota-PSA 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 vehicle identification number on the body and assign an order number to it. Just 10 hours later, final assembly is complete.
The plant allows only for 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.
In keeping with jidoka principles of fixing problems at the point where they occur, 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, it doesn't affect the entire shop. But with only two or three units between each area, problems have to be cleared up within three minutes to prevent a major incident.
Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile created about 7,000 jobs in the automotive components sector in the Czech Republic, Cerny added, with 80 percent of parts by volume being sourced locally. A total of 150 Tier 1 suppliers are involved in the plant's production.