TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Toyota Motor Corp. is taking even more time out of vehicle development.
The automakers U.S. engineering group moved the 2005 year Avalon redesign from production drawing to production in just 18 months. That is down from its 2000 year redesign project, which took 29.5 months.
But Seiya Nakao, executive chief engineer for Toyota Technical Center USA Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich., says his team wants to trim the process even further now.
Wed like to try that and were making a lot of efforts, Nakao told a Management Briefing Seminars audience Tuesday. But its going to be a very tough road.
The schedules are startling, considering that a decade ago, Toyota was taking more than 30 months to develop models, while the Big 3 were taking more than 40.
One change that helped, Nakao says, is a practice Toyota calls obeya, or the big room.
For obeya, Toyota brings all of its key suppliers into a common workroom to identify problems and work out solutions at the outset of the project. According to Nakao, that process has reduced the number of engineering changes that would otherwise emerge later in the project.
The company has also simplified its manufacturing engineering with more flexible tooling and commonized production practices.
In recent years, Toyota has shifted more engineering and development resources from Japan to Ann Arbor. The company now plans to build a $150 million research and development center in Ann Arbor that will employ about 700.
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