DETROIT — Assembly plants will become more flexible and agile thanks to the rise of big data, the shift to electric vehicles and increased visibility into the supply chain, a Toyota Motor Corp. manufacturing executive said Tuesday.
Brian Eggleston, Toyota general manager, strategy and planning, told attendees at SAE International's World Congress Experience in Detroit that the industry's transformation is giving companies an "amazing opportunity to re-imagine the infrastructure" they have come to rely on in recent decades.
He said assembly plants are beginning to leverage huge amounts of data from their machines, giving the company more insight into how to make their production lines more efficient — potentially changing the role of humans in the factory.
"We are going to be able to get the work force further and further away from repetitive action that takes less thought and move towards decision-making," Eggleston said. "How we present the data to the work force is going to be so important. We have to use the most important part of the human: their brains, not their hands or their feet."
Eggleston's remarks come during a period of intense new investment in factories, as automakers electrify their lineups to meet growing demand for EVs and looming government mandates. But at the same time, manufacturers are dealing with unprecedented challenges, including the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions stemming from the semiconductor shortage and the war in Ukraine.
Given the outlook for ongoing uncertainties, Eggleston said it will be critical for automakers and suppliers to become "more integrated," moving forward by sharing real-time data on how many parts a supplier has on hand, as well as greater insight into the supplier's supply chain.
It will be important for all to be visible to automakers, he said "and even to our dealer network, so that they can give our consumers a better idea of what's available now and what sort of wait times they might expect given that entire supply chain."
SAE International kicked off its World Congress Experience on Tuesday in downtown Detroit. It will run through Thursday.