How Toyota uses automation to improve processes
Since its commencement in 1926, Toyota has expanded its business domains to include textile machinery, automobiles, material handling equipment, electronics, and logistics solutions. To get there, Toyota adopted the concept of “lean manufacturing,” which emphasizes increasing value while decreasing waste. The customer determines what is valuable, while waste is defined as overproduction, waiting, defective parts, etc. Toyota also strives to ensure their workers’ skills are not wasted, which would decrease their job satisfaction and their motivation, and therefore, their efficiency. Incorporating automation has ensured that the amount of waste has decreased significantly.
Toyota has been developing industrial robots since the 1970s and introducing them into their manufacturing systems to improve quality and reduce costs. Robots are primarily used in their welding, painting, and assembly processes. Toyota aims to combine industrial robot technologies with automobile control technologies and state-of-the-art IT technologies.
Many of the automated products Toyota develops are not immediately related to the automotive industry. In 2007, Toyota announced their vision of Toyota Partner Robot series to help support human life. The Care Assist robot and the Walk Assist Robot were developed to aid in healthcare, domestic duties, and personal transport. By 2012, Toyota was at work on the Human Support Robot to coexist with families to provide support and improve their quality of life.
Of course, many of the automatic technologies Toyota uses are related to automobiles. The Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant brings together automatic guided tuggers and automatic guided carts to extend their lean manufacturing ideal. This efficient sub-assembly production system allows the automatic vehicles to be directed by a traffic control system that monitors the location of all of the vehicles in real time. Once products are delivered to a drop-off location, the parts feed robot processes in workstations. When they are finished, a robot loads a flow rack which is picked up for an AGC to be delivered to the next workstation to be installed into the body of a vehicle.
The Toyota Automated Guided Container Transport System automates transport work in storage yards and leverages the software technology to help optimize loading operations. It helps reduce idle time of cranes and container trailers, which increases productivity.
In 2013, Toyota developed a next-generation advanced driving support system entitled Automated Highway Driving Assist. AHDA uses automated driving technologies to support safer highway driving by linking cooperative-adaptive cruise control with lane trace control.
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