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A Visit to Toyota Texas Plant in San Antonio Texas and Lessons Learned for Construction

On November 19th, 2010, I got a chance to visit Toyota Texas Plant. It was truly a great experience. One because it was a Truck Manufacturing Plant and second because I got to see Toyota Production System (TPS) in action. Toyota is where the concept of 'lean' was first born in 1930's. This visit was very significant for me as I was reading about lean in manufacturing throughout my masters at Texas A&M and this was a time to see how things actually get done at Toyota plants.

We were very well received by the plant management at the Visitors' Center and taken to the assembly lines later after a short presentation on Toyota Texas and TPS. This plant started manufacturing trucks (thats what Texans like the most) called "Tundra" and "Tacoma" in year 2006. Both trucks are manufactured on the same assembly line with the help of automatic changing dies (that typically take 5 min on avg) and about 400 robots. The plant works in 2 shifts and produce around 860 vehicles every day.

I got to see the Toyota truck production first hand and as I mentioned earlier it was amazing. The tour guide was a very kind lady who knew the in and out of the plant and showed us around with every possible detail she could in 45 min duration. However, I couldn't stop my mind by comparing lean in manufacturing and lean in construction throughout those 45 minutes.

One very interesting thought revolving in my mind was "how much revenue Toyota is making every day by selling the trucks manufactured on this plant?" After a few searches on Google, I was able to find out that Tundra costs around $24,000 and Tacoma around $20,000. The simple math tells us that on an average Toyota Texas plant is producing trucks worth $19,000,000 every day (assuming equal number of both models). In contrast a $19,000,000 construction project may take anywhere between 1 to 2 years. Obviously, it could be argued that the upfront plant construction costs, technologies used and number of people working in the Toyota plant are way more than what is done on a construction site. However, we can learn a lot from manufacturing, the difference is too big to compare and the concept of reducing the time and cost with improved quality can be taken to a whole new level once this difference is apparent to everybody on the construction team.

In my opinion every team member from a construction project should visit a manufacturing plant once with an aim in mind to learn from the means and methods used there. It may not be possible for everybody to visit the Toyota Plant but a good manufacturing plant itself will be a great source of learning and motivation.

Comments

  1. Please read Hal's thoughts on Toyota Production System - http://www.reformingprojectmanagement.com/2010/02/10/1060/

    He also tries to emphasize the importance of 'planning in detail as you get near execution' thats the core of Last Planner System too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A relevant article by Matt Horvat of Lean Project Consulting - http://bit.ly/gT8bQm

    ReplyDelete

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