Skip to main content

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.


  1. Please read Hal's thoughts on Toyota Production System -

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

  2. A relevant article by Matt Horvat of Lean Project Consulting -


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Business Case for Building Information Modeling (BIM), Lean, Green and IPD - What we can learn from an Economist?

Vijay Govindarajan recently caught attention for his recent book "The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge" published by Harvard Business Review and his work on "Designing $300 Home". He is called the strategic innovation Guru and he is also the Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business at Dartmouth’s Tuck School in US. He believes that perspiration is more important than innovation i.e. execution of an idea is more important than only coming up with the idea itself.

I will try to explain the advantages of BIM, Lean, Green and IPD by his theory of strategic inovation. He talks about three boxes that large organizations operate into (or where organizations' projects fall into)-

Building Lean and Green using BIM and IPD fall under Box-2 and Box-3 that is selectively forgetting the past practices and creating the future (and here we are talking about 20 years from now i.e. about 2030).
Hear is his talk with Harvard Business Review -…

World's Tallest Building Sky City-1 Changsha China and BIM, Lean and Green - What might be coming?

I feel fortunate to be living in an era when there are Computers, iPhones, iPads, Androids, Google Glasses, Google Earth, Facebook, Twitter and Broad Sustainable Construction. All but the last one out of my list are pretty obvious and I do not feel explaining why they are awesome. However, I feel like talking a lot about Broad Sustainable Construction, a company which is based out of China and doing miracle after miracle and revolutionizing what world calls development. As a matter of fact, China is doing great with several other things too. But this blog won’t be talking about that.

At this very moment (January 5th 2013) Broad Sustainable Construction is building world’s tallest building – Sky City –1, which is almost a kilometer high (838 m/2749 ft to be precise) with 220 floors. They are set to complete the construction of this building within 90 days. This is remarkable and revolutionary. They claim to prefabricate 95% of building off site. Guess what, whole world is trying to bri…

Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Lean Construction for successful project management

Recently I came across this article by Dennis Sowards "BIM and LPS improve project management". Dennis explained LPS-Last Planner System and Building Information Modeling (BIM) fairly well.

However, in my opinion there is no point in asking the question "Should we choose BIM over Lean or Lean over BIM?" As Dennis explains in the article that before asking this question "you need to consider what each process offers before choosing one over the other", I would say: lean is a management philosophy and BIM is a technology for effective management of project information. In other words lean is a way of management and BIM is a tool for management.

Lean construction is based on a simple principle "reduce waste and increase value." To reduce waste (of time, material, labor etc.) a number of initiatives have been taken, for example Last Planner System (LPS) of production control, Value Stream Mapping (VSM), Target Value Design (TVD) etc.

If we closely look…