Toyota’s got quite the foothold in automotive in Ontario, with both Woodstock and Cambridge plants assembling both Toyota and Lexus vehicles. The Japanese manufacturer invested a total of 8.5 billion dollars in those two manufacturing facilities, giving work to over 8000 employees work at both sites, assembling Toyota RAV4, RAV4 Hybrid, and the Lexus RX 350 and 450h SUVs. For the 2018 model-year, TMMC assembled just under 500 000 units in both plants.
What is TMMC?
TMMC (Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada) is the company that takes care of the manufacturing for Toyota in Canada. But it also serves the U.S market. In fact, this independent entity has only two clients, Toyota Canada Inc (TCI) and Toyota Motor Sales in the United States.
We were given the opportunity to visit the Cambridge site, a 3.5M square feet facility sitting on a 400-acre piece of land close to Toronto, Ontario. The very first and very boxy Toyota Corolla came out of the factory in Woodstock here in 1984, that was 35 years ago. It now assembles the Lexus RX and the Toyota RAV4.
In-house processes and a hint of intelligent automation
While many auto manufacturers resort to the outsourcing of components, a process that requires less commitment in investments, but is overall more expensive; Toyota chose to invest in long term manufacturing process. Many components are made in house at both the Cambridge and Woodstock plants. For instance, TMMC sites incorporate their own blow-moulding facilities for different plastics that compose the interior and exterior of the vehicles. Pressing and welding are also all done in house using partly automated processes.
Like many auto manufacturing sites, TMMC’s plants have both human workforce and automated robotic arms to do the heavy work. However, both Cambridge and Woodstock sites recently included intelligent autonomous transport robots that basically carry components to different stations throughout the plant, navigating the pathways and the hustle and bustle of the plant’s floor using a variety of sensors for orientation.
What makes the difference between a Toyota and a Lexus?
Although both gas-powered RAV4 and the Lexus RX are both assembled at the same site, Toyota stipulates that TMMC gives different attention to both vehicles. Yes, both vehicles differ in looks, style and technology, but the materials chosen are specific to each vehicle. For instance, workers follow strict and continuous training to ensure that wood grains match perfectly throughout the Lexus vehicles.
Using concentration and visualization techniques, workers are also trained to assemble components together in order to ensure repeatability and consistency that can be qualified as, TMMC says, unparalleled in the industry. That is partly why, in the year 2000, the Cambridge and Woodstock sites were the only sites outside of Japan that were “allowed” to assemble Lexus vehicles.
At the beginning of this year, Toyota announced that TMMC would take on the task of assembling the Lexus NX and NXh in 2022.