What I Learned From Visiting Toyota’s New R&D Facility

You may have seen the news: Earlier this month, Toyota unveiled its new supplier center at its North American R&D center in York Township. It was a moment to appreciate how much Toyota has grown in Michigan over the past 40 years – from a pretty humble beginning in Ann Arbor near the EPA’s facility, to the home of research & development efforts and its center for purchasing in North America. It’s impressive to see how much work continues to be accomplished with all of Toyota’s facilities around town – in Ann Arbor Township, in the City, and in York Township. A lot has been written about Toyota over the years, and the event was an opportunity to tour the new facility with one of those writers.Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 10.01.48 AM

It was also a chance to learn more. Here are a few takeaways I had from visiting Toyota’s latest expanded facility:

  1. The facility in York Township is the place where Toyota works closely with its suppliers to develop new products and processes. It was clear from the visit that it values these relationships and have a deliberate place to facilitate the development process. As you might imagine, Toyota has a process to facilitate these relationships and seeing the place where that work is done firsthand was fascinating.
  2. The number of products developed there for the North American market was impressive. When Toyota first came to the United States, it relied on the products it developed in Japan. Since then, however, it has developed a number of specific North American products, with the development teams based around Ann Arbor. Seeing the volume of products it has developed at the Toyota Technical Facility for North America was impressive.
  3. Efficiency of movement – Toyota is well known for its focus on continuous improvement and efficiency. I knew this in a general sense, but visiting the facility really showcased what that means. The team showed off one graphic that had outlined all of the movements that are made during production and had identified which were valuable, which were neutral, and which were a waste. Seeing the process laid out visually with that in mind was very interesting, and certainly could help ways to reduce wasteful movement in the process.

Toyota continues to be an important part of Ann Arbor’s business community, and visiting its latest investment only underscored that importance. We look forward to the new products and processes that will come out of the Toyota Technical Center.

 

 

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