AMS interviewed Richard Kenworthy, director engine manufacturing division and Tony Walker, deputy managing director corporate, production control, to find out more about operations at Toyota’s Deeside engine plant.

AMS: Can you explain how Toyota’s philosophy of continuous development in its manufacturing processes is carried out and outline what Deeside contributed to this?

Tony Walker (TW): Toyota has a process called ‘yokoten’ which basically means ‘sharing’ best practice. This means we share information and developments across the European network and also globally to Japan and the US. Because of the different market environments not all ideas are immediately applicable but all are considered and analysed to see how they can be applied to each plant. So it might be that only part of a development is adopted; but the important aspect of this is that all regions share the information and everything is looked at to find improvements.

Richard Kenworthy (RK): A good example of this from Deeside is the development of in-line testers. Traditionally the completed engines go to a cold test area and here the electrical components are checked for conductivity and service function, but connecting them up to the test equipment is an involved process that has been difficult to automate due to the variations in component configuration and engine type. What our members here did was to develop an automated system that could take into account the variations and attach the test equipment in one operation. To achieve this one of the first steps was to study these variations and see where they could be reduced, for example in the positioning of certain components during assembly so that the connections were always in a uniform position. This saved perhaps two or three processes on the line and several thousands of pounds in service and maintenance costs. In 2011, that was the biggest ‘yokoten’ or sharing development in the global Toyota engine manufacturing network. But this is an ongoing process; every year we are challenged to develop ways of reducing the work content in production processes.

AMS: Can you give an overview of how manufacturing has developed at Deeside?

RK: In 1992, we started production here using a cast iron block, performing machining and assembly operations, and ran this up to 1999 when we switched to aluminium blocks. Given the increase in the use of aluminium, Toyota took the decision to build a casting facility at Deeside. At this point there was also a big expansion of the Toyota network, not just across Europe but globally. We were in a position to support this and increased our exports.

The two engine types that we were then producing came to the end of their production life in 2008, as had always been planned. These were replaced with the ZR engines and it was planned to introduce production of the NR engines, but with the economic downturn this plan was suspended. If you look at the journey we’ve been on here at Deeside over the last 20 years you can see the development in management and member capability. By that I don’t mean managers just know more than they did 20 years ago, it’s in terms of managing the production process and these are much more complex processes. So we are now much stronger in terms of project management. This applies to both Deeside and Burnaston, which is perhaps the shining example. There they are continually managing both major and minor changes to the vehicles they produce and that ability has been strongly developed over the last 20 years.

AMS: How much autonomy do you have here at Deeside in terms of developing your production processes?

TW: Major investment decisions on equipment for new models are managed through TME (Toyota Motor Europe). In between model developments, all continuous development of the production process is our responsibility. Any new ‘kaizens’ we come up with have to work for the members, they must be able to be implemented effectively and, of course, they are shared across the network. The key to the Toyota production system is continuous development across the network rather than a rigid instruction from the top, down.

RK: I can give you an example of how we are different. A visiting OEM commented that when he installed a new machine that would be the best it would ever be, but at Deeside that was just the beginning of the process. The whole ethos is to improve the way things are done. To optimise the machine’s capability. There’s a standard work content in assembling an engine but we are always looking at how to improve productivity, to improve how we do the job. And this extends to improving the reliability of the machines year on year.

TW: I worked at Toyota Europe for a number of years and one of the biggest differences I noticed on my return to the UK was the ability of the members to identify where improvements could be made, the development of shopfloor skills.

AMS: What is the most recent development in the production processes at Deeside?

RK: There is the opportunity for increased production capacity in [2013] and in order to allow for this the maintenance team has been tasked with increasing the cycle time and capacity without affecting the reliability of the equipment. This has resulted in over 300 ‘kaizens’ being applied to all six machining lines with a reduction in takt times from 54 seconds to 48 seconds, with no deterioration in the reliability of the equipment. Last year we also introduced CKD production of engine sets for export to Japan, which involved introducing some new processes. Now about 60% of our output is for export.