Using more common parts could help Toyota defeat next supply-chain breakdown

Article by Christian Andrei, on June 27, 2011

Toyota Motor Corp. is implementing action plans, generally based on the lessons learned from the March earthquake in Japan, in order to recover quickly in case of a supply-chain breakdown in the future.

According to an Automotive News interview with Atsushi Niimi, the company's executive vice president in charge of global manufacturing, the two core lessons learned are to keep better tabs on lower-tier suppliers and to use common parts more.

However, the increased dependence on common parts can be risky, leading to the possibility of launching massive recalls if one of those components fails.

Niimi also disclosed that the company will not likely add another assembly plant in North American before annual U.S. light-vehicle sales hit 17 million, which sales figure sets a threshold for the company's next major investment in its biggest market.

The company's global manufacturing vice president, who is also overseeing the company's North American operations from Japan, has dismissed plans to build the current-generation Toyota Prius in North America.

He said that it will not probably happen before 2015. The company is targeting full production of most Lexuses and the Prius in November.

However, Niimi, who has headed the company's manufacturing operation in North American from 2002 to 2005 from a base in Erlanger, Ky., aims to bring forth the timeline for complete global restoration to October.

He also disclosed that Toyota gets its next update from suppliers affected by the disaster at the end of June. Schedules regarding the recovery will be adjusted accordingly.

Niimi also revealed that Japanese output of most vehicle models has been restored to normal levels prior to the March earthquake in Japan. Some car models or variants still lag due to lingering supply shortages.

Topics: toyota

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