Truck Production is Hot in Texas

TMMTX boosts plant operations to 23.5 hours a day to meet sizzling demand for pickups

February 09, 2017
Maximum Efficiency -- The TMMTX plant is operating 23.5 hours per day, including production and maintenance, with team members producing 1,030 trucks per day – about one truck every minute.

Demand for trucks is red hot and team members at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas (TMMTX) are feeling the heat as they ramp up production to record levels. 

So the San Antonio plant, which produces Tundra and Tacoma pickups, is working under a new alternate work schedule (AWS) that adds Saturday production. The plant is operating approximately 23.5 hours per day, which includes production and maintenance, and produces an incredible 1,030 trucks per day. That’s about one truck every minute. 

“We’re the only Toyota plant in North America that’s doing an alternate work schedule,” says Brent Buschur, general manager of Production Control at TMMTX. “We’re proud that we’ve been able to successfully do this, but it wouldn’t be possible without our team members and their commitment and willingness to work hard and do their best.” 

TMMTX’s annual capacity is typically 208,000 units, but production surpassed 261,000 units last year due to strong customer demand. That pace is expected to continue at the same rate or higher into 2018. 

Sales for Toyota trucks increased nearly 3 percent in 2016, with the Tacoma (also built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing de Baja California in Mexico) leading the way, posting double-digit growth for multiple months. 

Since 2013, TMMTX team members have been working overtime every shift. Shifts run from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 5 a.m., which include mandatory breaks and lunch. The only other way to increase volume was to add a first shift on Saturday. TMMTX execs began studying AWS in 2015 and rolled it out last March. 
Operational Effects 
AWS impacts the operation in three major ways:  
  • From a process and manufacturing standpoint it requires maximum efficiency with little downtime. Much of the maintenance occurs on Saturday evenings and Sundays, and additional manpower has been added.  
  • The boost in production also stresses supply chain and purchasing functions. The 23 onsite suppliers, which employ over 4,000, have hired more staff to meet the demand. 
  • And, impressively, TMMTX’s more than 3,000 team members have stepped up in a big way to make the best of a challenging environment.  
    “It’s really important to recognize the team members and the effort they’re putting in and sacrifices they’re making,” says Kirk Kohler, vice president of Manufacturing at TMMTX. “We’re actually improving even in a very demanding situation. All of the key performance indicators, including safety, productivity and costs, are moving in the right direction.” 
In Demand -- The San Antonio plant produces Tundra and Tacoma pickups and is working under a new alternative work schedule, which includes a Saturday shift, through 2018 to meet high customer demand.

Maintaining Morale 

There’s a huge focus on keeping motivation and morale high and much of that starts with communication.

Lunch roundtables are held with different executives three times a week so team members can ask questions in an informal setting. Management works hard to be transparent about updates or changes, and organizes activities like picnics and softball games to build strong relationships. 

“It’s important to let team members know about the decisions and how they affect them,” Kohler says.  

Many long-time team members understand the cyclical shifts in automotive production, having lived through the economic slowdown in the late 2000s and the 2011 earthquake in Japan that affected operations. 

“We’ve been lucky to have these team members here because they recognize a high time, where they’re working a lot and making a lot of money, and they recognize it can swing the other way,” Kohler says. 

Toyota pride in Texas trucks also is a big motivator. 

“The team here has a lot of pride in the products we make,” Buschur says. “We consider this a short-term solution. In 2018, we will go back to a more normal production schedule, so they know there’s an end down the road.” 

By Karen Nielsen

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