Section 1. Construction of Motomachi Plant and Introduction of TQC
Item 1. Construction of Motomachi Plant for Passenger Vehicles
From 1956 onward, Toyota began steadily expanding its facilities toward being able to produce 10,000 vehicles a month, the number needed to meet the vigorous demand at the time.
As mentioned previously, the vehicle body of the Toyopet Model ST10 Corona, which was launched in July 1957, was made by Kanto Auto Works, Ltd. Eventually, the vehicle body of the ST10 would be made internally (just as was the case with the Toyopet Crown Model RS) but, at the time, the Koromo Plant was too small to accommodate the necessary additional chassis, painting, and assembly lines.
Development of the next-generation Corona model was already underway (with the 30A being the first prototype) and discussions had been held about a new production plant for passenger cars, including the Corona.
The candidate site for the new plant was located about 2.5 kilometers northwest of the Koromo Plant, on the former site of the Koromo Plant of Tokai Hikoki Co., Ltd. ("hikoki" is Japanese for "airplane") in Motomachi, Aichi Prefecture. During World War II, the Japanese government had purchased approximately 660,000 square meters of land for the Tokai Hikoki factory, a portion of which had been turned into farmland after the war. By March 1959, Toyota had managed to purchase approximately 330,000 square meters of the land from the government, which would later become the initial location of the new production plant.
The new plant was designed to only produce passenger vehicles. Eiji Toyoda later said the following about its construction:
...on the home market, demand grew steadily, not only for taxis, but also for commercial-use vehicles and company fleets. Business got so brisk that we were barely able to keep up with orders. That's when I suggested to (President Taizo) Ishida that we build a new plant for the production of passenger cars.
Thinking ahead to the future, I wanted to propose that we construct a plant that could handle the production of 10,000 vehicles a month, but this was a mind-boggling figure back then. Even though the Crown was moving well domestically, sales still barely topped 2,000 units a month. Unless demand went on growing, such a large plant would be working at less than 30 percent of capacity. So I proposed instead a facility that would turn out 5,000 units. Even a plant of this size was a risky venture.
Ishida ... made the final decision on construction of the plant. Even looking back on it after all these years, this was an important decision.
Although we installed the facilities and equipment needed for a monthly output of 5,000 vehicles, we had built enough additional floor space to allow production to be expanded to 10,000 units.
(From Toyota: Fifty Years in Motion (pp. 124-125), by Eiji Toyoda)
In July 1958, the tentatively named Tsuchihashi Plant Construction Committee was formed under the chairmanship of Director Shoichiro Toyoda, and determined the following outline for the new plant:
- 1.The production models shall be the Crown and new Corona.
- 2.The plan (formulated in July 1959) for the first phase shall call for the construction of half of the body manufacturing facility as well as the painting facility and the interior and final assembly line.
The plan for the second phase shall call for the remaining half of the body manufacturing facility as well as the stamping and machining facilities to be completed.
- 3.Production capacity shall be 5,000 units a month.
- 4.Investment (for the first phase) shall be approximately 2.3 billion yen.
Furthermore, the committee also determined the overall layout of the plant:
- 1.Space for expanded production of 50,000 units a month in five years shall be allowed for.
- 2.Consideration shall be given to ensuring that the stamping and body manufacturing facilities shall be in the center of the plant in the future.
- 3.The structure shall be single story with 6 m of clear space beneath the roof beams and 20 m between supporting columns, and all wiring and plumbing shall be underground.
- 4.Roads within the premises shall be paved and have a width of 12 m.
A ground-breaking ceremony was held in September 1958, followed by the start of preparation of the ground for construction.1 By mid-November, the preparatory work was completed, despite uncharacteristically high rainfall that year, which had put the work behind schedule. Construction then quickly began for the body manufacturing facility and the painting and assembly lines, followed by start on the foundry in March the following year.
The construction site rang out with the sound of hammering and other construction work. Work proceeded full speed ahead, 24 hours a day, toward the scheduled completion date in August 1959. All the parties involved in the project, from the construction companies to the architectural designers and equipment manufacturers, developed collaborative working relationships, which contributed to the smooth progression of the new plant's construction and the installation of equipment on time.
The new plant was officially named Motomachi Plant in May 1959. Then, at the end of July, just 11 months after work had started, construction of the plant was completed. On August 8, Motomachi Plant's first vehicle, a Crown, rolled off the production line, marking the start of operations of Japan's first ever production plant dedicated to manufacturing passenger cars.2 Toyota's production capacity doubled overnight, an important first step for the mass production of passenger car.
Toyota held a special opening ceremony event over two days on September 18 and 19, 1959, marking one year since the start of construction, and invited numerous industry guests to see the completed Motomachi Plant. A line-off ceremony for Toyota's 500,000th vehicle (a Crown Deluxe) was also held on the 18th. Director Shoichiro Toyoda, who was chairperson of the construction committee, took the opportunity of the opening ceremony to thank all the companies that had been involved in the plant's construction.3
Attention then turned to implementing the second phase of construction. Work began on the stamping facility and on expanding the body manufacturing facility in January 1960, followed by the start of construction of a machine shop in March, and the facilities went into operation in August later that year.
With Japan becoming a more motorized society, the Motomachi Plant was fitted with equipment and machinery to facilitate mass production. In particular, the stamping facility boasted a large, state-of-the-art stamping press as part of Japan's first large-scale stamping line. This meant that stamping became a standard part of the work flow, and allowed the plant to have control over all aspects of production, from the materials right through to the finished product.
Streamlined handling of parts and materials is extremely important for successful mass production. The Motomachi Plant adopted a new conveyor system linking the three processes of body assembly, painting, and final assembly. The body frames were picked up by hanging cranes and weaved their way underneath the girders from the body assembly area to the painting area, realizing full dimensional use of the plant.
Together with the completion of the Motomachi Plant, the Koromo Plant was renamed "Honsha Plant" in August 1960. The name change was also a reflection of the fact that the name of the city in which the plant was located had been renamed from Koromo City to Toyota City in January 1959. The completed Motomachi Plant having just completed the second phase of its construction, was tasked with producing the Crown and the new model Corona.
Recollecting the significance of the Motomachi Plant, Eiji Toyoda made the following comment in his autobiography:
Construction of the plant was a big gamble that would either payoff handsomely or ruin us. Had we lost the gamble, we probably would have fallen on hard times again. With Ishida's decision to go ahead and build the plant, Toyota suddenly rose head and shoulders above its domestic competitors. Until then, the local industry had been like a tournament of midgets. Nissan's Oppama Plant and Isuzu's Fujisawa Plant were completed several years later, in 1962, by which time we had already finished second-phase construction at Motomachi.
(From Toyota: Fifty Years in Motion (p. 127), by Eiji Toyoda)
After the first phase of the construction of the Motomachi Plant was completed in 1959, Toyota's total production output for December that year was 10,453 units, breaking the monthly production threshold of 10,000 units.