Toyota pledges its growing investment in US manufacturing
Toyota has been growing its manufacturing presence in the US, where the company has announced its plans to exceed its 2017 pledge to invest $10bn over five years, with a new commitment to reach nearly $13bn over the same period.
The company has announced an investment of nearly $750mn in five different states. The new investments include adding the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (the best-selling SUV in the US), and Lexus ES 300 Hybrid vehicle production at its Georgetown, Kentucky manufacturing plant. The company will also expand its engine capacity at its Huntsville, Alabama facility; double its hybrid transaxle capacity at its plant in Buffalo, West Virginia; as well as undertake a building expansion for additional castings at its Tennessee. Facility, as well as additional castings at its Troy, Michigan facility.
"By boosting our US manufacturing footprint, we can better serve our customers and dealers and position our manufacturing plants for future success with more domestic capacity," said Jim Lentz, Chief Executive Officer, Toyota Motor North America.
Here is a breakdown of the investments, totalling $749mn and creating 586 new jobs
Alabama - $288,000,000
In Alabama, Toyota's investment will increase annual engine capacity from 670,000 to 900,000 by the end of 2021 to increase product flexibility and better accommodate market demand. New 4-cylinder and V6 engine lines will add 450 new jobs to its Huntsville, Ala., facility, the largest hiring need in the plant's history. The investment also includes a building expansion. Overall, the plant represents an investment of $1.2bn.
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Kentucky - $238,000,000
Toyota's Kentucky vehicle plant, the company's largest globally, will begin production of the Lexus ES 300 Hybrid in May 2019 with annual capacity of 12,000 units while RAV4 Hybrid production will start January 2020 with an annual capacity of 100,000 units. TMMK's 8,000 team members also build Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid and Lexus ES models with an annual capacity of 550,000 vehicles. Overall, the plant represents an investment of more than $7bn.
Missouri - $62,000,000
Investments in Toyota's Bodine Aluminum plant in Missouri will provide equipment to produce an additional 864,000-cylinder heads for Toyota's New Global Architecture (TNGA.) Bodine's 900 Missouri team members currently produce more than 3 million cylinder heads a year, which are made for every Toyota and Lexus manufactured in North America. Overall, the plant represents an investment of $455mn.
Tennessee - $50,000,000
The Tennessee investment includes a building expansion and equipment to double the capacity of hybrid transaxle cases and housings to 240,000 annually. The investment will also provide equipment to produce an additional 288,000 engine blocks a year for TNGA. The plant's 300 team members currently produce 1.7mn engine blocks a year, which supply every Toyota and Lexus manufactured in North America, and 580,000 transmission cases and housings. Bodine will add 13 new jobs to its facility in Tennessee. Overall, the plant represents an investment of $365mn.
West Virginia - $111,000,000
The West Virginia investment includes a building expansion and equipment to double capacity of hybrid transaxles from 120,000 units (Start of Production-2020) to 240,000 units annually in 2021. To meet the production demands, TMMWV will add 123 new jobs to its facility in Buffalo, WV. Overall, the plant represents a $1.4bn investment.
“All this activity I hope shows that we’re a plus factor to the economic national security of the United States,” added Lentz on a conference call. “We believe in America.”
Fluent.ai x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line
Fluent.ai has deployed its voice recognition solutions in one of BSH’s German factories. BSH leads the market in producing connected appliances—its brands include Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau, NEFF, and Thermador, and with this new partnership, the company intends to cut transition time in its assembly lines.
According to BSH, voice automation will yield 75-100% efficiency gains—but it’s the collaboration between the two companies that stands out. ‘After considering 11 companies for this partnership, we chose Fluent.ai because of their key competitive differentiators’, explained Ion Hauer, Venture Partner at BSH Startup Kitchen.
What Sets Fluent.ai Apart?
After seven years of research, the company developed a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) software products to help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) expand their services. Three key aspects stood out to BSH, which operates across the world and in unique factory environments.
- Robust noise controls. The system can operate even in loud conditions.
- Low latency. The AI understands commands quickly and accurately.
- Multilingual support. BSH can expand the automation to any of its 50+ country operations.
How Voice Automation Works
Instead of pressing buttons, BSH factory workers will now be able to speak into a headset fitted with Fluent.ai’s voice recognition technology. After uttering a WakeWord, workers can use a command to start assembly line movement. As the technology is hands-free, workers benefit from less physical strain, which will both reduce employee fatigue and boost line production.
‘Implementing Fluent’s technology has already improved efficiencies within our factory, with initial implementation of the solution cutting down the transition time from four seconds to one and a half”, said Markus Maier, Project Lead at the BSH factory. ‘In the long run, the production time savings will be invaluable’.
Future Global Adoption
In the coming years, BSH and Fluent.ai will continue to push for artificial intelligence on factory lines, pursuing efficiency, ergonomics, and a healthy work environment. ‘We started with Fluent.ai on one factory assembly line, moved to three, and [are now] considering rolling the technology out worldwide’, said Maier.
Said Probal Lala, Fluent.ai’s CEO: ‘We are thrilled to be working with BSH, a company at the forefront of innovation. Seeing your solution out in the real world is incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing and growing our collaboration’.