Tacoma’s Toyota Pickup Plant Feels Squeeze To Keep Up With Competitive Markets

Aug 19, 2016 10:05 AM EDT | Shilpa Chakravorty

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Toyota has been busy with production of pickup trucks. So much so, that the Japanese manufacturer is battling time to make sure that the order demands are met at the local Tacoma plant.

At the Tacoma plant, workers can install a sunroof on every third truck on the line to avoid losing time in the production, reported .

Presently, the plant is already producing more than 250,000 units of trucks each year, according to David Crouch, vice president of administration and production control, at the facility, which builds the Tacoma midsize and Tundra full-size pickups on the same line.

However, the production increase is due to an alternative work schedule, which includes a Saturday shift allowing the plant to cross the regular time capacity of 200,000 units a year.

Moreover, the inventories of Tacoma have been overflowing, as Toyota owned a midsize pickup inventory for several years. Unfortunately,  with strong new competition from General Motors, and  Honda's Ridgeline, Toyota is afraid that unhappy dealers and customers can cause a loss of business.

"Obviously, one of the biggest challenges that we have for Tundra and Tacoma is we're capacity-limited," Crouch said. If dealers had free rein to order more vehicles, "we could sell a lot more trucks right now." 

Notably, Toyota's second Tacoma plant in Baja California, Mexico works in three shifts to keep up with the demand, which is extraordinary for Toyota globally, mentioned one of the executives.

To speed up the process even more, Toyota has incrementally reduced the time it takes to roll the vehicle from one unit to another to 60 seconds from 65 seconds, just a year ago.

Thus, any more time savings would require an increase in investment of equipment by Toyota and its on - site suppliers.

"One thing that we really emphasize, and the plant management here will emphasize, is that volume is important. Getting as many trucks out is important, but we can't do it and sacrifice quality", mentioned Mike Sweers, chief engineer for the pickups and vice president of engineering design at Toyota's technical center in Ann Arbor, Mich.

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