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Toyota moves engineers closer to their work to save money

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Toyota moves engineers closer to their work to save money

Lindsay Chappell

Automotive News -- August 3, 2010 - 1:53 pm ET

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Toyota Motor Corp. has cut the costs of its North American factory projects by putting engineers closer to where the work is.

Over the past two years, Toyota has created a network of satellite engineering offices at its plants. That measure has reduced by half the cost of dispatching engineers from Erlanger, Ky., to projects around the continent, says Norm Bafunno, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana Inc.

Toyota’s multiplant growth in North America in recent years found engineers, project managers and executives stretched to the breaking point by so much travel from project to project -- often for extended stays.

“We made an effort to cut down the amount of traveling we were doing,” Bafunno said in an interview yesterday .

He said traveling has been cut by half, and extended-stay trips are now uncommon.

Toyota set up production engineering offices at its vehicle plants in Georgetown, Ky.; Princeton, Ind.; Cambridge, Ontario; and San Antonio and at its engine plants in Huntsville, Ala., and Buffalo, W.Va.

Each local office has 12 to 50 engineers to address local projects and pitch in on nearby projects when needed.

Bafunno, who spoke here at the Management Briefing Seminars, said the engineering changes were part of a larger effort Toyota calls “Shop Self Reliance.” The North American company is striving to become less reliant on its Japanese parent as Toyota’s human resources are stretched globally.

Toyota previously relied on personnel from Japanese “mother plants” to travel to the United States or Canada to handle the engineering when Toyota would introduce a new model into production here or launch a new generation.

North American plants now fill that role, Bafunno said. His subsidiary in Princeton serves as the mother plant for Toyota’s San Antonio truck plant. The new assembly plant Toyota is building in Tupelo, Miss., will rely on leadership from Toyota’s Kentucky plant.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100803/OEM01/100809961/1129#ixzz0vauVa3a6

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