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On the way to zero: optimising manufacturing processes

Bridging process optimisation and ground-breaking innovations with kaizen philosophy
02/07/2024
Toyota Europe is on a mission to achieve carbon-neutral production by 2030 and zero emissions by 2040, embracing kaizen to reach these ambitious climate goals. Let’s take a look how continuous improvement is helping us advance towards a greener future and bringing as closer to our goals.

Innovation starts with process optimisation

So far, we have shared examples of how we are reducing energy use and waste in heating our manufacturing plants, and in our zero-emission painting process. But before any change of technology, we must review and optimise existing processes. At Toyota, this is initiated and led by members who have the day-to-day know-how of individual equipment – in the spirit of Toyota Production System, kaizen philosophy and teamwork. Today, our challenge is to further optimise the energy demand for different manufacturing processes and reduce operational cost. Only then can we develop new ground-breaking technologies.

Our members lead the change

In Toyota we believe in our members, in their passion, in their understanding of the process and our responsibility towards future generations. Perhaps that is why ‘Use brain - not money’ slogan has become widely applied across all our plants operations. Our process operators and engineers look for ways to cut energy consumption by comparing the efficiency of production lines, using energy monitoring systems and continuously challenging process parameters.  Each member can put forward innovative ideas. The best of them are then grouped and shared with other teams to speed up decarbonisation. 

Less energy to paint the cars

One of the examples is our painting process. To ensure the best quality, we paint our vehicles in very stable, monitored air-conditioned paint booths. High amounts of energy are needed to heat and dry the air and guarantee the right humidity and temperature. Historically, paint booths were set with fixed criteria, but after some research, we realised that we can create an operational window for a greater range of lower temperatures and acceptable humidity levels. This significantly reduced our energy needs, saving us more than 1kiloton of CO2  during last year. And we continue to challenge these criteria even further.

Optimal environment comfort

We aim to create stable conditions for our production members while ensuring legally required environmental quality parameters. Sounds obvious, but if you look process by process, shop by shop, or plant by plant, it gets more and more complex. Our members’ health and comfort depend on many factors – some are process related, some owe it to cultural differences between plants. To that end, we standardise the room temperature and optimised the fresh air exchange ratio. As the number of exchange cycles determines the energy needs, by finding the sweet spot we can significantly reduce our CO2 emissions and operating costs.

Less energy beyond production lines

Sustainable production is one of the main ways we can support the competitiveness of our business, while achieving the set COreduction targets. For example, to reduce gas consumption, we must rely on renewable electricity. To do this wisely, as a rule, we set the ‘active’ hours for every single equipment. Automatic sensors, digitalisation of the process, and other solutions help our members to reduce energy. Furthermore, we believe that before investing in new technology, we must efficiently use what we have today. Saved money can then be reinvested in other decarbonisation actions – a true win-win. 

Continuous improvement through monitoring

Making a sustainable reduction in our environmental impact means being able to sustain our kaizen over time. For this reason, being able to perform a full plan–do–check–act, or PDCA, cycle and standardise our kaizen is key in our strategy. That is why our team implemented an Energy Monitoring System across all plants in Europe. With real-time visualisation, notifications and reporting tools, we can bring the relevant information to the hands of the floor member who can take direct action, empowering all our colleagues and making it possible for everyone to contribute to reducing carbon emissions in our manufacturing processes.