Toyota Material Handling


When a major equipment manufacturer needed to redesign a large production line, and wanted breakthrough productivity, floor space, and inventory reduction gains, they turned to Toyota Material Handling and Leonardo Group Americas.

A critical production line at a major equipment manufacturing company had not seen a major upgrade in more than 20 years, and with the introduction of several new products to the line, the time had come for an overhaul. It was clear that major improvements in inventory, productivity and floor space usage were possible, and the company sent out a RFP to a handful of trusted suppliers, to quote on a suggested design. Toyota Material Handling (TMHU) and Leonardo Group Americas instead submitted an alternate and innovative proposal. It was accepted.

The Challenge

The proposal included the use of Toyota’s AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles), the Kanban Supermarket approach to material delivery, an implementation plan based on Mixed Model Line Design methodology. The design would need to fit into floor space substantially smaller than the existing line, and a new MES (Manufacturing Execution System) would need to be developed and installed. Because this approach was so new to the company, it was decided that the line would be set up and run in pilot mode, and then moved to the permanent facility when it was ready. The total time allowed was approximately eight months.

Leonardo Solution

Leonardo Group Americas participated in this large project as a partner with Toyota in several areas. Two 3-day workshops on the details of Mixed Model Line Design were conducted at the plant, in order to get all of their Manufacturing Engineering team on the same page. 

The challenge was to capture data and design a line for a product that could be built in over 100,000 different configurations, and where every order could be different. The calculations of Takt Time and Resources (Operators and Equipment) were used to create a design and layout of the new production line. Over 700 part numbers also needed to be planned for, and replenished efficiently. Line Design and Material Flow are the two core competencies of Leonardo Group Americas.

The new line went live in the fall of 2014, ramped up to full production after a warm-up period, and is performing as expected and needed. The new design is a significant physical and cultural change for the production team. We expect that it will become a template for other new production lines across the company, and a major internal “tour destination” for years to come.

The project included the use of simulation modeling, to test the initial static design with real-world project mix and volume. The use of simulation helped to ensure that when the line was physically put in place, it would perform as designed. The simulation modeling was done by our partner, Kaplan Business Group in San Diego, CA.