The flexible assembly line at Toyota is a well-known manufacturing approach. Such a flexibility gives Toyota the ability to produce different models in almost any sequence. These lines were already common at Toyota around 1990, and by now they are found at many car makers. Time to take a look at how it is done and why it is good.
Flexible assembly lines are well known at Toyota – except that there are two types of “flexible assembly lines.” The well-known one is making multiple different models on the same line. But Toyota has developed a new type of flexible assembly line, where the entire layout of the assembly line can be changed quickly and easily. Confusingly, this is also called a flexible assembly line, although Toyota itself does not even have a name for it (different from the West, Toyota focuses more on doing something, while the West often puts the most effort into a catchy name). Their pilot line is in the Takaoka plant. Let me show you.