As you may or may not know (Really, you don’t know?), AutoAcademics’ prime media outlet is YouTube (www.youtube.com/autoacademics) where we post all of our informative and entertaining automotive reviews. However, when Toyota invited us to take a tour of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas (TMMTX) in San Antonio recently, we had to oblige, as this plant specifically makes both the midsize Tacoma and full-size Tundra pickup trucks. And while I will not get into the full history, this plant sits on the same site as what used to be the oldest working ranch in Texas (est. 1794) and is also what the Tundra 1794 Edition trim designation is based upon.
This wasn’t the first time AutoAcademics had been invited on a plant tour. Any number of times we’ve gazed upon the massively expansive buildings as we approach from a quarter of a mile away. They tempt your curiosity to see what is inside, yet at the same time warn those without special invitation to keep their distance, as the fencing, and much smaller and manned guard house come into view.
Once inside, we’ve also experienced the housekeeping process where we learn of what we can, and more importantly cannot do while inside the plant. In this case, all forms of recording devices were off limits. This included cameras, camcorders, and cell phones. Thankfully pen and paper were allowed, because my use of mnemonic devices is not all that good.
On this particular tour with Toyota, we saw the graceful, yet noisy ballet of robots, each choreographed to its own song, taking this from here and putting it there; or attaching these together to make one of those. There were vehicles travelling throughout the 2.2 million square feet of workspace, some piloted by humans and others by magnetic strips along the floors, but all were honking or making some other type of noise to announce their intentions at that moment. We’ve seen this before.
What I, personally, hadn’t seen before was the paint facility. Because it is a clean room, visitors typically are not allowed inside, yet for some reason we were permitted entry. We were asked to take special precautions because automotive paint is VERY sensitive to certain types of chemicals. Silicone, dimethicone, and pretty much any other chemical that ended with “–cone” were on the “refrain from using” list. So this meant we had to check and, if necessary, replace our deodorants, hair products, lotions, colognes and after shaves – pretty much all of the stuff that helps us look and smell pretty. I figured if the plant workers could do it, so could I, although I was a little apprehensive making such changes in the summer heat of San Antonio. Thankfully, my new “–cone-free” deodorant worked.
This particular plant runs almost 24 hours a day for two shifts, six days a week. The facility is closed on Sundays for maintenance. With a production run of 200k trucks per year (60% Tacomas) TMMTX is running pretty much at capacity. So in order to keep up with demand, Toyota plans to meet a production goal of 260k trucks by the end of 2016. Obviously, the only way this can be accomplished is via mandatory overtime. Yet something tells me the team members required to take up the slack are ok with that. Let me explain.
During the recession in 2008, when sales of pretty much everything were down, layoffs became the unfortunate norm, but not at TMMTX. Even though the plant had just opened five years earlier and was shut down for the only time in its history from August to November of 2008, not a single plant worker was let go. All team members continued to report to their (adapted?) shifts, training on the lines. When that got old, they took their skills outside the plant walls and worked in the community, assisting family, friends, and strangers alike, during a time when many needed it most. And all the while, Toyota continued to pay them.
You see, while Toyota is a Japanese-owned company, it has a vested interest in Texas, as well as North America, as a whole. The manufacturer has a significant impact on no less than 15 states, making everything from engines and transmissions, to suspension parts, to 70% of the total vehicles that it sells, through its network of 1,500 Toyota and Lexus dealers, in the United States. What Toyota doesn’t make, such as lighting, HVAC systems, brake components and other electronics, it purchases from suppliers right here in the U.S.
3,200 people are currently employed at TMMTX’s main plant, with a total of 7,000 people (vendors, suppliers, etc.) on the site’s 2000 acres. There are 16 variations of the Tacoma and 25 of the Tundra made at this plant, and a new truck comes off the line every 60 seconds, equating to approximately 3,500 trucks in just 3-1/2 days. Those are some rather impressive stats, and while I’ve been on a number of tours, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas in San Antonio appears to be more than just a plant. It’s a member of the community.
Check out some of my live posts during the tour experience below:
A visit to the “Alamo” in a 2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited
Exploring Mission de Concepcion in a 2016 Toyota Corolla
Outside the Alamodome in a 2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
Take a look at AutoAcademics’ video update of the 2016 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition.