In Breaking New Ground
Carbon Fiber Loom
When it came to developing the Lexus LFA, even the most precise methods of molding carbon fiber weren’t precise enough. So, before we could innovate our most advanced vehicle, we had to first create the manufacturing process. Lexus engineers built a circular loom, which, guided by laser sight, is able to seamlessly weave elements of carbon fiber for the LFA’s chassis.
Our innovations aren’t limited to our vehicles alone. In fact, many of our innovations live on the factory floor. Each vehicle undergoes a three-hour process beginning with six coats of paint. The car then enters a line where a robot, developed by our manufacturing engineers, captures macro photographs of the vehicle’s surface. This makes it easier for the 100 inspection agents, at the end of the line, to catch any flaw or inconsistency – even the seemingly invisible ones.
In each of our hybrid vehicles, we’ve implemented regenerative energy technology. This system captures and stores kinetic energy that would otherwise be lost, then uses it to further power the car. It’s just one more way we’re constantly creating an even more sustainable vehicle. After all, true sustainability isn’t a feature, it’s an endless pursuit.
In Our Commitment
The Master Craftsman
There is no higher honor within the team members of a Lexus assembly plant than the Takumi, or Master Craftsman. Each of these experts is hand-selected for performing their craft more skillfully and artfully than the rest. Tasked with developing the standards of quality the thousands of other team members must achieve, this elite group of 10 oversees every aspect of vehicle assembly.
The Andon Cord
At every Lexus manufacturing plant, any worker can pull the Andon cord to stop the entire production line. What type of crisis could possibly warrant such a drastic measure? A single nut turned a few degrees too far, for instance. Or a worker dropping a screw (a clear indication of a flaw in how it was passed). Every time the cord is pulled, the problem if you can really call it that is analyzed and adjustments are made to correct it.
Improving our Surroundings
Our commitment to continuous improvement extends to the efficient and wise use of materials. When the seat cushions, floor mats and roof liner are made, the leftover bits and trimmings are not discarded. Instead, they are molded into sound insulation material to be used in the doors, roof, floor and chassis. And, in every manufacturing site, an underground conveyor-belt system captures excess bits and scraps of metal and ships to a recycler to be melted down for reuse.
This philosophy of continuous improvement is the guiding principle at Lexus. It empowers everyone whether engineer or assembly line worker to look for ways to improve our vehicles and the processes that build them. How seriously do we take this philosophy? Every day in our design buildings, scores of engineers are required to scrutinize a recently introduced Lexus until they figure out some way, anyway, to improve upon it.
In the Factory
Quality doesn’t come easy. Within the Tahara plant alone, there are 26,000 separate tasks that can be certified as done correctly. Each of these tasks must be accurately demonstrated and described in painstaking detail by a craftsman to receive certification. How much detail? Consider this: There’s a 14-minute film on how to place a grommet correctly a task that takes a mere two seconds.
Eye for Colour
Imagine 15 small vials of paint. All of them red. Each vial a slightly different hue. To help our craftsmen’s eyes become more attuned to slight variations in color, they practice arranging vials like these in descending order of hue. Again and again. Over time, this practice better equips them to immediately spot and correct for the slightest color inconsistencies between body panels.
Counting by Hand
Without looking, a Lexus craftsman must be able to reach into a bowl of bolts and pull out exactly five of them. It’s a way to help tune the sense of touch in every hand along the assembly line. To see by feeling. To know that something is exactly as it should be just by holding it in your hand. So that every part of a Lexus will not only look precisely right, but also feel so.
The human hand can often be the most important tool on the assembly line. To help it perform to its potential, Lexus developed a latex disc that gives each finger its own workout. Craftsmen place their fingers in an elastic webbing and squeeze and rotate their hands to strengthen their fingers and wrists. This daily exercise helps a great deal with fatigue, which in turn allows each craftsman to be much more consistent through a given shift.
Single Source of Wood
In many Lexus vehicles, the center console and side panels are crafted from a single piece of wood that contributes to an exceptional interior.
Not a Speck of Dust
Prior to entering the engine manufacturing area, engineers are given high-powered air showers in an enclosed room with adhesive-coated walls.
Under the Lights
Before a vehicle is cleared to leave the factory, they are meticulously analyzed under intense light for any slight inconsistency or flaw. They are then moved under an array of red, blue and green lights, carefully arranged to mimic the entire spectrum of light they will be subjected to out in the real world, and then inspected again.
The Finest Leather
To ensure the leather in your Lexus is of the highest quality, nearly a dozen tests are administered beforehand. To name just a few: It’s forced to endure a blow torch; frozen to 40-below and prodded to test for cracking; repeatedly folded and poked by machine then analyzed for creases and punctures; and subjected to a simulation of a decade’s worth of ultraviolet rays in four weeks.
The Track Test
There are numerous measures taken during the manufacture of the LS to ensure it’s of the highest quality. Like starting and analyzing every engine before placing it under the hood. And hand-sanding the body twice during the painting process. But no measure is as rare for a production vehicle as this: Upon leaving the assembly line, every LS is driven by a team of experts to ensure the engine produces precisely the right sound, feel and, more importantly, drive.
Specific processes can change over time and vary between factories.