Thursday, February 16, 2006


The theme of late seems to be tours, a theme I hope to continue this weekend at the wineries of Santa Barbara. But, today I wanted to tell you about a tour closer to home; one in Fremont in fact.

In 1984,General Motors and Toyota agreed to a joint manufacturing venture. GM wanted to learn more efficient techniques, and Toyota, under intense political pressure to open a plant in the United States, wanted experience with the US labor market. The results of that agreement was New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc.(NUMMI).

NUMMI took over an abandoned GM plant in Fremont, hired back the laid off UAW workers and brought the Toyota Manufacturing System to the US. The result is a plant that employs 5,400 people and produces 450,000 Pontiac Vibes, Toyota Corollas and Toyota Tacomas each year.

The plant is state-of-the-art, using robotics in conjunction with just-in-time manufacturing, and it turns raw US steel into finished cars in under 24 hours. It really is amazing. The plant makes most of its own parts: sheet metal, plastics, gas tanks, etc. Only the engines and truck frames are shipped in. (Learn more)

Each assembly station only has 2 hours of extra parts at any time. In the plant itself, there are only 4 hours of parts. In containers in the yard there are only 2 days worth. Yet, (or better, because of this) every 56 seconds a new car rolls off the line.

Most mornings you can see how NUMMI does this in person on one of their free tours. The tours are 60 minutes long and have 2 parts: a video overview and a tram drive through the miles of assembly lines. I thought the tour was fascinating and I learned some new Japanese words like Kanban and Kaizen. One note: childeren are supposed to be 10 years-old to go on the tour, but I didn't see anyone checking IDs.

NUMMI: 45500 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA (510) 498-5500


At 7:19 AM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

Paul, this is cool. I drove by that plant many time and now know what it is all about.


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