Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky has announced a series of changes that President Susan Elkington said positions the plant well into the future.
At a projected cost of $461 million, the changes include:
—Upgrading much of its equipment and technologies which will increase the plant’s operational speed, flexibility and competitiveness. These changes are specifically targeted to increase TMMK’s ability to build various models, as well as future electrification.
—Expand TMMK’s powertrain operation to include a 2.4-liter engine line. This line will support a broader range of vehicles, again expanding the plant’s ability.
—Creating a direct hire structure. Until now, TMMK has hired through Kelly Services, a temporary services agency, with employees becoming full hires only after a probationary period through the temp service. Some 1,400 variable team members already working at TMMK will be hired and future hires will immediately become TMMK employees. “We need good employees,” said Elkington said. This move will help the plant retain top talent and provide a more inclusive work environment, she said. This direct-hire change is being implemented at other Toyota plants.
“As Toyota’s most experienced assembly plant in the U.S. with a workforce of about 9,000, TMMK must transform physically and strategically to meet the changing needs of customers,” Elkington said. “I am confident in our highly skilled team members who drive us forward every day as we prepare for the future of advanced manufacturing, whatever the products may be.”
TMMK has been mostly known for the Camry, but in recent years has added the RAV4 Hybrid SUV and the Lexus ES350 and its hybrid model to its assembly line. The Lexus ES and ES Hybrid will eventually shift away from TMMK and back to Japan, likely before the next model change. This action will increase space in the plant for future products, although Elkington would not speculate on what those new products might be.
Plans for the transformation will begin this fall, although a completion time is unknown, Elkington said.
“Kentucky’s automotive industry is growing at a record pace, and Toyota Motor manufacturing Kentucky is at the center of that growth,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “Toyota changed the landscape of manufacturing in our state when the Georgetown facility first opened more than 30 years ago, and now the company is preparing for future growth. I am thrilled that future will include Kentucky in a significant way.”
TMMK has been at the forefront of developing hybrid models — using a gas-powered and electrical-powered engine — since 2006. Earlier this year, TMMK’s powertrain plant announced it will start assembling fuel cell modules for use in hydrogen-powered heavy-duty commercial trucks in 2023.
In 2017, TMMK announced a $1.3 billion investment in the plant, equipping it with the Toyota New Global Architecture manufacturing platform and a new paint operations. This project is expected to be fully complete by 2025. This also brings Toyota’s total investment in TMMK to more than $8.5 billion.
Also located on the TMMK campus is Toyota’s Production Engineering Manufacturing Center (PEMC) and the Manufacturing Production Innovation Center (MPIC), which spearheads mobility transformation initiatives, technologies, and advanced processing initiatives for Toyota’s 14 North American manufacturing facilities.
Mike Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.