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Driving Toward The Future

Provided by howstuffworks
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Auto companies have driven technological innovation for more than 100 years. As technology evolves, so do the ways we manufacture. Today we’re able to produce far more vehicles every year while producing far less harmful results for our environment. Toyota is one of the manufacturers leading the way in faster, safer and greener production methods.

Here are five fascinating manufacturing methods currently being used:

One: Rapid Prototyping

With “rapid prototyping,” vehicle parts are designed with special computer programs that perfectly mold and shape each part. A physical model is made with special machines like 3-D printers so that each part is created to specification. Instead of taking weeks to design and make a part, it takes hours or days.

Two: Flexible Production Lines

Some factories can only produce one type of vehicle at a time. Plants with “flexible production lines” can switch from one model to another depending on demand. At the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, the production line is able to intuitively switch between Camry and Avalon, increasing production of both.

Three: Turning To Technology

Though people are still needed to assemble, design and build automobiles, robots within manufacturing plants help move the process along by boosting safety, ergonomics and efficiency. They do this through very precise programming and calculations that allow them to be extremely exact.

Four: Saving Money While Cutting Pollution

Auto manufacturers are looking for ways to produce more environmentally friendly vehicles. They’re also looking for greener production methods.

Toyota plants are at the forefront of eco-friendly features. These include solar panels, wastewater recycling, photo-catalytic paint that soaks up pollutants, zero landfill contributions and many different recycling innovations.

In fact, in April 2011, Toyota received an ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for leadership in protecting the environment through energy efficiency and management.

Five: Kaizen

“Kaizen” is a business philosophy that’s easy to understand. Kaizen is a constant search for ways to improve methods and increase standards. Toyota has pioneered Kaizen at all levels of the manufacturing process.

Vehicles and innovative technology go hand in hand. With Toyota leading the way, these manufacturing trends are helping to make cars better, safer and greener than ever before.