Automotive News All Stars
MANUFACTURING: Hirofumi Muta, Senior managing officer, Toyota Motor Corp.
Hirofumi Muta was a man with a mission: Prepare Toyota Motor Corp.’s sprawling production footprint for the company’s landmark shift to a global, commonized vehicle platform. And this year, it was mission accomplished.

Muta, 59, ushered in a radical streamlining just in time to manufacture the fourth-generation Prius hybrid.

His “simple and slim” lines make Toyota’s already super-efficient production system all that more potent.

They cut capital investment by half, slash lead time and even enable future factories to be 25 percent smaller.

The overhaul introduces everything from better paint shops and faster laser-welding techniques to machines sitting on rollers that can be quickly repositioned and lines that can be quickly shortened or extended like toy train tracks.

By 2020, plants that have undergone the streamlining will manufacture half the new cars Toyota churns out annually.

Thanks largely to Muta, Toyota’s lean manufacturing just got a whole lot meaner.