OUR OPINION: Toyota's second shift raises plant's profile

By NEMS Daily Journal

Toyota’s addition of a second shift at its Corolla assembly plant in Blue Springs moves a step closer to full production on the $800 million campus, the 14th manufacturing site for the Japanese automaker in North America.
The second shift – 6:30 p.m. to 3:15 a.m. – has about 660 production team members, the same as the first shift, 6:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
The plant manufactures 2012 Corollas and employs about 2,000 people total in all positions.
Bloomberg News cast the second shift at TMMS in the context of movement in Toyota’s production of several models from Japan to North America because the strength of the Japanese yen has risen against the dollar during the past year.
Toyota, Bloomberg reported, will end production of Highlander sport-utility vehicles in Japan, consolidating assembly of the model in Indiana. Toyota will invest $400 million to expand capacity at its Princeton, Ind., plant that already makes the SUV, to add 50,000 units annually.
The Highlander originally was scheduled to be manufactured in Blue Springs, but it was shifted to Princeton because capacity was needed before the Blue Springs plant was finished.
Community Development Foundation CEO David Rumbarger said Wednesday that because TMMS is climbing toward its full production capacity it has become part of the Toyota system, which includes well-known flexibility to add or shift production to successful plants to meet market and cost demands.
Rumbarger said he remains optimistic that Toyota eventually will add a Phase 2 to the Blue Springs plant, noting that he has had no official word from Toyota.
The Indiana production increase was announced at The Economic Club of Chicago, an indication of its importance in Toyota’s view of impact on employment in the greater Chicago region.
Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., which has a plant in Canton, also are shifting auto production out of Japan. Nissan is spending $2 billion on a Mexican factory intended to be an export auto base; and Honda also plans to make small cars in Mexico and its top-of-line Acura NSX supercar in Ohio, Bloomberg reported.
Exports of ‘made-in-America’ products to 21 countries have topped 100,000 vehicles, and include American Camry sedans and Sienna minivans to South Korea, a Toyota official told Bloomberg.
The production shifts underscore the importance of Mississippi’s intention to more fully develop a better-educated and trained workforce ready for advanced manufacturing jobs offered by the major automakers who continue expanding auto production capacity in the U.S., concentrated in the South.