The amount of training Lexus requires of workers is mind-blowing

The amount of training Lexus requires of workers is mind-blowing
You won’t hear any rattles, but you will notice obsessive touches like power windows that glide swiftly and silently, slowing down for those last few centimeters so as to not jar the occupants.

Paint surfaces are flawless, cabins are eerily hushed, and if you think this is all superficial, think again. Lexus’s unassailable quality runs deep, and is reflected in consistent top rankings with J.D. Power.

The TMMC (Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada) plant in Cambridge, Ontario was the first facility outside of Japan to be awarded the honour of manufacturing Lexus vehicles. With its launch in 2000 came a new philosophy and approach to assembling automobiles. And it all comes down to a paper cat.

Huh? To be more specific, we’re talking a small origami cat that Lexus Takumi Masters, as part of their skill and dexterity exercises, must fold perfectly using only their non-dominant hand in 90 seconds or less. They perform this task every day.

The Takumi craftspeople at Lexus are the most highly regarded master craftsmen, completing approximately 60,000 hours of training that takes a minimum of 25 to 30 years. When considering the accepted figure is 10,000 hours to become a true expert at anything, these Takumi fellows are overachievers of the highest order.

Now, before we all rush to Cambridge, Ontario to bask in the wisdom of a real Takumi Master, know that there aren’t any in Canada — they all reside in Japan. Which kinda makes sense. Not much of a reward after a lifetime of training to be sent to Southern Ontario. Ahem.

However, you will find Master Trainers here, and attaining this level still takes about 10 years. All Master Trainers are certified in Japan.

Toyota will build the Lexus NX in Ontario as of 2022

These are the people who head up departments, and they operate with guru-like facility. Paint Masters must pass various colour tests, quickly identifying 30 different tiles with varying shades of the same colour in the correct order.

On our visit to TMMC, we were shown a half dozen samples that, to my untrained eye, looked to be all the same grey. And I haven’t even read 50 Shades of Grey.

Steve MacNeil, General Manager of Lexus Manufacturing, walked us through some of the stations that Team Members (Lexus-speak for employee, line worker, et al) are required to train on.

A cage that mimics the interior environment of an RX crossover as it travels down the assembly line has various pressure points representing where workers push to install plastic panels. The required force is two kilograms for ultimate fit, and a member needs 10 hours of training on this rig before getting assigned to the job.

Another point of obsession for Lexus is perfect panel fit. Workers must be able to detect a panel variation of 0.3mm – through Kevlar gloves – and for this skill they train at a station featuring a door and front fender that can be minutely adjusted of offending tolerances.

Those who stitch the interiors put in 1,000 hours of training, and for workers on the mechanical side, one required skill is the ability to sort bolts in a bowl by feel alone. Team members must remember verbatim 30 pages of instruction and perform those instructions within two to three weeks.

Concentration exercises include a computer game using colours and letters in sequence to show the impact of varying degrees of distractions to performance.

Needless to say, by the time Lexus employees pass vetting and training, and get stationed on the TMMC Cambridge line, there’s a bit of that origami cat in all of them. Part of the Lexus method is to have team members move around from station to station — keeping them mentally fresh while avoiding repetitive stress.

Currently TMMC Cambridge builds the all Lexus RX350 and 450h (hybrid) crossovers for the North American market, but it’s now gearing up to .
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