2010 Lexus RX 450hEnlarge Photo
The all new Lexus RX 450h Hybrid makes news for reasons that you can't see by looking at or driving the vehicle. The 450h is manufactured in unheard of conditions and with attention to detail that is simply astounding for a vehicle produced today. In fact, pockets are not allowed in the factory and anti-static clothing is a must.
The manufacturing of hybrid vehicles is a dedicated process and dust as well as many other seemingly unimportant things can and do affect the quality of the finished product. Lexux has taken dramatic steps to make its hybrid dedicated manufacturing facility Kokura, the cleanest in the world.
From rushing water overhead to capture dust (appropriately nicknamed Niagara), to pressurized paint booths, to an enclosed loading dock with airlock doors, every step is approached with the greatest regard for reducing any contaminants from the area.
The Kokura plant could possibly be cleaner than a modern hospital. Who would have ever thought an automotive plant could be regarded as one of the cleanest facilities in the world.
The press release goes into great detail in regards to the manufacturing process and is an interesting read.
LEXUS RX 450h: TOP QUALITY FROM CLEAN MANUFACTURING
Second in a series introducing key features of the new luxury SUV: advanced manufacturing
23 April 2009
* Advanced production technologies and factory environmental controls deliver supreme product quality
* Extensive measures, including air pressure management, combat dust contamination
* New "slim" robots increase welding quality and precision
* Computerised technology employed together with traditional hand and eye skills of Lexus takumi master craftsmen
* "Clean and Silent" approach to assembly line design
* Set Part System (SPS) developed to eliminate risk of errors and increase production efficiency
* Every vehicle tested in higher than typhoon-level rain conditions
The supreme quality that defines the new Lexus RX 450h begins with the factory where it is built. The design, equipment, manufacturing procedures and the skills of master craftsmen working at the Kokura plant are all fine-tuned to achieve the best possible results on every car that comes off the production line.
The attention to detail is distinctively Lexus, ranging from strict environmental controls to staff being required to wear pocketless, anti-static clothing. "Clean and Silent" initiatives contribute to a quieter assembly line which helps workers concentrate, improves efficiency and helps cut down the number of faults.
Much of the manufacturing process is carried out by programmed robots, ensuring consistency, but the hand and eye skills of the takumi - the skilled master craftsmen - remain a crucial element in achieving Lexus quality standards.
A dust particle measuring just 20 microns - about the size of a grain of pollen - can have an adverse affect on the quality of body panel stamping, leaving scratches that are difficult to rectify later in the production process. Lexus has waged war on dust, subjecting its stamping dies to rigorous sanding and washing twice a week. As this process itself creates a lot of dust, the maintenance area is surrounded by a three-metre high net screen - nicknamed Niagara - across which there is a constant flow of water. Thanks to Niagara, the level of airborne particles in the stamping shop has been cut by more than 90 per cent.
A rigid body shell plays a major part in the quality of the RX 450h's driving performance, ride comfort and quietness. In turn, this high rigidity is achieved by using advanced, high-precision welding technologies.