Next Gen­er­a­tion Award

Our win­ner’s off to Toy­ota


There are still 10 min­utes to go be­fore the cam­eras and light­ing are set up for our in­ter­view, but Stephen Cross­ley is al­ready en­grossed in telling us all about his love of en­gi­neer­ing. It’s im­me­di­ately clear why he was a fron­trun­ner in last year’s con­test and how, de­spite be­ing in his fourth month of an ex­ten­sive au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try tour, he’s still as ex­cited as if it was day one.

Fol­low­ing his place­ments at Mclaren, Honda and Nis­san, Stephen has nearly com­pleted his month at Toy­ota GB’S head­quar­ters in Ep­som, Sur­rey, with some of his time also spent at the vast Toy­ota Mo­tor Man­u­fac­tur­ing UK plant in Bur­nas­ton, Der­byshire. So it’s a good time to re­flect on what he’s learned.

Stephen’s ex­pe­ri­ence at Toy­ota has been ex­cep­tional in that he hasn’t been work­ing solely in de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing. Be­cause the pro­duc­tion line at Bur­nas­ton cur­rently churns out the hy­brid Auris model, among other cars, Stephen has also been work­ing on how best to mar­ket a hy­brid ve­hi­cle and what deal­er­ships can do to evolve in this di­rec­tion.

“At Mclaren, I was very much de­sign fo­cused. At Nis­san, I was on the en­gi­neer­ing side. With Toy­ota, I’ve spent the ma­jor­ity of my time in Ep­som, do­ing bench­mark­ing on what other com­peti­tors do with their elec­tric cars and re­search into what Toy­ota does with hy­brid cars in deal­er­ships and mar­ket­ing,” he says. “I’ve been do­ing some­thing that’s not ne­c­es­sar­ily in my field, but it’s been very in­ter­est­ing learn­ing some­thing else about the in­dus­try. Ob­vi­ously, there’s no point in mak­ing a very high-tech car if you can’t sell it.”

In­deed, Toy­ota has been mak­ing moves to mar­ket its hy­dro­gen fuel cell tech­nol­ogy more in Europe. The more keen-eyed read­ers may have no­ticed the Toy­ota Mi­rai be­ing used in­creas­ingly in po­lice f leets and as some of the more lux­u­ri­ous mini­cabs snaking through Lon­don’s streets. But all of this mar­ket­ing work hasn’t pre­vented Stephen from spend­ing time around ve­hi­cle pro­duc­tion. In fact, he has seen enough of Toy­ota’s man­u­fac­tur­ing lines to talk us through the main dif­fer­ences he has noted be­tween Toy­ota and the rest.

En­cour­ag­ing em­ployee feed­back is a par­tic­u­lar fea­ture. “Toy­ota wants

groups of in­di­vid­u­als to try to sug­gest ideas for ways that they can make the com­pany more ef­fi­cient, whether that means speed of the lines or ease of work,” says Stephen.

In ad­di­tion, a slightly tougher stance on au­to­ma­tion stands out. “Honda puts in its wind­screen purely by ro­bot. Here, they have a ro­bot that will bead up the sil­i­cone sealant, but they will have a ma­chine that as­sists some­one in putting the wind­screen in the right place. That’s be­cause Toy­ota be­lieves that hu­mans can do a fi­nal check on that.”

Pressed fur­ther on the au­to­ma­tion he has ob­served in the past four months, he con­cludes: “I wouldn’t say au­to­ma­tion is over­played, but there are def­i­nite ad­van­tages of try­ing to bring peo­ple back into build­ing a car. But you’ve got to make sure that they are con­sis­tent in what they do.”

Our time is al­most up, and be­ing par­tic­u­larly aware that Toy­ota’s PR of­fi­cer is stand­ing be­hind us, it is now or never to see if we can coax out any in­side info about the up­com­ing Corolla, soon to be pro­duced at the plant. “I don’t know any­thing other than it’s get­ting the more pow­er­ful hy­brid driv­e­line, I think with lit­tle tweaks,” Stephen says. “I’m glad the Corolla name is back – it’s eas­ier to pro­nounce than ‘Auris’.”

Stephen’s tour doesn’t fin­ish here. Next, he is off to en­gi­neer­ing firm Horiba MIRA, where, back in his com­fort zone, he will be work­ing with chas­sis and dy­nam­ics, as well as dip­ping his toes into mod­el­ling and crash tests. Fol­low­ing that, he will spend the last month of his work ex­pe­ri­ence at Jaguar Land Rover be­fore tak­ing nine months off to re­lax. And by re­lax, he means de­vel­op­ing a space­frame chas­sis, fit­ting it with a Jaguar S-type V6 and gear­box and us­ing it as a test bed for an ac­tive cam­ber sys­tem.

I have been bench­mark­ing what com­peti­tors do with their EVS

Stephen learned about Toy­ota pro­duc­tion at the Bur­nas­ton fac­tory

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