No.1 Business in Derbyshire - Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd

Toyota Manufacturing UK takes the top spot again in our Top 200 businesses. We've interviewed the car manufacturer's Deputy Managing Director, Tim Freeman, to find out more about how Toyota is continuing to innovate and rise to the challenges of the Net Zero Carbon agenda.

Front of the Toyota manufacturing facility in Burnaston, Derby
The Toyota manufacturing facility in Burnaston, Derby

What are the benefits of being located in Derby?

"2022 actually marks Toyota’s 30th Anniversary of coming to the region and this was for good reason. Back in the 90s when Toyota Motor Corporation was planning to produce cars in Europe, the UK — and specifically the Derby region — was highlighted as an area that already benefitted from a high level of technical manufacturing expertise.

"The presence of aerospace and rail manufacturers was a huge draw for Toyota due to the pool of resources available as well as a highly experienced supplier base. The level of technical education was also very attractive and helped to support a skilled manufacturing sector."

"Derbyshire also benefits from its geographical location. Being based in the heart of the country and close to key arterial routes, rail hubs and even an airport allows us to have rapid access to not only a wide range of suppliers, but equally gives us the ability to ship our products around the UK and beyond."

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for Toyota Manufacturing UK right now? 

"We have all experienced two very turbulent years that have had impacts of varying degrees on businesses and lives that none of us could have predicted. I am very proud of the way Toyota members and also colleagues within the wider supply chain came together to support our activities as well as those within the wider community.  

"Currently, the major challenge is the impact that the global semi-conductor issue is having on our business.  As a result, we have had to plan a number of non-production days so as to manage our production schedule accordingly. 

"In terms of opportunities, the Derby region is particularly rich in initiatives linked to new mobility and energy. Here at Toyota, we are constantly looking for new opportunities that support our road to reducing and ultimately eliminating CO2 from every aspect of our operations.

"Hybrid engines are paramount to Toyota’s status as having the lowest CO2 of any major car company in Europe, and Corolla, built here in Burnaston, is making a significant impact on fleet CO2 here in the UK."

"Additionally, our Special Vehicle Operations activity is allowing us to develop new business areas such as fitting out police cars, van conversions based on our Corolla Touring Sport and increased accessory installation. We are also heavily investing in remanufacturing to ensure our vehicles have a second life. The project involves repairing and refreshing fleet vehicles that can be sold into our dealer network. This not only makes commercial sense but also reduces the environmental impact, negating the need to use virgin materials in new products and enabling customers to have a cost-effective route to low emissions mobility.

"Derby’s Transforming Cities programme is allowing us to test new mobility schemes, one of which was recently launched for the benefit of the University in collaboration with our colleagues from KINTO, the mobility solutions arm of Toyota.

"We are also investigating several programmes linked to the deployment and use of hydrogen both in terms of energy use as well as a fuel for mobility."

How is Toyota Manufacturing UK contributing to the journey towards Net Zero Carbon?

"Sustainability has been at the heart of Toyota’s approach for many years. We focus on producing ever better mobility solutions and services that allow people to live safer, cleaner and more connected lives. 

"We started our Environmental Challenge 2050 in 2015; it addresses six key areas – three focusing on CO2 reduction throughout the entire value chain, one based on promoting a circular economy, one tackling water use and the final one handling biodiversity. 

"As a manufacturing plant, TMUK is constantly investigating and adopting new techniques and processes that go towards reducing our energy consumption, therefore leading to reduced CO2 emissions. The most effective way to reduce emissions is to not use energy in the first place. This can range from things as simple as turning off lights and equipment to the Japanese principle called karakuri. Karakuri means Japanese traditional system or thinking way to move something without any energy, making use of gravity and such things as return springs on our production line, therefore negating the need to use an electrically powered system.

"Other environmental improvements include using waste heat in our paint shop to heat the building as well as completely removing gas boilers.  Our site includes a vast solar array that provides 5% of on-site electricity needs. But we want to go further and are currently in the process of investigating how we can make greater use of increased renewables and hydrogen on-site."

How is Toyota Manufacturing UK investing in people and skills?

"All of our members have the opportunity for training and development through their whole careers — it’s essential in a continuous improvement environment. The automotive industry is changing substantially, with significant advances in technology including digitalisation, use of big data, autonomy and the internet of things. In the drive to net zero carbon, we are also having to develop skills linked to electrification and hydrogen.

"To support creation of the skills we need, we have invested considerably in apprenticeships in our production operations and maintenance engineering teams. To support ongoing development, we encourage participation in a programme called Quality Control Circles as well as a heavy focus on safety training every month.

"Alongside technical skills, Toyota’s training includes everything from problem solving and project management to emotional intelligence. We have also introduced Diversity and Inclusion Training to ensure we maintain an environment where everyone feels safe, included and valued.   

"We have recently accelerated our recruitment of graduates and regularly encourage placements within our organisation. These graduates will be essential to us as we seek to develop the organisation to meet the challenges of the changing mobility environment. 

"To develop skills linked to changing technology, we are building links with local education providers, particularly through the East Midlands Institute of Technology (IoT). Through the IoT we are supporting the development of masters programmes and other qualifications that can develop the capability of our engineers.

"The IoT is a great collaborative platform that enables us to learn from and share knowledge with other local manufacturing companies."

About the East Midlands Institute of Technology

Find out how the University and Toyota are working together on this initiative.

Dr Chris Bussell, Pro Vice-Chancellor/Dean Science and Engineering

View East Midlands Institute of Technology video transcript

Video embed-

How is Toyota innovating? 

"Kaizen, or continuous improvement, is our constant driver to do things better, and every member continuously looks for ways to improve — meaning safer, with ever higher quality, more efficiently and with the minimum possible impact on the environment. We are working tirelessly to reduce emissions within the complete life cycle of our products and eventually going beyond zero. 

"In terms of manufacturing, we are investing in the use of technological innovation to streamline processes. At the same time, our belief is that Jidoka or “automation with a human touch” allows each and every member to contribute — they are the ones who best understand their processes and how to kaizen.

"We are investigating ways to reduce carbon miles with an increased transfer of our logistics operations to rail. For example, we've recently adopted rail freight for vehicles coming to and from the continent via the Channel Tunnel. More broadly, Toyota is developing products and services that add convenience, connectivity and support the reduction of emissions. Toyota is changing from a “car company” to a “mobility company”, and in line with that we have established the KINTO brand to pursue innovative products and services.

"Global trends, including the pandemic, have fundamentally changed how we all live and work. Innovating the way we make cars, as well as the products and services we offer, is critical for us to take the opportunities that this change will present."

Answers provided by Tim Freeman, Deputy Managing Director of Toyota Manufacturing UK, June 2022.