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Toyota consolidates local ops at Altona

The latest addition to the Centre of Excellence will have global input on future Toyotas

9 Dec 2021

TOYOTA has inaugurated its latest addition to its sprawling Centre of Excellence in Altona, bringing its local design, product development, engineering and evaluation operations under the one roof for the first time as part of a $40 million investment into the facility.


Occupying the site of Toyota’s former manufacturing and vehicle assembly plant in Melbourne’s industrial southwest, the Product Centre at the Centre of Excellence (CoE) first began operating back in April of this year, but due to interruption from pandemic lockdowns has only just started to see the bulk of its workforce get ‘on the tools’ at the facility. 


Situated within what used to be the engine assembly building, which produced over 2.5 million engines over nearly 40 years, the Product Centre marries office space with a design studio, workshop, engineering test area, and a garage for test mules and prototypes.


Elsewhere in the CoE is a 1.4-kilometre test track that allows Product Centre engineers to conduct durability testing without even having to leave the site, with a mix of road surfaces – such as suspension-smashing corrugations – simulated in concrete. Inside, machines like a custom leaf spring test rig and wheel articulation platform allow further testing to be conducted indoors, away from the prying eyes of the public.


On the design side, Toyota’s staff have an impressive array of tools to work with. Two vehicle ‘plates’ allow full-size clay models to sit within the studio space as sculptors and designers hone the forms of future models, with plenty of room around both plates to allow two completely separate projects to be worked on simultaneously without interfering with one another. 


Next door, a VR workspace allows design review to be done on vehicles that don’t even exist in the physical realm – while also allowing greater collaboration between Toyota Australia’s designers and their global counterparts.

Next door is a massive five-axis CNC mill capable of carving an entire car’s form out of clay, while an equally huge machine is also being assembled next to it to double milling capacity. Sheetmetal fabrication, 3D printers and a woodshop are also right next to the design studio, helping accelerate the process of getting designs off computer screens and into the real world.


While the Product Centre has only just had its ribbon officially cut, its workforce already has plenty of experience in seeing through major projects. The Hilux Rogue and Rugged X programs were headed by Toyota Australia’s team, and their input helped guide Toyota’s recently-launched 300 Series Landcruiser since the initial target-setting process for that model began back in 2014. 


Local testing and evaluation also had a significant part to play in the 300 Series Landcruiser’s development, with the ability to encounter almost every conceivable driving environment – bar extreme cold and extreme altitude – within Australia’s borders making this country a convenient base for real-world vehicle validation.


Design and evaluation of Toyota genuine accessories is also undertaken in-house at the Product Centre, one of 13 such facilities in Toyota’s global empire capable of doing such work. 


Able to test parts for vehicle compatibility as well as strength and durability, the Conversions and Accessories department is heavily tasked with producing bolt-on parts for Toyota’s SUVs and off-roaders – the 300 Series alone has 30 official Toyota accessories in its catalogue. 


The addition of the Product Centre adds some 150 people to the CoE’s headcount, bringing it to a total of around 700 workers on site. However, there’s scope to expand, with Toyota Australia’s product planning and development manager Rod Ferguson saying that the operation can “flex according to need”.

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