This week it is 25 years since Toyota began building cars in the UK, an anniversary that will be marked by official celebrations this Friday at its factory in Burnaston, Derbyshire.
During the past quarter of a century, Toyota Manufacturing UK (TMUK) has seen well in excess of four million vehicles come off its production line. Since establishing its first major European manufacturing centre here, Toyota’s investment in its UK manufacturing operations has reached more than £2.5 billion, funding the introduction of advanced production methods and automotive technologies that have made the car-making processes and the products themselves more efficient and kinder to the environment.
TMUK Burnaston also has the distinction of having been selected as Toyota’s first European production site for petrol-electric hybrid vehicles, as Auris Hybrid models have been built at the plant since 2010. Today Auris Hybrid uses 1.8-litre engines that are also built in Britain, at TMUK’s Deeside engine factory. Other models built at the plant include Carina E, Avensis and Corolla.
Going beyond simple numbers and dates, TMUK can reflect on achievements that extend outside the industrial sphere to include support for education and skills training, the environment and many charities and good causes, both nationally and within the region and communities local to the Burnaston factory.
Key achievements from TMUK’s history are mapped in a timeline feature on the company’s website which can be viewed here.
Where it all began
Toyota announced that it would build its first major European manufacturing operations in the UK in 1989, outlining its plans for both engine and vehicle production centres. Building work began at Burnaston in 1990 and just two years later the first vehicle, a Carina E, came off the production line.
Since then, the plant has successfully organised 13 major new and revised model introductions. Most recently, £240 million investment was secured to equip the factory for future vehicle production using the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA).
Today the TMUK Burnaston workforce numbers around 2,500 members, including some who have been part of the team since the start of production.
Some of those long-serving staff have shared their memories and insights in a series of short films made to mark the 25th anniversary. These are available to view below.
Training, skills and opportunities
Giving people the chance to develop their skills and abilities in their job is one of Toyota’s core principles. It isn’t just about providing Toyota members – its own workforce – with opportunities, it extends to helping suppliers and other local businesses as well.
TMUK has forged successful relationships and invested in learning facilities that are giving many people the tools and skills they need to help gain employment and build a career. Burnaston is home to the Toyota Academy, which provides formal training and apprenticeships for technicians and sales teams from across the UK.
TMUK also connects with younger people through an education programme which gives children from primary school age and older students to the chance to discover first-hand the wide range of opportunities available in the automotive sector, from design and engineering to logistics and technological research. Toyota is a keen supporter of national efforts to promote the study of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), seeking to inspire a new generation of engineers – young women in particular.
TMUK is proud to be one of a number of companies in the region sponsoring the Derby Manufacturing University Technical College and the JCB Academy. It has also worked with young people from the YMCA to provide valuable skills and experience that might help them gain new education and employment opportunities, particularly those who have had to deal with challenging life circumstances.
Waging war on waste
Modern motor manufacturing has a very different image from the dirty, noisy car factories of the past and TMUK Burnaston has been in the forefront of developing new ways of working that minimise waste and maximise opportunities to re-use, recover and recycle raw materials and energy.
It has pioneered innovation as one of Toyota’s five global sustainable plants, committed to adopting sustainable practices in everything it does. These far-reaching efforts are now supporting the ambitious targets of the company’s Environmental Challenge 2050 to eliminate carbon emissions not just from Toyota vehicles, but from its manufacturing processes as well.
The achievements so far have been impressive and right from the start, TMUK Burnaston set the pace as the first UK car manufacturer to be accorded the international ISO14001 standard for environmental management. In another first for the national industry, TMUK reduced the waste it sent to landfill to zero by 2003. Perhaps even more significant was the achievement of zero waste to incineration, in 2008.
TMUK’s commitment to not just protecting but also improving the environment has been recognised with independent awards, including Business in the Community’s Big Tick Award for Excellence in 2005 and a Premier Award for environmental leaders from BCE (Business Commitment to the Environment.
Nurturing the natural world
TMUK’s environmental initiatives are not confined to the factory floor. It pays equal attention to the quality of its surroundings, working to develop the 580-acre Burnaston site as a green space that provides safe, sustainable habitats for more than 400 plant and wildlife species. It has worked with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust since 2004 and more recently has recruited experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to plan new landscaping and planting schemes to enhance the biodiversity, strengthening the “green grid” which allows industry and nature to co-exist in harmony.
It’s notable that Burnaston’s lake has been officially registered as a Site of Biological Importance, serving as a wetland nature reserve that’s home to many different birds, mammals and insects. TMUK is also helping encourage ospreys back to the area, building nesting platforms for the birds within the factory grounds.
Supporting good causes in the community
Wherever it works in the world, Toyota aims to be a good neighbour, supporting and working with the communities local to its operations. It is also committed to helping charities and good causes.
TMUK has donated more than £5.5 million so far and since 2006 has organised fund-raising activities through the TMUK Charitable Trust. Last year the trust raised £305,000 and was able to make donations to charities and local organisations including MacMillan Cancer Trust, Sporting Futures and, local to Burnaston, Burton and District Mind.
For more photographs of the Burnaston plant, click here.