Better than the Real Thing! Experiencing Manufacturing through the Toyota Virtual Plant Tour


Toyota's new virtual plant tour website offers an experience of the company's manufacturing even better than the real thing. Where did the project members focus their energies?

Why the misaligned doors?

Miho Hayashi was one of the project team members involved in creating the site. She says the process involved a great deal of legwork and countless visits to manufacturing facilities.


Even with all the visits, we felt we were only scratching the surface of monozukuri. It was an ambitious undertaking.

What struck me was how many things that were routine for frontline workers seemed to us like revelations.

We spent the year exploring what words and images would best convey our own amazement and emotional response to the widest audience possible.

One particular example that left a strong impression on Hayashi was the installation of doors during the welding process.


When steel panels of various shapes are welded together to form the car, the doors are fitted slightly higher than they should be.

This puzzled me, but as it turns out, when the window glass and other components are added in later assembly steps, the doors shift down into the correct position under their own weight. Simply put, they are purposely misaligned in preparation for what’s to come.

I was astonished and impressed to learn how much accumulated wisdom and genba expertise goes into making a single car.

Another team member, Nagisa Ando, has been with Toyota for three years. When the project kicked off, she was still a second-year newcomer.

With limited knowledge of the company, let alone cars, she was suddenly tasked with creating content to explain things like engine fabrication and casting. Ando recalls that every day was a learning experience.


Despite borrowing some (training) textbooks used by plant workers, I struggled to pick up the knowledge because I knew so little about cars. Even after studying up, there was still much I didn’t understand when visiting the plants.

Yet each time, the plant staff patiently explained things and allowed me to experience the manufacturing process first-hand, which made me eager to learn more about carmaking.

As the team’s youngest member, I saw my perspective as being closest to the average person. That’s why I tried to draw on my own experiences to figure out the best way of presenting information, so that our customers could feel the same way I did.

Ando also shared an interesting coda to her story. As she tells it, having just embarked on her working life, the thought of buying a car had not even crossed Ando’s mind. Since then, however, she has become the proud owner of a Yaris.


In visiting the genba, I saw how much pride and passion goes into making these cars, and I wanted to drive one for myself.

As they describe, the team members poured their energy into every aspect of the project, from interviews and filming to writing copy, to authentically convey how they were amazed and moved by seeing the manufacturing process.

Day after day during the research phase, they would head to the plants before the sky started to lighten and leave well after darkness had fallen.


We spent a great deal of time even just getting the wording right. Each draft was perfected through countless rounds of revision.