Assembly Services Sdn Bhd (ASSB), the assembler of Toyota vehicles for the Malaysian market, today produced its 500,000 vehicle since commencing operations in 1968. The milestone vehicle, a Toyota Unser Automatic, was given a special ‘welcome’ at the end of the assembly line by senior plant officials, top management of ASSB’s parent company UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd, and representatives from Toyota Motor Corporation (which has a 49% equity in UMW Toyota Motor).
ASSB, located in Shah Alam city, Selangor, is one of the oldest motor vehicle assembly plants in Malaysia, having been established following the government’s call to increase localization of the automotive industry in the mid-1960s. Over the years, the plant has assembled a great variety of makes and models from Germany, France, UK, Japan and even a small batch of Chevrolet Impala cars from the USA. From its initial volume of around 11,500 units a year in the late 1960s, periodic investments in new machinery and expansion of facilities have seen annual capacity growing rapidly to over 50,000 units a year today.
During the 1970s, as the popularity of Japanese makes increased, the volume and number of Toyota models assembled by ASSB rose. This led to increased transfer of technology from Toyota which helped ASSB to increase its efficiency and build quality.
As new and better production techniques became available, they were slowly incorporated in ASSB, bringing ever higher levels of quality to the finished products. In 1979, for example, an electro-deposit system of applying protective primer paint to vehicle bodies was added and this resulted in a significant increase in corrosion resistance.
In recent years, the plant went through the most extensive modernization programme in its history which has enhanced efficiency and reduced costs substantially. ASSB has also worked closely with local companies which supply components, in line with the government’s desire to have a higher proportion of locally-sourced content. The interaction has seen the transfer of know-how to the other companies, particularly in the areas of cost-control.
Like all Japanese factories, ASSB has been using the “Just-in-Time” system which gets needed parts to the assembly lines only around the time they are actually needed. Pioneered by Toyota, the system has been adopted at ASSB in a ‘modified’ version which takes into account the differences in the supply chain and also the volume.ASSB is also an environment-friendly plant, in line with the expectations of Toyota Motor Corporation that all its production facilities worldwide meet global environmental standards. It was the first assembly plant in Malaysia to be certified to the global standard ISO 14001:1996 Environmental Management System in October 1999.
According to an ASSB source, the plant is the only one in Toyota’s worldwide network of production facilities which assembles such a diverse variety of models. Models such as the Corolla and the large Land Cruiser are assembled under the same roof, something which is unique and not done elsewhere because the platforms are different. In fact, in its 30 years, this plant has done virtually every type of vehicle from small cars to vans and pick-ups and even large lorries.