Industryweek 2434 Toyota

Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing: IW Best Plants Profile 2011

Jan. 10, 2012
Employees are 'Top Guns' in Continuous-Improvement Quest: Toyota teams focus on improving processes while company leaders build a supportive environment.

Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing
Columbus, Ind.

Employees: 811, nonunion

Total Square Footage: 1.02 million

Primary Product/Market: Fork Lift Trucks

Start-Up Date: 1990

Achievements: On-Time Delivery has increased from 90.3% in 2008 to 97.9% in 2011. Days of inventory have been reduced 10% in the past three years. 69% decrease in defects per number of units produced.

The "Top Guns" at Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing (TIEM) are swarming the plant looking for ways to reduce environmental impact through waste-paper reduction. Aptly named Top Guns, this TIG (Toyota Improvement Group) team embodies the spirit of continuous improvement that permeates this plant, which produces 59 models of Class 1, 4, or 5 sit-down rider forklifts and Class 6 towing tractors.

IW's 2011 Best Plants

See the other winners of IW's 2011 Best Plants award and find out how they made the top ten.

With a 62% participation rate by hourly associates, the TIG Groups, similar to quality-circle activity, hone in on improvement projects through a structured program that includes choosing themes, creating countermeasures and measuring results. Participation is voluntary but there are some incentives such as paid overtime to work on the projects as well as pay based on completion of projects. The scope of a project is determined by the group based on an eight-step problem-solving technique. Competition, both against internal teams and corporate-wide, is a key element to the program.

"One important aspect of this project is that it empowers people to solve their own issues. Management isn't here to solve all of the problems, but instead to provide direction and support. Everyone takes a lot of pride in finding solutions," explains Scott Redelman, manager, production control.

Along with TIG, there also is Jishunken activity, which involves four groups consisting of associates and leaders from across the company who work on projects for four to five months. These groups are given specific themes to work on including safety, quality and productivity.

"For any improvements we do, we always start with the basics of 2S and standardization," said Tony Miller, plant manager and vice president, manufacturing and engineering. The company also enlists employee suggestions, which last year amounted to 28 per employee and saved the company $717,000.

At Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, employees rotate jobs and departments every six months.

While employees keep a close eye on improving processes, the company stays focused on assisting employees through a variety of programs, including an on-site medical clinic as well as monthly social projects and recognition programs.

"Our focus is on fostering a sense of belonging to the company, rather than working for the company. We have many levels of communication, one of the most important being the interaction between associates. Supervisors' offices are located on the floor and they spend most of their time walking the floor answering questions and listening to concerns," said Bruce Nolting, vice president for production control purchasing.

One technique the company uses to both develop loyalty and transfer knowledge across the organization is to have associates rotate jobs and departments. Every six months, all levels up to vice presidents change responsibilities and assignments.

During recent difficult times when sales dropped off considerably, the TIEM facility demonstrated its loyalty to associates by keeping full-time employees on staff. One strategy to keep employees working was to bring more parts production in-house.

For example, in 2008 the company installed a laser-cutting machine for steel, which allowed TIEM to cut, stamp and manufacture more than 700 parts. "This has also lowered our costs and assured better quality," said Miller.

See Also:

2012 IndustryWeek Best Plants Competition: 2012 applications are available.

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