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Best Factory Awards 2012
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20 July 2011

The pursuit of excellence

Toyota Material Handling UK is a firm believer in the Best Factory Awards and their commitment to manufacturing excellence – which is why it is once again assuming the mantle of overall sponsor

Over the years, Toyota Material Handling UK has built up a strong relationship with the Best Factory Awards and it was the mutual benefits emanating from this association that persuaded the company to assume the mantle of overall sponsor last year. Such have been the positive benefits to flow from that commitment, Toyota is continuing in the role again for 2011.

"These awards are recognised for their distinction across the whole of the manufacturing sector, so last year we wanted to go that extra mile by taking on the headline sponsorship, because what they seek to achieve – namely the promotion of excellence – is very much a reflection of Toyota's heritage, too," states Tony Wallis (right), operations director of Toyota Material Handling UK.

"Moreover, the quality and profile of the awards are in direct alignment with our values as an organisation striving for excellence in everything we do. From our viewpoint, if you want to be seen as an organisation promoting excellence in manufacturing in the UK, then there is no better way than to be associated with awards that reflect those standards."

Wallis says that what really came home during the 2010 awards was how everyone associated with the BFAs was so acutely aware of how vital lean production and cost control were to the success of their operations. "At those awards, I was struck by how many people are now talking about 5S, kaizen and lean. This is precisely where Toyota seeks to engage with its customers – and, indeed, businesses who are not yet our customers. It's something that we believe in passionately and reflects the essence of what Toyota is all about: driving down cost, eliminating waste and improving business performance and efficiency."

If the attainment of excellence is the overriding goal of both the awards and Toyota, then the involvement of Cranfield School of Management in the BFAs is seen as something that underpins that objective. "Cranfield is a UK leader in its field, and thoroughly understands what that is all about when it comes to the production, manufacture and delivery of goods to the customer," he adds. "The word 'excellence' is at the forefront of all it does."

Wallis points also to the vast number of businesses with which Toyota is associated that strive in a similar direction. "In today's climate, having the best products in the world is no longer enough. You also need to have programmes in place to ensure full customer support at every stage of the process, both before and after product delivery. As for our role in this, yes, it's to provide the products to help our customers move materials, but it goes much wider than that. It's also about helping organisations to consider how we can help them to drive down the costs associated with materials handling whether they own one or a thousand pieces of equipment."
This is where support systems, such as I_Site fleet management and the Toyota Production System (TPS), come into their own. "Many businesses fail to understand that the purchase price of materials handling equipment is only about 10% of its overall lifetime cost. Even the perceived major costs of fuel and energy only represent 5%. The majority of the cost is related to such factors as operator costs, accident and goods damage, servicing and repairs.

"With that in mind, our after-sales support system can help them to monitor and control these costs, and make the business much more competitive. For example, where driver performance and repair costs are concerned, we can look at existing equipment and how it is being used, and establish what is the most effective solution."

But why opt for Toyota specifically? "Our equipment has a huge amount of safety built in which reduces accidents and improves productivity," explains Wallis. "The Tonero forklift trucks with the Toyota System of Active Stability being a classic case in point: built-in lateral stability control and sophisticated tilt control (to prevent load spill and forward tip-over) ensure the highest levels of productivity. In addition we offer support programmes like Pride in Performance which can help to educate operators, so that damage and repair costs are minimised, while Toyota's I_Site fleet management shows where downtime is occurring, the hours trucks are running and when damage is occurring, so this can be monitored closely and controlled."

Wallis points to one customer – a major UK retailer – who invested in a range of Toyota equipment and then used its programmes to minimise costs and maximise efficiencies. The result was an annual saving of over £200,000. "When it comes to purchasing equipment, many organisations are now looking beyond product itself, which is only the start of the process, and increasingly at the way in which it is being used in the workplace. With lifecycle costs being so high, improved training, monitoring and the associated payback can deliver enormous benefits."

He is also at pains to emphasise that a business-to-business relationship with Toyota is about much more than providing product. Toyota's programmes are applicable right across an organisation's operations. "In the past 12 months, we have worked with all types of operators in the UK, manufacturing and non-manufacturing, where we have spent one day showing them how they can use the processes of the Toyota Production System to eliminate waste in their business. We have trained over 200 people and they have been surprised to discover that TPS can be applied anywhere in their business – in accounts, administration, warehousing and manufacturing."

In a world where competitiveness has never been more intense, companies and in particular manufacturers are striving to cut costs to the bone, without affecting performance. "I believe that Toyota offers a package to help manage increases in demand and minimise increased costs," adds Wallis. "We work with businesses all the time to identify where processes can be applied and savings made – often long before we even talk to them about material handling equipment. It comes down to being a reliable business partner. Get that right and everything else flows from this."

Path to superior technology
When reviewing its material handling needs, office solutions manufacturer Ricoh found all roads led to Toyota.

That much established, the Ricoh team presented a 10-step kaizen process to the board to secure the new agreement. The team was able to identify cost savings through initiatives such as a dedicated technician and modern fleet, plus demonstrate productivity and safety benefits through superior technology. A fleet of 45 units has now been in place for more than 12 months at two sites. All aspects of Ricoh's handling needs are covered, including counterbalance, powered pallet trucks, order pickers and VNA.

"The Toyota equipment has proved exceptionally reliable and, combined with a good first-fix rate, our uptime has been improved," states assistant supply chain manager, Andy Cowdell. The majority of equipment on site is electric, with the requirement to regularly top up the batteries. Toyota provided battery top-up trolleys, with triggers to dispense the correct amount of fluid automatically into each battery, speeding up the process, helping to improve battery life and reducing the risk of operators coming into contact with corrosive chemicals.

Safety is further improved by the System of Active Stability (SAS) built into all of Toyota's counterbalance range. The performance of the forklift is constantly monitored for critical factors, such as speed and turning rate. If a potentially dangerous situation is detected, SAS automatically steps in to help keep the truck stable. Operators can level the forks at the touch of a button, helping them to position pallets accurately, reducing the risk of damaging Ricoh's products.

Cowdell concludes: "Toyota had the range and expertise to partner us in our business; they had several suggestions to help improve the way we worked. The quality of the fleet certainly fits with our ethos of providing the best and safest equipment for our team."

Max Gosney

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