On the brink of becoming the world's largest car company, Toyota Motor Co. commands roughly a 16% share of passenger vehicles sold in the United States, the biggest car market on the planet. Sales in the U.S. rose 12.5% in the past year — a record performance and the most recent example of why Toyota's future looks so bright.
With millions of new Toyota-brand cars and trucks on the road in the U.S., demand for Toyota-brand replacement parts continues to soar. Helping to meet this demand is the company's special private truck fleet, the Toyota Quality Parts Express (TQPE).
Operating with around 150 drivers from a half-dozen distribution centers throughout the U.S., the TQPE fleet provides overnight deliveries to dealer locations. “Overnight is important in our environment because dealerships are designed to attract customers and sell and service cars during the day,” says Tony Minyon, former National Logistics Manager, North American Parts Operations for Toyota.
Since parts deliveries are made at night, drivers get their work done without interfering with the dealers' focus on customer attention and convenience. They also deliver components to Toyota's manufacturing plants.
TQPE drivers meet and often exceed Toyota's high expectations. Standardization, lots of procedural documentation and continuous improvement are built into virtually every aspect of the TQPE operation. Anticipating and correcting problems before they occur is part of this process.
Toyota is famous for applying the Japanese “kaizan” management philosophy to manufacturing, and expects suppliers to follow the same principles.
Bob Boyich of CPC Logistics, a full-service contract firm that provides drivers for Toyota's private fleet, says team members from CPC Logistics participate frequently in the kaizan workshops, which help Toyota employees and vendors alike find new ways to work smarter and more efficiently. “Through kaizan training,” he says, “we have reduced manpower, improved delivery windows, and reduced [the number of] reports required by a significant percentage.”
“Toyota invests in the long-term relationships,” says Minyon. “With what we spend annually in transportation costs, delivering more product for the same cost [is] ‘better’ in our book.” To make this happen consistently over time, “we must have loyal vendor partner companies which are themselves vested in our long-term success. We set long-term (three years or more) and annual goals, and have a road map of mutual targets,” says Minyon.
He notes that some major corporations seek the lowest price, even if the end result is adversarial relations with vendors and service failures. “That's just not our model. In our Total Quality Parts Express fleet, the payoff over time is a quality management vendor providing a stable, dependable team of drivers who like this business and take pride in dealing with brand-recognition goods.”
Turnover of drivers is exceedingly low — less than 10% a year. “This team is critical to improving our just-in-time deliveries and reducing inventory, two of our most important long-term objectives. Low driver turnover helps this happen.”
For Toyota, quality is defined as a process, not a destination. “In our world, there's no best — only better”
Gary Petty is President and CEO of the National Private Truck Council. The council's web site is www.nptc.org. His column appears monthly in FLEET OWNER.