For years, Toyota Material Handling has been ranked among the global leaders in the field of handling technology while there isn´t any secret about the ambition to become the number one on the market. How does this immodest ambition succeed in fulfilling? And how does the Czech dealer network work? Is there a design role in the production of new handling technology? All this and much more was revealed to us by the business director Tomáš Jerie.
How the company succeed lately? Has it achieved any significant success?
There are plenty of things to be proud of. By the end of March, we have closed the financial year, so we know all the key numbers and I must say that I am very glad we have built up next years and we continue to grow. I generally consider growth to be one of the most important business success criteria. And we are growing across all departments.
We have grown in total revenues, which was affected by the record results of the Czech organization we achieved last year – the highest number of trucks placed on the market (driven and palette), sales department revenue or short-term rentals. We are also proud of our record-breaking revenue in Logistics Solutions, which specializes in trolley interconnection and more comprehensive solutions in racks, safety and training courses, fleet management, or automation. In this area, we have succeeded in gaining new significant customers for solutions based on fully automated trucks.
I am very glad that the whole company was part of our success and I believe that we have done many good steps and activities in the past that will enable us to strengthen our position on the Czech market even in future years.
In terms of the Toyota Vision 2020 program, whose part is an effort to get to No.1 position in the market for handling equipment, the company established a network of retailers in the Czech Republic. How does the Czech network work? And are you fulfilling your ambition?
In the Czech Republic we use three sales channels to sell our products. First, it’s direct sales, that is a network of our own traders. Secondly, it is the indirect channel, the dealership network we started building four years ago, and which now stands on four professional and competent partners. The third part we develop and where we feel quite significant potential for the future is e-commerce.
The dealer network is an increasingly important distribution channel for us. We have appointed a manager responsible for its conceptual management and further successful development. In the past fiscal year, for the first time, we managed to cross the border of 100 trolleys sales through dealers. Overall, the dealer network does not yet account for much of our revenue in the sale of carts, but its share has risen dramatically year-on-year, and I believe it will continue to rise.
What innovation in the field of handling technology has impressed you the most lately?
Toyota Material Handling has as a global leader an ambition to be a company which sets future trends. It is very innovative and it shows where our industry can and probably will be moving. This is also helped by the tremendous experience from the automotive industry. In the Czech Republic, we strive in the long term to promote all the new trends, practical things that we believe will help our customers increase their productivity and the safety of their operations and, of course, have a positive impact on their operating costs.
For example, a few years ago, we started as the first deliver carts with lithium-ion batteries to the Czech market. This technology fundamentally changes the parameters of involvement and use of carts and optimizes their operation in terms of availability and energy costs. We have almost 5 years of experience with their operations in the Czech Republic and thus a great lead over competition. Today we can deliver li-ion batteries for the whole range of warehouse carts and front-carts and introduce interesting references.
Another tool that I see as very important because it enables customers to actively manage and monitor productivity and cost of materials in the field of material handling is fleet management I_Site. This system is already used by more than 45,000 users worldwide, which is also the highest since its introduction in 2008.
Even our business is undergoing changes that have already been affecting other industries for some time. I mean automation and its application in logistics and manipulation. It is a certain remake in our field and we significantly speak to it. All over Europe, Toyota has put into operation nearly 600 automatic carts. As I have already mentioned in the Czech Republic, we have implemented solutions with fully automated carts – hand-guided pickers, pullers or retractors – in companies that use the most advanced technology among the first and benefit from their advantages. The range of companies interested in such solutions is constantly expanding.
How big role plays a design in the production of a new handling technology? If we ignore all the other important criteria, can be design a subject of commercial success, even in a sector such as hadnling technology?
I am conviced that even in our industry where the user of our products is not a person who would buy them just for joy, but the handling carts are perceived as a working tool, design plays a big role. I would say that the main role of a design lies in the practicality of the carts, in their contributing to higher safety, through better maneuverability and user-friendliness to higher productivity. Many of our customers use the carts in three-shiftwork and and their practical usability, ergonomic and safety parameters are a key selection criterion.
Today, the vast majority of companies have sophisticated models of purchasing processes and I have to say that for many of them counstruction, ergonomic and thus design elements are one of the selection criteria because they have a significant effect on the operating costs of carts.
I am glad that in the case of Toyota is this effect very positive.
Is there something that makes Toyota MH significantly different from its competitors?
I do not want to comment on competition. One of the reasons behind our success is the competence and attitude of our employees. Not only in the first line, marketing line, but also in support teams and, of course, in service as well. We perceive the world around us, we perceive sensitively new needs of our customers and we try to change the processes in our organization. While our individual activities and services are always associated with material handling, it is important that we are able to combine the entire portfolio of products and services into a comprehensive supply with high added value and thus be a strategic partner for our customers. We can provide complex handling and storage issues – financing, renting, rack system solutions, lean logistics solutions, fleet management, driver training, automation, safety packs, and more.
We are increasingly focusing on a consulting aspect and counselling. We are not just a company selling carts but we can analyze the current situation and propose a solution that can optimize this situation in accordance with customer needs. In addition to a very good and quality product, our customer also purchases our experience and knowledge. We strive for a proactive approach when we come to the customer with suggestions on how to optimize operation, how to increase safety, how to achieve cost savings. We are looking for partners for long-term relationships, and the feedback from the market tells us that this is the way customers are interested in and which they consider to be right and for themselves to be beneficial.
Will you tell us the current goals / plans that company has set up?
We have ambitious goals and plans, just like in the past. They are in line with the global program Toyota Vision 2020 which assumes market leadership not only globally (since 2001 continuously), but also in Europe and European markets, including the Czech Republic. Our goal is to gradually increase market rate and gain the number one position on the Czech market by 2020 at the latest. At the moment, we have strengthened our position as a strong two.
What is the biggest motivation for you in your work life?
I am a person who is sporting all my life, and in general I see a lot of analogies with business in the sport.
Teamwork with qualified and good people who enjoys working for Toyota and a very fast feedback from customers as well. It certainly motivates me to adapt our strategy to new trends and a very dynamically changing environment. Last but not least, of course, business success. Without him it would not be what it is… The fact that we are doing well as a company and that Toyota is in the Czech Republic perceived as a very successful organization very pleases me and it commit all of us to the future.
Is there something we did not ask about, but what would you like to say?
Once again, I would like to thank all of the almost 700 visitors of this year’s Toyota Demo Days event. Their participation and positive feedback is one of the motivations for which we are happy to undergo the demanding, several months lasting preparation of this biggest professional event in the Czech Republic.
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