The Cream of the Crop

Akio Toyoda personally honors North America team members who started their impossible

January 11, 2019

During his annual New Year’s address today, Akio Toyoda challenged team members around the world to “Start Your Impossible.”

Then he illustrated that point by presenting six President’s Awards to those in North America who went above and beyond to bring this philosophy to life over the past year.
Nominees for this honor were judged on multiple criteria, such as:

  • Challenging the status quo
  • Collaborating as never before
  • Nurturing a talent development culture
  • Raising the bar for innovative thinking
  • Embracing risk
  • Building more inclusive communities

So how did the winners embody these transformational values? To find out, read on.

Going Places -- Kathryn Ragsdale (left), and Colleen Casey were part of a team that helped bring public transit to Tupelo, Mississippi. 

Challenging the Status Quo in Public Transportation

A cross-functional team — comprised of Colleen Casey and Riley Keen in Social Innovation, Kathryn Ragsdale in Communications at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi, and Bryan Schulz and Katelyn Salzman in Consumer Insights — came together to launch Tupelo Transit, the city’s first ever public transportation system.

Before, a significant segment of Tupelo’s population was isolated at home and highly dependent upon family and caregivers for their needs. Community advocates had lobbied for a transportation solution for more than a decade. But it took Toyota’s research, resources, and commitment to “Mobility for All” to get the ball rolling. And, most importantly, it took a collaborative approach to get multiple levels of government, transportation agencies, and nonprofit organizations all on the same page to make it happen. 
Tupelo Transit doesn’t just enable freedom of movement for the city’s most vulnerable citizens — such as the elderly and people with disabilities. It also fosters connections with job opportunities, healthcare services, and social and recreational opportunities to amplify its impact on the community.
Portal to the Future -- (From left) Craig Scott, Tak Yokoo and Chris Rovick earned the President's Award for their work on the Project Portal truck. 

Creating Something New in Commercial Trucking
The Project Portal Team, Product Development Office, R&D-Fuel Cell Development and Corporate Strategy & Planning joined forces to bring to life a zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell electric heavy-duty truck. Since being put into service in April 2017, this Class 8 truck has logged more than 10,000 miles of testing and real-world drayage operations in and around the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles while emitting nothing but water vapor.
Since then, the team has launched a second truck with even greater range and has created a collaboration with PACCAR for continued development. This progress led the California Air Resources Board to award a $41 million grant to support the deployment of 10 additional trucks, including four Toyota Logistics Services car carriers and three UPS freight haulers.
These vehicles will be supported by three new, large scale, heavy duty hydrogen fueling stations developed in conjunction with Shell as part of an overall five-station, multi-provider, heavy duty fueling network. One of these stations will utilize biogas to generate 100 percent renewable hydrogen and electricity at Toyota’s Long Beach Port facility.
Force of Nature -- Joe Li 's expertise is innovation in Toyota's business, leading to greater efficiency and lower costs. 

Innovative Thinking in Manufacturing

Joe Li is a force of nature when it comes to innovation.
For starters, the assistant manager of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas’ (TMMTX) Paint Engineering Group took the lead in installing a predictive maintenance system that helps identify equipment issues before they fail. That benchmark approach has since been adopted at other Toyota plants across North America in the form of some 325 automated and more than 100 manual systems. Savings so far: nearly 70 hours of downtime worth approximately $1.7 million.
But Li didn’t stop there. He also came up with a new approach to robot refurbishment that promises to realize a 30 percent reduction in costs associated with the planning and installation of the machines.
He also led a team that developed an auto rail lube system from scratch for a total development cost of just $25. This new solution eliminated a safety hazard, saved 478 work hours and $1,200 in annual grease expense, and promised to extend the life of the rail by 50 percent for potentially $16 million in cost avoidance.
Meanwhile, Li established TMMTX’s first Safety Dojo for the plant’s skilled workforce.
Oh, and in his spare time, he helps mentor teachers and students who participate in the FIRST Robotics competitions, both in Texas and at the world championships. Last year alone Li volunteered more than 300 hours to the cause and earned a U.S. Presidential Volunteer Service Award.
Data Entry -- TFS ' Brock Bayles (center) headed a team that developed a new real-time incentives data tool. 

Collaborating Across Boundaries in Sales Incentives
In support of the Sales Incentives Tiger Team, Brock Bayles, general manager for TFS Sales, Product & Marketing Analytics, headed up a cross-departmental team that developed a digital tool that provides real-time incentives data across Toyota, Lexus, TFS and the Regions. This innovative system replaced an antiquated approach that often required up to 60 days to gather the pertinent information — too late to be of much value in shaping and tweaking billions of dollars in sales incentives spending. You can learn more about this breakthrough here.
Separately, Bayles -- with the assistance of TFS Talent Acquisition Recruiter Nick Hernandez -- partners with multiple universities to expand learning opportunities for students. For example, he collaborated with Southern Methodist University’s MBA program to establish a case-study competition. In addition to supporting the students, this outreach promotes Toyota’s presence in the community and helps open a talent pipeline for the company’s future leaders.
Vendor Breakthrough -- (From left) Jamie Watson, Tim Yamada and Vicki Lynch, along with Stacia Kato (not pictured) formed a mentoring program pairing diverse-owned suppliers with Toyota leaders. 

Promoting Small and Diverse Suppliers
Vicki Lynch, Jamie Watson, Tim Yamada and Stacia Kato in TFS Enterprise Vendor Management identified a problem: Toyota’s underutilization of small and diverse-owned suppliers that could bring fresh ideas and cost-savings back to the business. So, they came up with a solution: a mentoring program that pairs such vendors with Toyota leaders for a year of learning.
The result? In just three years, TFS has gained a 30 percent increase in spending with diverse-owned suppliers, more competitive incumbent supplier pricing and a change in perception, one relationship at a time.
To support its efforts, the team partnered with the Plano Chamber of Commerce, the North Texas GLBT Chapter, and the Women’s Business Councils West & Southwest to mentor more than 25 small and diverse businesses. The program’s success has caught the attention of such companies as Raytheon, Texas Instruments and Walmart that may choose to replicate it.
Brave in the Face of DIsaster -- Despite Hurricane Maria's best efforts, Toyota de Puerto Rico and Toyota Credit de Puerto Rico -- represented here by (from left) Laurdes Santini, Laura Carrion and Yanira Toledo -- stood strong, helping dealers and customers after the storm. 

Giving Back to the Community in Puerto Rico
Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, leaving widespread destruction and devastation in its wake. Without hesitation, the more than 100 team members at Toyota de Puerto Rico and Toyota Credit de Puerto Rico sprang into action to help, guided by the exemplary leadership of TDPR Vice President Nancy Navales.
In the immediate aftermath, the focus was on helping team members and restoring facilities to resume operations. A TDPR/TCPR resilience team was created to ensure all lessons learned from the experience were put into action and it is still moving forward.
A parallel effort was done with dealers.  Team members navigated debris-filled streets to call on dealers tasked with helping countless customers who had lost their vehicles. For those dealers they couldn’t reach in person, TdPR broadcast radio ads with contact phone numbers and encouraged dealers to reach out to them for assistance. They also shared supplies with communities in need and participated in a National Public Lands Day coastal clean-up event.
In spite of the massive upheaval, TdPR achieved an amazing 26 percent increase in vehicle sales of 27,961 units, a record year in parts and accessories sales and a 190 percent increase in profitability compared with the previous 12 months.
Life may never return to normal in Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, these team members’ efforts to make a difference continue to this day.
You can read more and watch a related video by clicking here.

By Dan Miller


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