Running a multinational company during an economic crisis is not an easy task; however, Håkan Dahllöf has steered Toyota Material Handling Europe (TMHE) into a position of strength over the past three years. Appointed President of TMHE in April 2008, Mr. Dahllöf continues to pursue innovation in Forklift trucks, material handling services, and in the development of other forms of lifting equipment, while ensuring a strong and effective customer support system that aims to drive down the costs of TMHE’s business partners.
“We have emerged from the past three years stronger and healthier, closer than ever to our customers, and with renewed focus for the future. It is clear what our market needs today. It needs flexibility, efficiency, reliability and continued focus on responsible cost reduction. In turn, we have adapted to market conditions while maintaining profitability, and we are ready and capable to take materials handling to the next level. We have been setting industry standards for many years – first as Toyota and BT and now as Toyota Material Handling Europe. Today we have the strength to help customers drive down costs, whilst maintaining focus on other issues such as flexibility, safety and, of course, sustainability for the future.
“In early 2008, when I accepted the role of President of Toyota Material Handling Europe, I had no idea that we were about to enter the most challenging business environment of the past 75 years. But I have always felt that challenging times bring out the best in individuals and in organisations. And while Toyota Material Handling Europe was formed from two strong companies – Toyota and BT – it was clear that there were areas where we could become even stronger and more efficient. The crisis forced – but also helped – us to accomplish this.
“Being part of the Toyota Group undoubtedly brings strength to our organisation, with the Group’s research and development capabilities, financial resources and proven working methods as exemplified by the Toyota Way and the Toyota Production System (TPS). Another key strength for Toyota Material Handling Europe is that we control the entire value chain, from product development through to sales, aftersales and service. This means we have the freedom to work closely with our customers and adapt our operations locally – and if ‘adapt’ is another word for change, then our world has certainly had to do so over the past three years.
“Combining the Toyota and BT brands within a European organisation that is part of the world’s largest material handling company [the Toyota Material Handling Group has been global leader since acquiring BT in 2001] and responding to the dramatic changes in market conditions has demanded careful but decisive management.
“We have built on a tremendous opportunity since forming TMHE. We have the best of both worlds – the renowned quality of the Toyota brand of counterbalanced trucks and also the innovative and industry–leading BT range of warehouse trucks. But more importantly we have the opportunity to build on a strong customer base via our sales and aftersales organisation – building on our heritage and reputation as the leading brand in terms of service.”
We have built on a tremendous opportunity
“When we created Toyota Material Handling Europe, our vision was to create a strong European organisation with a local sales and service network made up of direct sales companies, together with a dedicated network of independent distributors and dealers. This model works very well because it keeps us in very close contact with the market. Over half of the 7,550 employees in our own organisation and the many hundreds more employees in our independent network are in daily contact with our customers. This means we get direct customer feedback that enables us to respond quickly. Combine this with the fact that we have three European production centres developing and manufacturing products for our customers and it means we are able to be very customer-focused.
“Of course the financial crisis meant we had to revise our operations very quickly – after all the market changed virtually overnight with demand for trucks dropping by more than half. This meant we had to get leaner and fitter, adapting factory capacities and reducing headcount. We also had to gain in efficiency and flexibility in readiness for when market conditions improved.
“Inevitably we had been going through a period of substantial change anyway, with the integration of the Toyota and BT organisations in Europe, and the additional challenges from the market simply meant that our new organisation had to grow up fast. On the one hand we had to take some strong medicine to maintain our own fitness but at the same time we have had to look out for what our customers needed to get back to full strength. So we made changes, with a focus on helping customers weather the economic downturn.
“We maintained our focus on product development throughout the financial crisis, because it is essential for us to be ahead of the market and deliver the next opportunities for efficiency in our customers’ businesses. Despite the fact that our combined brands represent over one hundred years’ experience in materials handling [BT was established in 1946 and Toyota started building forklifts in 1956] we continue to search for new and improved ways of working – and we are achieving these goals.”
We need to deliver the next opportunities for customer efficiency
“Whilst new products continue to play their part in serving our customers, we have also learnt the importance of a strong aftersales and service organisation. The fact is that companies have to move and store goods but the quest will always be to reduce associated costs to the absolute minimum, without compromising efficiency or safety. We help our customers achieve these goals by providing the right information and the right service to go with the right trucks. Our Toyota I_Site information system enables our customers to measure virtually every aspect of their handling operations, in order to facilitate improvements at every level. Our service organisation – a team of about 4,500 highly trained service engineers across our network – truly is the face of our organisation. We invest heavily in training our service team and giving them the tools and technology they need to provide the best possible service for our customers. Safety is also critical here, which is why we have chosen to take part in the Safe Maintenance Campaign from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, EU-OSHA. This campaign underlines our commitment to doing service and maintenance safely and correctly and being a reliable and responsible business partner.
“Our role as a leader also means addressing broader issues that affect our customers today. This includes having flexibility in a fast-changing world, and here our rental business is geared to respond. We can also offer alternative sources of financing if our customers need it. We have an important responsibility when it comes to the life cycle of our products, with a sharp focus on environmental issues. This focus is also reflected in the principles of the Toyota Production System, which is employed within all of our factories.
“Overall we are satisfied that we have been able to move quickly and decisively during the past three years. By working closely with our customers, we have adapted our offer and provided customers with stability they need in a challenging economic context. And we will continue to adapt to future industry demands – particularly in the area of driving down costs for customers. We will do this by drawing on our knowledge of the European market, together with the global resources of the Toyota Group. The future looks bright, and I am confident that Toyota Material Handling Europe is well-prepared to play a leadership role in it.”