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Pandemic response: You Can Count On Us

15 June 2020

Materials Handling has played a critical role in the UK’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic and as the global sector leader Toyota Material Handling has been responding to all the challenges.

“There’s no doubt it has been a time of unprecedented challenge for industry” says Jon Buckley, Commercial Director at Toyota Material Handling. “But whilst it's been a challenge it's one that we've being able to respond to and I'm very proud of the entire Toyota team.”

As key suppliers to many organisations involved in areas such as food production, food distribution and logistics in general Toyota identified a need to maintain a reliable service and critically to those customers in key industries such as food and healthcare.

Toyota experienced a unique demand for forklifts and warehouse equipment with levels reaching those typically seen during a busy Christmas season. With a huge effort from all areas of the business, Toyota was able to meet that initial rush and support customers in that critical period.

Like many businesses, Toyota has switched to remote working for many different areas of the business. However, many roles at Toyota are not office based, with technicians out in the field supporting customers across the UK. “It’s important to recognise that Toyota is full of very committed people who have worked tirelessly to support our customers and keep the UK moving, I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone in the organisation for their commitment and support,” says Buckley.

Toyota Looks Forward

Toyota is famous for a rigorous approach to planning and production with systems like TPS (Toyota Production System) and a values-based approach to business that includes the idea of kaizen (continuous improvement) and genchi genbutsu (going to the source), it’s no surprise to learn that Toyota is focused on planning how to meet customer needs. “In this environment we can’t stand still, so we’ve been thinking about how we continue to support our customers in a sustainable way and what their needs will be as organisations start to exit the lockdown phase into the new normal,” Buckley states. Toyota supports its customers in a number of ways.

With a national salesforce who are normally field based, Toyota’s sales people have stayed busy. “The sales team have a lot of expertise in supporting their customers with questions about the best solution for a given handling challenge, that work hasn’t stopped,” says Buckley. Toyota has introduced two new pieces of equipment over recent months that are generating interest. These are the new Levio powered pallet truck (the LWI160) with integrated lithium ion batteries and the BT Tyro. The LWI160 is the first powered pallet truck to have the batteries designed around its frame rather than the opposite – this brings a host of benefits including smaller size and improved manoeuvrability. 

The BT Tyro is a recently introduced powered pallet truck that also utilises lithium ion, but it is aimed at light duty, commercial applications and represents a step up from manually handled pallet trucks. “Although our Salesforce haven’t been jumping into their cars and visiting customers in quite the same way that they would have done historically, we have continued to undertake visits where necessary to support customers in critical industries such as healthcare.” 

Service Excellence

In the UK Toyota always has a changing stock of refurbished, approved used forklift trucks, powered pallet trucks, and reach trucks. Whilst many customers will choose to have a new truck manufactured, there is of course a lead time as each truck is specifically made to order. In the current environment, many customers have discovered the flexibility of taking an approved used truck, using it as part of a blended fleet of new and second life trucks. The ability to browse the selection of approved used equipment on Toyota's website has been well received.

Toyota has over 600 technicians in the field across the whole of the UK. Even with the challenges of the pandemic, we have been able to continue to support fleets of trucks and individual truck users nationally. From commissioning new forklifts and fleets to providing servicing, Toyota’s support has been in place. Critically, Toyota has been able to continue to provide spare parts both to their own technicians and to other customers. Toyota’s fleet of delivery trucks never stopped running throughout the pandemic and has continued to work hard supplying equipment to key industries and giving us the flexibility of supporting our customers.

“Toyota experienced a unique demand for forklifts and warehouse equipment with levels reaching those typically seen during a busy Christmas season. With a huge effort from all areas of the business, Toyota was able to meet that initial rush and support customers in that critical period.”

The idea of automating aspects of materials handling was already growing in popularity, partly driven by concerns about labour availability and Brexit. Toyota has seen renewed interest in automation over the course of the pandemic. “We’ve recently completed installations of automated trucks in a number of different settings, including manufacturing environments,” says Buckley. “Our automated truck technology is proven, highly reliable and flexible”. Of course, many applications require an operator to drive a forklift or reach truck, but automated solutions can be implemented to provide a flexible, reliable solution.

The ability to quickly hire a forklift on short term rental continues to be a lifeline for many businesses. Whether it is because an unexpected peak in demand has occurred and additional forklifts or other equipment is required for a short period, or perhaps existing equipment is awaiting repair. Whatever the cause you can count on Toyota. With a range of trucks and hundreds immediately available throughout the UK, Toyota can support everything from requests for hand pallet trucks through to VNA trucks. The short-term rental team have continued to work throughout the pandemic and are available to support customers right now.

The New Normal

Amongst all the challenges, some Toyota colleagues had the idea of showing Toyota’s support for key workers and were keen to support the NHS. This resulted in the donation of a number of hand pallet trucks to some of the NHS Nightingale hospitals. “It’s only a small gesture, but we look to support not only our customers, but also our local communities where we can,” says Buckley.

“As we adapt to what is referred to as the new normal, Toyota will continue to innovate and rise to the challenge of supporting out customers. Materials handling and logistics has been propelled to an even greater role and we want to play our part in supporting that,” adds Buckley.  Toyota was built from innovation and a focus on getting the details right, it is this approach that will allow it to continue to support customers, whatever the challenge.

To learn how Toyota can support your organisation, contact them: 0370 850 1409, www.toyota-forklifts.co.uk