Toyota Material Handling U.S.A. Inc. (TMHU), the sales and distribution arm for Toyota lift trucks, and Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing (TIEM) on Monday marked the opening of its expanded North American headquarters at TIEM's plant in Columbus, Ind. The plant manufactures more than 80 percent of the Toyota lift trucks sold in North America.
TMHU moved its North American headquarters from Irvine, Calif., to Columbus to better align sales and marketing with manufacturing by co-locating them where its products are made. Many California-based employees chose to move to more-rural Columbus. TMHU President Jeff Rufener said the relocation decisions were a tribute to a company culture that values longevity and treats employees like family members.
The new headquarters represents a $4.6 million investment and adds another 21,400 square feet to the campus, which employs more than 1,000 associates and totals more than 1 million square feet of manufacturing, administrative, distribution, training, and customer service space.
The day also included the official "line off" ceremony for Toyota's new large-capacity 8-series trucks, which debuted earlier this year and are now coming off the production line to fill orders from customers in such industries as paper, lumber, and building products. Nearly 1,000 employees and guests gathered in the factory to watch the first of the muscular new trucks drive briskly out from behind a curtain to a cover version of the hard-rocking intro from Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," raising their masts in salute as they went.
Executives also showcased Toyota's newest lift truck manufacturing plant in São Paulo, Brazil. TIEM is the "lead plant" for the soon-to-be completed facility; its employees are responsible for training their Brazilian counterparts in production engineering, manufacturing, quality assurance, and production control. TIEM will also supply about one-third of the São Paulo plant's forklift parts with parts manufactured in Indiana. This marks the first time in Toyota's history that an industrial manufacturing plant outside of Japan is serving as the lead plant and providing parts for a facility in another country, company executives said.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown, and Toyota Industries Corp. Chairman Tetsuro "Ted" Toyoda, grand-nephew of company founder Sakichi Toyoda, were on hand for the event, which was hosted by Toshiya Yamagishi, president of TIEM and Toyota Industries North America, and chairman of Toyota Material Handling North America; Brett Wood, president and CEO of Toyota Material Handling North America; and Rufener. The North American organization handles both the Toyota and Raymond brands as well as Toyota's line of automated guided vehicles and tow tractors.