Toyota Industrial Mfg., Inc. (TIEM) in Columbus, Ind., and Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc.  (TMHU), are the manufacturing and sales arms for Toyota lift trucks, the top selling brand in the world. Like many businesses, these companies deal with “lots” of paper and electronic documents moving in different directions throughout the organization. Toyota Industries North America (TINA), a holding company in charge of key administrative functions for TIEM, TMHU and other key Toyota industrial companies, sought to streamline the process. Dale Colliver, a leading member of the TINA IT team was charged with looking for ways to better manage these documents, assure security and create a truly collaborative environment that would effectively integrate with an SAP management system.

His mission reflects Toyota’s core principle of kaizen or ‘continuous improvement.’  “Our team is constantly on the look-out for process improvements that will create more efficiency, reduce lead times and enhance customer service,” Colliver said. With a base of previously installed Kyocera multi-function devices (MFDs ) that provide scanning, copying, faxing and printing capabilities, Colliver identified NSi™ AutoStore® from Maryland’s Notable Solutions as a way to greatly enhance the capabilities of the MFDs.  A server-based application, AutoStore orchestrates the capture and secure delivery of paper and electronic documents into many business applications, including SAP.

Tracking Shipments Made Easy

Shipping documents were targeted for the first process improvements.  “Our shipping documents were traditionally stored in file cabinets, which often made access cumbersome,” Colliver noted. “Now, file cabinets still exist, but the number of paper documents stored in them has been significantly reduced.” Shipping  documents are now scanned when they leave the premises capturing pertinent information,  such as signatures and notes.  AutoStore then attaches these documents in SAP for easy access by sales or others needing shipping information.

“We produce a bar coded shipping document internally.  When scanned, AutoStore reads the bar code and from that information, we can open up all information about the shipment, find the trucks and attach one image to multiple trucks.  It scans the document, renames it, drops it into a folder, picks it up in SAP and directs it into our backend storage environment,”
Colliver explained.

One-Invoice Solution a Boon for Customer Service

TMHU sells lift trucks to customers through a network of dealerships throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as through its National Accounts group. Maintenance for National Accounts is managed through the dealer body.  National Account customers with multiple locations now benefit from TMHU’s one bill system built on AutoStore workflows.

“We supply forklifts through National Accounts to customers across the U.S., most of which have multiple locations,” Colliver explains. “Our local dealers service the trucks and bill back to Toyota. All services are coordinated through Toyota so when the dealer bills back to us, we scan the invoice and create a service order. The invoice is then attached to the service order, which in turn triggers the billing process to the customer’s corporate office. This means our customers see only one invoice that itemizes maintenance activities at all their locations, eliminating paperwork and manual tracking of service records.”

AutoCapture Streamlines Import/Export Processes

Not every business process originates as a paper document. Toyota has embraced AutoStore’s AutoCapture, which drives electronic documents directly into the same business process workflows that are accessed by a paper document via an MFD or scanner.

Shannon Williams, Export/Import administrator is located in TMHU’s Columbus, Ind. office.  On a typical day, she receives correspondence from across the world related to the import/export of trucks. Using AutoCapture she’s able to encapsulate “email, scanned documents or even a pile of documents,” that are translated into one scan and attached directly to a truck. “This is extremely handy when it comes to tracking,” she said. “If anyone wants information on any truck, they just pull the information from the system by serial number and it’s all there in one place.”

According to Williams, AutoCapture has greatly improved the audit procedure. Various types of audits are conducted. For example, auditors might want to take 10 examples of shipping or 20 examples of purchase orders following through to the shipping documents. With AutoCapture, we’re able to title the documents to different items. Now, with the click of a button, the auditor can instantly see all information related to any particular truck.”

Prior to using the AutoStore system, all documents were printed. Today if questions come up that require a review of a paper document, the document can be scanned and attached to the truck/order.  There’s no limit to the number of documents that can be linked.  While William’s group is not scanning legacy documents, it’s no problem to add older pertinent paper documents to the electronic file. Williams estimates she’s saving about a day a week in workload with the ability to create online files that can be accessed any time regardless of geographic location as well as the time it would take for paper look-up to satisfy inquiries.

Voice of the Dealer Program Supports Quality Assurance

A new process improvement is Toyota’s  Voice of the Dealer program, an inspection checklist that goes out with every truck and provides the opportunity for dealer feedback.  The previous process included faxing, printing and manually sorting information. Today a printed form goes out with each truck identified by number. Dealers fill out and fax the form back to TMHU where AutoStore picks it up from a folder, uses zonal optical character recognition (OCR) to read the number providing access to each truck’s detailed information. In addition AutoStore creates a text file that can capture all extraneous comments.  This new process is estimated to eliminate about 90% of the previous process.

Ease of Use and Streamlined Operations are Major Benefits

Colliver and Williams each cite ease of use, collaboration, time saving and security as key benefits of using AutoStore.   As Colliver does his own programming, he adds, “Anything I create is simple and easy to expand. I can add a new process in a ½ hour, and that’s on the high side.” Colliver estimates that the organization is now managing about 200,000 scans a year translating to about 3,000-4,000 a week.

Are there plans to expand AutoStore within the organization?  “Yes,” says Colliver. How does he sometimes identify processes that need to be changed?  “I look for stacks of paper, ask ‘why are we doing this?’ and when possible, create a new process.  “We plan to use AutoStore to improve efficiencies, save time, make people more productive and reduce waste. The ability to show a source document to a person anywhere in the world without delay is invaluable.”

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