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Toyota Material Handling

Toyota growing with driverless solutions in Gothenburg

World-class innovation capacity and invaluable automotive expertise. Those were the deciding factors when Toyota chose to locate its development unit for automated forklifts in Lindholmen. And in just a few years, Toyota Material Handling Logistics Solutions has grown dramatically – and expects to more than double its employee numbers in the coming years.

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Automation is the solution

Toyota Material Handling's website features a video of mountaineers ordering snacks over the internet and getting them delivered directly to a mountain top by drone. 

"Consumers are the driving force behind the digital revolution. No one wants to wait, no one wants to pay," says Hans Larsson, Director Logistics Solutions at Toyota Material Handling.

Shipping and returns should be free, nothing should break and everything should be fast and preferably environmentally friendly. That's where automation and information come into the picture for achieving efficiency, he says.

"Each time someone clicks and purchases online, it drives development a little more."

Hans is responsible for the section of Toyota's forklift division that is now a separate focus area: the development of automated and connected logistics solutions. And it's located in Gothenburg. One of the reasons is human resource planning. The Internet of Things and new technology demand entirely different skill sets to those traditionally held by Toyota Material Handling.

"Those skills are found in Gothenburg. The city is without a doubt one of the world's most innovative and, moreover, has the advantage of extensive automotive industry expertise," he says. 

He also feels that there is an innovation climate with comprehensive infrastructure for industrialising ideas. This helps ensure that innovations quickly reach a global market.

Innovations in a traditional industry

Logistics Solutions has launched a number of world-leading solutions for the forklift market. Whereas driverless cars must be able to take into account a variety of scenarios – such as other motorists and unpredictable traffic situations – forklifts are most often found in more controlled warehouse environments. But there are other challenges. Such as that the goods must be lifted up high, which must be done with great precision. The slightest error or production stop means delays for the customer. 

Customers are often large and global companies and want solutions that work everywhere. Logistics Solutions works closely with its customers, often in pilot projects where two or three facilities are selected and get to test whether the automated forklifts work. If they do, the solutions are implemented on a larger scale. The company is also working hard to expand its role.

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Hans Larsson

"Before, it was about delivering a forklift. Now, we deliver a logistics solution to the customer that can be continually optimised," says Hans.

Constant growth

Since its establishment in 2011, the company has almost quadrupled its business and moved to larger offices at Lindholmen Science Park four times. One of the attractions, according to Hans, is that the company has a startup character, but thanks to the Toyota connection the uncertainty that a startup can experience is eliminated. He's noticed that many people are attracted by the chance to get involved in building future driverless solutions from scratch and setting the standard for an entire industry.  

Logistics Solutions is currently growing so fast that it's difficult to say just how many employees it has. Hans and HR Manager Ann-Kristin Wennergren agree on 73. Although another four are due to start there a few days later. And quite recently they held a couple of well-attended information events for prospective employees. Hans thinks that the company manages to attract good people despite stiff competition.

"In two years, we'll number a couple of hundred," he says.

Helen Teame Bairu

Effective customer flow is a key success factor

“Physical stores sales are currently increasing more than ecommerce sales, but in a few years that could change. Ecommerce is growing at a rapid rate,” says Helen Bairu, establishment advisor at Business Region Göteborg who specialises in retail.

At those retail areas, where construction of offices, apartments as well as transport infrastructure are taking place, there are good opportunities for sales to continue at good levels, expects Helen Bairu.

“In the Gothenburg region there are several good examples where such plans are being actualised, like at Backaplan on Hisingen, in Gothenburg and central Mölndal; but the densifying and modernising of these areas is also beneficial for trade.”

“Another important aspect is that physical retail stores integrate more and more with ecommerce. It will be a challenge to create the customer flow to a certain place or a store, but this is definitely a success factor.”

Färgbox

Facts:

• Toyota Material Handling Europe is the world's largest supplier of forklifts and ancillary services and products and markets the brands BT, Cesab and Toyota. In total, the company has 9,500 employees in Europe, with 2,500 at its head office in Mjölby.

• Logistics Solutions in Gothenburg was established in 2011 and has about 80 employees. 

• The company delivers automated and connected logistics solutions with the aim of optimising its customers' warehouse management using, for example, automated order picking, transport and tracking. Automated forklifts also mean that the warehouse can be better utilised, with higher bays and narrower aisles.

Sustainability

Toyota Material Handling Europe has been named one of the world's top companies in terms of sustainability. Its focus is not only on reduced environmental impact and improved economic solutions for the forklift industry, but also on cutting the number of accidents. According to the Swedish Work Environment Authority, more than two people are injured each day in Sweden in connection with forklifts. This is something that driverless solutions and connected vehicles that report back to control systems can reduce.

 

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