TMHU President: Challenges are Opportunities

IRVINE, Calif.—Brett Wood is taking the helm as president of Toyota Material Handling USA Inc. (TMHU) at a pivotal time.

Wood had been the company’s vice president of marketing, product and strategic planning and training operations and also oversaw dealer development. He has been influential in identifying trends and requirements of the material handling industry and developing Toyota products and corporate strategies that meet U.S. lift truck users’ needs, according to TMHU.

Since joining TMHU in 1989, Wood has held numerous managerial and technical support positions, including market application engineer, senior product planning engineer, technical services manager, electric product planning manager, sales training manager and product planning manager.

Prior to joining Toyota, Wood held engineering positions with IBM Corp. and Northrop Aerospace, where he earned the prestigious recognition “Engineer of the Year.” He recently served as chairman of the General Engineering Committee for the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) and is now a member of the advisory committee for that same group. Wood is currently a member of the Electric Power Research Institute’s Industry Advisory Council. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

With the national economy on the brink of crisis, Wood knows what he’s up against “These are extremely difficult times that test our ability to adapt,” he said in a recent, one-on-one interview with Material Handling Management.

Wood plans to build on the legacy of outgoing president and current chairman and CEO Dr. Shankar Basu. “Shankar has been a tremendous leader,” he said. “I will use what I have learned from him, as well as my 19 years of experience with TMHU, to make our company even stronger.”

TMHU, like all businesses, faces the tall task of maintaining profitability during economic upheaval, but Wood sees adversity as a path to prosperity. “A tough time is a good time for leaders in an industry to strengthen their leadership positions,” he told MHM. “Instead of crying in our milk, we’re going to turn it into a positive.”

The company will do that by sensing the needs of the market and working to fulfill them. “I’m going to listen to customers, dealers, associates and business partners and see things from their perspective,” he said. “I want to learn what they need and expect.”

He will then use those insights to fuel innovation at TMHU, a process that, he said, never ends. “I’m a firm believer in kaizen, in terms of both the company and me personally,” he noted. “Each person can consider how to improve. I’m no exception.”

Brett Wood
“A tough time is a good time for leaders in an industry to strengthen their leadership positions.” — Brett Wood

Indeed, continuous improvement is engrained within the TMHU culture, Wood explained, and he will continue to extend that message to associates, customers, dealers and partners. “I’m going to continually improve what I can bring in a leadership role to the company and customers in the marketplace,” he said. “I’ll listen to those concerns and challenges and turn them into an opportunity to improve everybody’s situation.”

Wood already has plans in place to bring customers the services they need now. “I look at decreased new-equipment sales in our industry as an opportunity to increase our efforts in used-equipment sales, rental sales opportunities and increased parts and service business,” he said. “We also have the opportunity to offer creative financing options for our customers.”

While some businesses sink under the weight of economic hardship, the most resilient organizations rise to the surface. “With people and companies, the strong are revealed in times of hardship and adversity,” said Wood, quoting Ted Toyoda, president of Toyota Industries Corp. “I am confident that, with our strong dealer network and team of associates, we can work hard to overcome these difficult times, and we will all emerge stronger as a team. The strongest grass is revealed after a swift wind,” Wood concluded, quoting an old Chinese proverb.

In addition to promoting Wood to president, TMHU also named Hitoshi Matsuoka executive vice president of treasury, coordination and strategic planning; Alan Cseresznyak senior vice president of administration in charge of finance, information technology, human resources, distribution and affiliated companies; Terry Rains vice president of aftermarket sales in charge of parts, service and customer satisfaction; Adam Hughes national account sales manager; John Schmitt national dealer sales manager; and Payman Shabbak national strategic planning manager.

Conference Report: Lift Truck Insiders Anticipate Change
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—Cost control, the global economy and environmentally friendly technologies took center stage at the annual meeting of the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) held Oct. 2-5 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

During the Presidents’ Forum, Stanley J. Simpson, ITA president and head of Kalmar RT Center LLC, forecasted just a slight production uptick— from 170,877 units in 2008 to 172,908 in 2009—for all classes of lift trucks in the U.S. “My personal view is that there is still a way to go before we’ll see a recovery, perhaps as long as 2010, but that is too hard to predict,” Simpson said.

For a global outlook, the Presidents’ Forum tapped Sascha Schmel of the Federation of European Material Handling Manufacturers (FEM), Tadashi Ishikawa of the Japan Industrial Vehicles Association (JIVA), Lu Daming, president of the Beijing Material Handling Research Institute (China Industrial Truck Association) and Simpson of ITA.

Schmel highlighted manufacturing movements from western to eastern Europe, while Ishikawa emphasized continuing increases in the cost of raw materials. Ishikawa also noted that Japan’s labor force will likely be cut in half by 2050 due to the country’s aging population. Not surprisingly, Daming reported dramatic increases in China’s lift truck exports and imports. Sales of powered industrial trucks in the first half of 2008 experienced a 23.93% seyear- on-year growth over those in the first half of 2007, Daming said.

Nevertheless, “there will be aboveaverage possibilities for increased manufacturing and component sourcing in North America,” said Ed Dailey, general manager of sales and marketing at GSP, a division of ThyssenKrupp Steel North America Inc., as he presented the results of ITA's sixth Business Trends Survey. ITA surveys OEM member companies and compiles the results into an analysis of markets, procurement practices and future technologies that manufacturers believe will impact their businesses in the near future. The result is the annual Business Trends Survey.

The weak U.S. dollar, concerns about component availability and increased emphasis on just-in-time (JIT) deliveries are all factors narrowing the cost gap between the U.S. and China, according to Dailey.

Many lift truck manufacturers feel comfortable sourcing locally because they don’t have to worry about tariffs, language barriers or radically different time zones. And, with JIT deliveries becoming more important in this era of extreme cost control, supplier flexibility is critical, the survey revealed.

The need to reduce costs will also be a strong motive for lift truck manufacturers to take another look at concepts, such as regenerative braking and energy storage systems (ESS). While ITA members at the meeting were still hammering out a definitive description of ESS, several described them as technologies that capture hydraulic energy, store it and transfer it to the drivetrain. ITA members predicted that, five years from now, the ability to recover energy from braking and lowering loads will be important.

Lift truck OEMs also forecasted growth in environmentally friendly hydraulic fluid, lithium-ion batteries, opportunity and fast charging, compressed natural gas, hybrid lift trucks and, of course, fuel-cell technology.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced plans to invest up to $130 million in the development of fuel-cell technology for automotive, stationary and portable power applications. Approximately $28 million of that cash infusion will be available to lift truck OEMs, according to ITA.

As a result, lift truck manufacturers believe “there will be a market shift with more units equipped with fuel cells,” said Dailey. Nearly half—48%— of respondents said fuel-cell technology growth will be 10% or greater over the next five years.

Crown Lift Truck Gets IDEA Award

NEW BREMEN, Ohio—Crown Equipment Corp. has received its ninth Gold International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).

Crown’s RC 5500-series, stand-up counterbalanced lift truck was selected from more than 1,500 entries to win one of 37 gold IDEA awards for 2008. IDEA awards are given for innovation, design and business implications, as well as environmental sustainability.

OSHA Launches Lift Truck eTool
WASHINGTON—On Sept. 30, OSHA unveiled its newest Web-based educational tool: the Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklift) eTool. OSHA's eTools are standalone, Webbased information resources covering occupational safety and health topics. The lift truck eTool provides a review of potential hazards and a summary of key

OSHA requirements as well as industryrecommended practices for lift truck operations. Four modules examine types of lift trucks, safe operating practices, workplace conditions affecting operation and operator education.

The eTool provides information about OSHA’s Powered Industrial Truck requirements (29 CFR 1910.178), including types and fundamentals of lift trucks, operating lift trucks, understanding the workplace and educational assistance.

The Industrial Truck Association, along with other OSHA Alliance program members, provided input during the development of the eTool.

Check out OSHA’s new eTool.

New President to Lead Mitsubishi Caterpillar
HOUSTON—Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. (MCFA) announced that Shigeru Tanemura will become its new president.

Tanemura replaces Hideaki Ninomiya, who is taking on a new assignment at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) in Japan.