LOS ANGELES - Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. will reallocate 15 percent of its headquarters employees from moribund projects into new areas that need increased staffing, the company's top human resources official said last week.
Calling the move 'Business Revolution,' Toyota is attempting to reduce the duplication of efforts between departments, and give individual departments authority to close down projects that have outlived their usefulness, he said.
Those employees then would be moved into burgeoning new initiatives such as business-to-business e-commerce.
'This is not a head count reduction,' said Douglas West, senior vice president for Toyota Motor Sales. 'This is not being done in an anticipation of a downturn. There won't be layoffs in phase two, because there is no phase two.
'We are too comfortable in our success. Big companies develop inertia about how they do what they do. They validate it by saying, `If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' But that's not good enough.'
The changes are being determined at the departmental level and will start being implemented in April.
For example purposes only, West said changes might include outsourcing the Toyota press vehicle fleet so public relations staffers could work on Internet projects. Another might be to consolidate toll-free call centers so fewer phone numbers could serve more customer service areas.
'We're not asking our departments to give up 15 percent of their staff,' West said. 'They are to rethink their opportunities for using their people more productively and perhaps give up a few people to some corporate projects we are starting up. This is not just about giving our employees new and different jobs.'
Why 15 percent? West said the number was meant to be significant, 'a reachable stretch.'
Toyota has about 9,000 employees nationwide. The field sales organization will not be affected by the program, but Toyota Logistics Services, Toyota Financial Services and the North American Parts Logistics Division are.
The bigger picture
At the heart of the program was the realization that the Toyota Production System is among the most efficient manufacturing processes in the world but that Toyota's sales, marketing and distribution systems needed work.
Even though sales have been on a gradual climb for years, productivity and profit margins were not as high as management thought they could be, West said.
West said Business Revolution is not about cost cutting: 'It's bigger than that. No one gets more competitive through a cost-reduction program.'