Driving the next generation of supply chain innovation

TMHNA, the largest lift truck manufacturer in the world, is launching a new initiative to fund academic research in supply chain, logistics and material handling. Here’s why.

By ·

The material handling industry has been fortunate to experience steady growth in the last few years. Yet, our global customers want more in their material handling solutions - more efficiency, big data, technology and sustainability. Where are those innovative and dynamic solutions going to come from, and, how can those of us in the material handling industry keep up with technological change? In my role as a Board Member of both the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) and MHI, I feel the obligation to proactively look for answers to those questions and support this technological drive.

That’s why the company I lead, Toyota Material Handling North America, recently launched the TMHNA University Research Program. It’s a unique initiative, created to advance the science of supply chain, logistics and material handling and to draw synergies and collaboration between collegiate research and TMHNA.

While university research is new territory for TMHNA, the goal of this program is to partner with the brightest university minds to find innovative solutions and technologies. Properly supported, those researchers and their research projects can result in breakthroughs that will elevate the entire industry.

The program will take a solutions approach for our industry that is more efficient and more effective. With that focus in mind, we are requesting research proposals from the academic community in the following areas related to supply chain, logistics and material handling:

● Image recognition
● Deep learning
● Big data analysis
● Predictive maintenance
● Power suits
● 3D metal printing
● Automation and robotics

You may wonder why an industrial truck company is investing in supply chain solutions. Ultimately, the concept for the TMHNA University Research Program comes from Toyota’s adherence to a proven process for producing the best products and employee growth in all areas of our company. The process is called KAIZEN and it means constant improvement. It is the lifeblood of everything we do at TMHNA, from the processes we incorporate into our systems and production to the way we train our people. We recognize that some of the industry’s most progressive concepts will likely come from outside visionaries, leading us to investigate, develop and ultimately support what we know are some of the leading researchers at the country’s top institutions. We believe this gives the entire material handling industry access to the best thinkers and most creative innovators available.

As the leader of TMHNA, a group that includes Toyota Material Handling U.S.A., Inc.; Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing and The Raymond Corporation, I’m excited to support the next generation of innovators through this initiative. As a group, we feel the responsibility to drive the modernization that will move our industry forward. We recognize new thinking and progressive problem-solving are what keep our industry alive and growing. You don’t stay in a market leading position by observing the status quo. Our endless creativity, curiosity and pursuit of improvement has helped us achieve our market leading position and we are doubling down on that pursuit to exceed customer expectations.

TMHNA issued the call for research proposals from the nation’s leading research universities. The company had asked to receive proposals by August 31 of this year and after evaluation, will choose multiple proposals to fund. Faculty that receive financial support through the TMHNA University Research Program may be invited to renew the contract for up to three years based on the research outcome. The proposals will be evaluated on their impact on the future of supply chain, logistics or material handling, as well as the planning and feasibility of the timeline and budget. We plan to begin research work in November 2016.

If you’re interested in the program, or if you’re a full time professor or researcher and want to submit your research idea for consideration, please visit www.UniversityResearchProgram.com.

Brett Wood is the president and CEO of Toyota Material Handling North America, chairman of the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) and vice president of the Material Handling Industry (MHI).

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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