By Greg Migliore, Automotive News
Detroit, Michigan -- Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc. is holding roundtables with groups of 10 to 15 suppliers as it tries to take the pulse of the supplier industry.
The roundtables, which began this year, are sounding boards for Toyota to learn what suppliers need to operate more effectively, said James Wiseman, Toyota vice president of corporate affairs.
Wiseman spoke last week at the Automotive Industry Action Group's AutoTech 2005 leadership conference here.
Wiseman said a member of Toyota's upper management participates in the discussions.
"It's such an intense partnership," he said. "It's a two-way street."
Toyota created a supplier-relations unit within its purchasing department this year, Wiseman said. And the automaker is using uniform evaluations so that suppliers are rated on the same criteria.
Wiseman also noted that Toyota sends on-site assistance to parts makers that are having problems at factories.
He said Toyota helped Tower Automotive Inc. improve the time it took to fix problems on the floor of its Traverse City, Michigan, plant, which makes body structures. The solution was low-tech. Tower adopted a system of flashing lights and bicycle flags to identify problems. Toyota says it cost about $20.
Wiseman said offering on-site support helps maintain an open relationship with suppliers.