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Toyota forklifts celebrate 50 years in Australia: from MHD

Celebrating 50 years in Australia
Toyota forklifts have come a long way since the first rugged and dependable 5LR models were imported into Australia in 1968.
The birth of TMHA
Toyota Material Handling Australia can trace its beginnings as the factory owned national distributor to the inaugural world Toyota industrial equipment congress in Nagoya in 2001.
Toyota Industries Corporation (TICO, or TAL as it then was), had just purchased BT Industries of Sweden.
In a breakthrough decision, TICO directors decided to create a separate forklift company in Australia – by buying Toyota Australia’s Industrial Equipment Division.
“That happened in 2003, with Hank Ogata as the founding president and CEO. Hank had extensive experience in TICO’s other acquisitions and amalgamations in France and the USA,” said TMHA president Steve Takacs.
As a result, the Australian operation head-office grew in 18 months from 13 staff to 40, and to a total of around 350 staff.
“Key people were left in place, because they knew their territory better than anyone else, as well as the product and the customer base.”
The BT integration was a four-year project as the new Australian team worked with TICO to create both a separate company for Toyota industrial equipment in Australia and to bring together the Toyota, BT and Raymond brands.
“With BT and Raymond products, we could supply 100 per cent of the warehouse equipment market place as a one-stop shop for material-handling equipment. Previously, we could only compete in 70 per cent of the marketplace,” Mr Takacs said.
Toyota Industries Corporation Australia (TICA) officially incorporated BT Lift Trucks into its national operations on April 1, 2005, creating a company with one-third share of the Australian forklift market.
TICA initially purchased the existing Toyota forklift dealerships in New South Wales and South Queensland, and progressively acquired the majority of other Toyota forklift dealerships nationally.
TMHA, where to now?
Toyota Material Handling Australia is poised for even more exciting times in the coming years, as new technology and software create greater efficiencies, cost savings and safety increases.
Fresh from the 50th anniversary celebrations for Toyota forklift sales in Australia, TMHA is looking to expand its distribution network, opening further branches, and broadening its product range – so customers can benefit from the company’s unique ‘one-stop experience’.
President and CEO Steve Takacs pointed to the new branch in Toowoomba, which serves a fast-growing regional hotspot and its new airport.
“Now, we’re looking beyond our traditional core product-base of forklifts, skid-steer loaders and towing tractors,” he said.
“Last year we introduced a range of pallet racking. Next to arrive will be scissor lifts, lift platforms, and sweepers and scrubbers. And the next 12 months will see more product lines. All these products will be supported by branch network service centres and a huge mobile service fleet.
“There are synergies in offering these products, with customers who have forklift fleets also needing to keep large floor areas clean and maintain the interiors of high buildings.”
In terms of future material-handling products, the key word is ‘automation’.
“The car industry shows us that this is the next big thing,” Steve Takacs said. “We are fortunate in the Toyota Group of companies, in being part of a global automotive leader. Self-driving cars are now in prototype production and the expectation for when we’ll see them in everyday use is surely a case of when, not if.
“Already we’re seeing self-driving Uber cars and trial deliveries of fast food and parcels by drones, with more applications to come.
“For some time, Toyota has been operating semi-autonomous forklifts that are intended to not only streamline functions such as order-picking but make it safer and more cost effective.
“Productive is of course the main advantage. But a secondary benefit is safety, with reduced risks on the warehouse floor – this is another excellent reason to embrace the new technology.
“It is an area that will continue to grow and applications will become broader, as the technology becomes more sophisticated – particularly when it is coupled with the developing area of virtual reality.”
Toyota’s massive year-by-year investment in research and development means its technology results in continual progress and refinement in material-handling technology and product. Advances such as lithium-ion batteries will see battery electric increasingly supplant internal combustion as the main fuel source for forklifts, with obvious benefits for both OH&S and the environment.
Logistics companies, from giants to minnows, are increasingly relying on their equipment suppliers to develop solutions for new high-density warehouses.
“Once again, this is an area where Toyota’s material handling engineers have access to the corporation’s automotive research and hence can take advantage of this ever-developing technology,” Steve Takacs said.
“At the 2018 CeMAT fair in Hanover, Germany, Toyota Material Handling Europe unveiled its all-new Traigo 80, a 6-8-tonne payload battery electric forklift. It is a heavy-duty counter-balanced forklift with 80-volt electrics, so it rivals an IC truck for performance. This would have been unheard of just a few years ago.”
Mr Takacs also said advancements in telematics will increasingly drive the material handling industry.
“Just four years ago, Toyota Material Handling Europe devised, patented and launched one of the world’s leading on-board forklift fleet management systems.
“Toyota ‘I-site’ was developed in Europe to provide a real-time GPS wireless on-machine monitoring and management protocol, to reduce cost, increase productivity and improve health and safety outcomes.
“Now when we service major fleets we’re able to compare the performance of identical forklifts, sometimes on different sites or even different states, and provide a solution for the most productive use of each forklift as well as the entire fleet.
“We can indeed look forward to the next 50 years.”
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TMHA Chairman’s message
Fifty years of Toyota forklift sales in Australia is a significant milestone and I want to thank our customers for their continued support and loyalty to Toyota Material Handling Australia.
The mother company of TMHA is Toyota Industries Corporation or TICO, which has now been in operation for 92 years and has become the world’s largest manufacturer of forklifts.
TICO has three main business sectors – Solution, which is material handling, logistics and textile machinery; Key Component, which includes air compressors and electronics; and Mobility, which is automobile and engine.
TICO has been number one in the global forklift market share since 2002 and within this corporation material handling is the biggest business sector, accounting for more than 60 per cent of global revenue.
Looking at the world material handling market, the USA is the largest market, but Australia as TMHA is an impressive eighth in the world sales volume as a single sales company. This shows how well we have been supported by our customers and means we can truly celebrate our 50th year anniversary.
Now, we need to look to the future and where we can grow as partners. Toyota’s famed QDR – Quality, Durability & Reliability – is the base of our products. In addition, customer satisfaction is always Number One priority for Toyota.
We will continue to enhance our quality services and product line-up, striving to stay ahead of the times and contribute to our customers as a Total Solution Provider.
We thank you again for your continued support for TMHA and look forward to the next 50 years working together.
Toshi (Tom) Nakazawa, chairman, TMHA.
TMHA President’s message
Toyota forklifts have come a long way since the first rugged and dependable 5LR models were imported into Australia in 1968.
A watershed moment occurred in 1999 with the launch of the 7-Series forklifts. At that moment we understood the value of Toyota’s extraordinary investment in research and development, and how it paid direct dividends for our customers.
The 7-Series featured Toyota’s world-first System of Active Stability, a computer-controlled stability device protected by over 300 patents and developed in conjunction with technology from Toyota’s automotive division. It was not only ground-breaking technologically, but a true innovation in improving forklift productivity and efficiency, and most importantly, enhancing operator safety.
This brings us to the current Toyota forklift, the magnificent 8-Series, which has built upon the legacy of the Toyota 7-Series and become the leading counter-balance forklift model in Australia. Toyota’s counter-balance forklift models have been Australia’s number one consecutively since 1987, representing 31 years of undisputed market dominance. To date, more than 50,000 Toyota forklifts have been sold into the Australian market.
Backing this fleet is Toyota Material Handling Australia, which has a rental fleet of more than 23,000 units and a fully factory-owned network of 17 Australian branches. Those outlets are all committed to giving valued customers the best possible forklift products, coupled with the best possible people in the material handling industry.
Our product lines have also expanded. TMHA is now proud to offer an unparalleled range of logistics and automation equipment to our Australian customers – including warehouse equipment, AGV (driverless forklifts), elevated work platforms, scissor lifts, sweepers and scrubbers, a comprehensive range of warehouse racking and state-of-the-art fleet management software.
So, to our very valued customers nationwide, I say thank you for your ongoing support and for helping us achieve these truly amazing milestones.
A lot has changed in the last 50 years, and it is truly a joyous occasion for TMHA to be able to celebrate this golden anniversary.
Steve Takacs, president & CEO, TMHA.
Toyota forklift milestones
1955: First Toyota forklift prototype sent to the automobile factory for three months’ testing.
1956: Toyota forklift LA, one-ton internal combustion model, is launched in March; towing tractor based on it launched in December.
1958: First Toyota forklift exports from Japan.
1959: New Toyota forklift factory built, capable of producing more than 150 forklifts per month.
1963: Toyota’s first international specification forklift is announced, the 5LR – it gives Toyota the lead in the two-ton forklift market; first major export contract to Port of Singapore Authority.
1968: First Toyota forklift imported into Australia.
1970s: Toyota builds the Takahama plant, the world’s largest facility devoted solely to manufacturing industrial vehicles; develops technology to address issue of air pollution, including positive crankcase ventilation.
1973: Toyota develops engines specifically for industrial vehicles.
1975: Evolution of Toyota battery electric forklifts begins, with smoother control and 48-volt electrics; 3FBRE first Toyota reach truck with sit-down operator launched.
1978: 4-Series forklifts launched with improved travel speed and load handling.
1985-88:  500,000th Toyota forklift produced; Toyota forklift exports exceed 200,000 units for the first time; 5-Series forklifts launched with improved operator comfort and full floating powertrain; local assembly begins in France and then the USA.
1992: One millionth Toyota forklift produced.
Mid-1990s: 6-Series forklifts introduced with special attention to ergonomic design, increased productivity, easier operation, lower noise and improved styling.
1996: 25,000th Toyota forklift sold in Australia.
1999: Toyota’s breakthrough System of Active Stability (SAS) introduced on 7-Series 1-3 ton petrol models, along with innovative AC power system and SAS on 7FB electric models; In Australia, Toyota wins national OH&S award for its in-house developed swing-down gas-bottle bracket.
2000: Toyota acquires BT Industries and Raymond forklifts.
2001: Toyota combines all its lift truck operations into a single business area called Toyota Industries Corporation (TICO), later renamed Toyota Material Handling; TICO world congress held in Nagoya.
2003: Toyota Industries Corporation Australia (TICA) established to distribute and sell Toyota industrial equipment and one year later wins TICA Global Excellence Award; Toyota’s worldwide sales and supply network now covers 170 countries and 80 distributors.
2005: TICA becomes authorised Australian distributor of Raymond forklifts.
2006: Toyota’s 50th anniversary of forklift manufacture and 80th anniversary of Toyota Industries Corporation, which now has 35,000 employees worldwide; 8-Series 1.0-3.5-tonne forklift range launched.
2007: Toyota Material Handling, as it is now known, celebrates 21 years of consecutive Australian market leadership in counter-balance forklifts.
2009: World’s first engine-powered hybrid forklift launched – diesel-electric GENCO-Hybrid; new product action on several fronts with BT Reflex electric reach trucks, new pedestrian pallet trucks and 5-Series Huski SSL range, followed in 2010 by new electric towing tractors, in 2011 by 7-Series 6-8 models with segment-first SAS and in 2012 by new Raymond reach trucks, BT Optio order pickers and 8FBN 4-wheel forklifts.
2012: A quarter of a century of Toyota IC counter-balance market leadership in Australia, achieving 34 per cent market share.
2012-13: A wave of TMHA branch activity, with new premises in Brisbane, Albury and Gladstone, and Toyota’s first direct presence in Darwin, Townsville and Tasmania.
2016: Toyota launches BT-branded Automatic Guided Vehicles – automated forklifts.
2016-17: TMHA wins back-to-back Toyota Material Handling International president’s awards for record years in 2015-16 and overall business excellence.
2017: 25-year anniversary of Toyota skills contest in Australia, highlighting excellence in training forklift technicians; TMHA staff build show-stopper V8 forklift.
2018: Toyota tops the Australian IC forklift market for the 31st year in a row and the overall forklift market for the ninth consecutive year, with approximately 5100 units sold in 2017.
Ongoing: The Takahama Plant, constructed in the 1970s, is continuously upgraded in equipment and facilities. Toyota’s industry-leading R&D investment in material handling equipment continues, giving customers leading QDR, safety, ease of operation and efficiency: the Toyota Advantage.

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