MHD speaks with Toyota Material Handling Australia (TMHA) President & CEO Steve Takacs about the business’s new flagship Melbourne branch, and how the state-of-the-art facility will help elevate the brand to the next level.
This past June, following 12 months of construction, Toyota Material Handling Australia (TMHA) celebrated the opening of its new Melbourne branch in Dandenong South. According to TMHA President & CEO Steve Takacs, the new facility was an important step in supporting a key growth region for the company.
“Victoria’s population is growing, and the industrial needs of the state are growing as well,” Steve says. “So, we’ve built this new branch to facilitate the next 25 years of growth.”
Off the back of a range of new product launches over the past few years across the Toyota Material Handling and Huski Construction Equipment brands, TMHA plans to continue growing its range – a driving force behind the move to a larger integrated facility.
“There’s no doubt that when you look at the physical size of the new building that that we’ve allowed for significant growth,” Steve says. “Better yet, all that growth – from our storage capacity to our service, rental, and sales departments – will all be accommodated within the one building.”
Steve says that according to his Japanese colleagues within the company, the new Melbourne facility is the single largest Toyota Material Handling branch in the world – a distinction of no small significance given Toyota’s position as the world’s biggest forklift company.
“I was speaking with the Toyota Material Handling Global President, who has seen quite a few of these branches around the world, and he said this was the biggest he’d seen,” Steve says. “And while the American market is obviously a lot bigger, the brand is represented by a network of dealers over there. Here, we’re a single entity – hence the huge footprint of this branch.”
The ambitious upgrade is a bold step, one Steve says represents TMHA’s commitment to not just its customers, but its valued people, too.
“We’re a tier-one business,” he says. “That means treating our customers to a tier-one experience, and it also means looking after our people with a tier-one facility. So, I’m wrapped that we’ve been able to move out of our older building, and move them over to this state-of-the-art facility.”
The new branch is kitted out with well-appointed lunch rooms, meeting rooms, training facilities, and even little details like automatic warm water taps to help employees brave the cold Melbourne winters. It’s also important, Steve says, that the facilities cater equally to all levels of the business – whether that’s upper management, warehouse staff, or the service team.
“I started as a serviceman almost 38 years ago, so that’s one area of the business that I hold close to my heart,” he says. “It’s important to me that we care for the service team, and to make sure that they’re kept happy, healthy, safe, and that they feel valued.
“It’s no secret that there’s a shortage of skilled tradespeople in the industry today, so we want to look after and retain those we do have. And I think it’s very important that this facility enables that.”
With AFL legend Simon Madden leading proceedings, the facility’s grand opening featured guided tours, musical performances, a catered lunch, and a traditional Japanese kagami-biraki sake barrel breaking ceremony.
The 340-strong list of attendees included a range of guests of honour, including Toyota Industries Corporation Executive Officer, Yoichiro Yamazaki, and Consul-General of Japan in Melbourne, Junji Shimada. But Steve says it was just as important to share the momentous occasion with TMHA’s valued people.
“Having our people front and centre – our service staff in particular – was just fantastic,” Steve says. “There’s no hierarchy in our business, our service team is just as important as the CEO. Having everyone there on an equal standing, celebrating together, was a really proud moment.”
Also among the guests of honour was Australian transport legend Lindsay Fox, with whom Steve has shared a more than three-decade-long relationship.
“The first time I met Lindsay, I was actually laying under a forklift repairing it, and he wandered over and said hello,” Steve says. “That speaks to the kind of man he is.
“Since then, I’ve dealt with him on various occasions over the years. He and his business are hard negotiators, but they’re honourable. For him, a handshake is just as good as a signed document – and that’s something to admire.
“It’s part of what has made Lindsay an Australian icon. I don’t think there are too many people in Australia that haven’t heard the name Lindsay Fox. So, to have him come along and sing the praises of Toyota as a company that makes every effort to over-deliver on our promises, was outstanding.”
The new Dandenong South facility occupies a 32,600sqm site, with the building itself taking up 16,350sqm – a 34 per cent upgrade on the old TMHA Melbourne headquarters. But Steve says the upgrade is about more than sheer size.
“The old facility had three different landlords, and three different buildings that we were working between,” he says. “The buildings were joined physically, but we had needed to cut holes in walls to make it work. Dynamically, it wasn’t a smooth facility to operate – it could be clunky to work out of, and to move gear around.
“This new facility provides a range of added efficiencies, where one area flows seamlessly into the next.”
From a 28-per-cent-larger workshop area to cutting-edge painting equipment, to a new 300sqm dirt demonstration area for Huski earthmoving machinery customers, Steve says the new facility is fully kitted out to support the diverse needs of TMHA’s ever-growing customer base.
“We have fully functional sealed and pressurised spray paint and preparation booths for as-new paint jobs and refurbishes,” he says.
“We have a full metalworking facility with four fabricators working in there, and we can do our own hydraulic work here too – whether it’s the type of work that a hose-fitting company might do; or repairs to lift cylinders and hydraulic cylinders – we can now do it all in-house.”
SEE FOR YOURSELF
Steve says that as well as elevating TMHA’s ability to import, deliver, and service its range of in-demand products, the new facility also serves as a bold statement of the company’s values, ambitions, and future plans.
“In Japanese, there’s a saying – genchi genbutsu – which roughly translates to ‘go and see for yourself’,” he says. “Our new Melbourne branch gives us the ability to bring customers in so they can see for themselves the infrastructure that we have in place, and the depth of that infrastructure.
“When they first walk in, they’ll see a wall decorated with plaques celebrating our longest-serving members of staff – so they’ll get a sense of how our employees are looked after, and the longevity of service that yields.
“And when they progress through the facility, visitors will see first-hand that we’re not a backyard operation. We’re a modern tier-one business that can deal with any material handling issue or supply need.”
INTEGRATION AND INNOVATION
As the new facility stands proudly in Dandenong South, TMHA Vice President and COO Cameron Paxton can’t help but reflect on the sheer amount of thought, planning, and passion that went into every square metre of the development.
“It’s not just a building; it’s a culmination of years of dedication, hard work, and understanding the core essence of what Toyota Material Handling Australia stands for,” Cameron explains. “The intention behind every design aspect was to create a space that seamlessly integrates our operations while innovating for the future.”
Cameron stresses the importance of proactive, forward-thinking strategy in their operations. “As we’ve witnessed over the past few years, supply chain disruptions can be unprecedented and require swift adaptability. Our new facility, with its integrated design, allows us to nimbly pivot according to market needs, making us resilient in the face of any logistical challenge.”
Sustainability, too, has been placed at the heart of the Dandenong facility. With climate concerns taking centre stage worldwide, TMHA wants to be part of the solution, not the problem.
“Incorporating eco-friendly measures was non-negotiable for us,” Cameron shares. “From rainwater harvesting systems to energy-efficient LED lighting, we’ve made every effort to reduce our carbon footprint. Our ambition is to set a benchmark for environmentally conscious operations in the material handling industry.”
But innovation and sustainability aside, Cameron consistently circles back to the theme of ‘people’. Whether it’s their customers, partners, or the heart of TMHA — its own people — the VP reiterates that their new facility is not just bricks and mortar but an emblem of commitment to those they serve.
“Our people are our greatest asset. Steve mentioned the importance of well-being, and I couldn’t agree more,” Cameron says. “Our new training programs, launched in tandem with the facility, are designed to provide our team with up-to-date skills, ensuring they remain at the forefront of the industry. The investment in our people isn’t just financial; it’s about creating a sense of belonging and pride.”
As for customer relations, the Dandenong facility’s spacious design allows for immersive experiences that were previously unimaginable.
“When our customers visit, they won’t just be observing; they’ll be experiencing,” he says. “TMHA’s offerings come to life in this facility. From hands-on trial sessions with our equipment to intricate demonstrations of our tech capabilities – we’re enabling a holistic customer journey,” he elaborates.
In speaking about the facility, it’s evident that for Cameron Paxton it’s more than just a logistical decision – it’s personal. Reflecting on his own journey with TMHA, he expresses gratitude for the collective vision that brought the facility to life.
“I remember walking through the halls of our old buildings, proud of what we had achieved. But looking at Dandenong South, there’s this overwhelming sense of pride – not just in the infrastructure, but in the collective spirit that built it,” he says. “It’s a testament to our values, to our commitment to the Australian market, and most importantly, to every individual who calls TMHA their professional home.”
What is abundantly clear, from our conversations with Steve and Cameron – and from the design of the facility itself – is that TMHA is focused on the people at the heart of materials handling.
“When I first started with TMHA nearly 27 years ago, sales were purely transactional,” Cameron says. “Customers purchased or rented a forklift, and price was arguably the most important criterion. Now, one of the biggest considerations is having a service infrastructure in place to meet their ongoing needs. This is where TMHA excels. With over 20 branches, numerous residential customer locations, and more than 500 devoted service staff, we have an unprecedented network all designed to keep Australia moving.”
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