On Wednesday afternoon last week, Toyota Australia announced the date on which workers would down tools at its Altona plant. October 3 will mark the end of more than five decades of Toyota vehicle manufacture on these shores.
There is no single reason for Toyota's decision - made back in 2014 - to pull local production. An unfavourable dollar rate, high operating costs, low economies of scale, a fragmented market and the effect of free trade agreements were all contributing factors, the company said.
But this is not the end of the road for Toyota in Australia.
As CIO Ellis Brover explains: "We're treating this as a once in 50 year opportunity to set up a new company from the ground up, the way we want it to be."
The morning following the announcement, Brover speaks to CIO Australia from Toyota's Melbourne offices. Brover has spent close to 15 years at Toyota Australia, working his way up the executive ranks after starting with the company as a software architect.
The change brought about by the end of manufacturing is "huge", he says. But the mood on his floor today, given the circumstances, is positive.
"It's actually quite an exciting time," he says. "I don't want that to sound trite. Obviously there's a lot of people with serious impact to their lives, but for those of us who are staying with the company, it's also a bit of a once in a career opportunity to really influence how a new company of this size is going to be set up and work."
The firm's strategy now is to become a "national sales and distribution company". Inevitably, that means a dramatic reduction in its workforce - from 3,900 to around 1,300 including the consolidation of its Sydney corporate offices into its Melbourne headquarters. It also requires a new approach.
"We're taking the opportunity of this massive change to really rethink how we do everything," Brover says.
Guests without guesswork
Central to the rebirth is a concept known internally as Franchise of the Future, and with it the creation of an exceptional experience for Toyota guests (the company's term for its customers).
"The basic approach is that by focusing on making that guest experience outstanding, business success will follow. Rather than the traditional way in the automotive industry, focusing on numbers and volumes, obviously they're definitely important to the business, but we believe that by getting the guest experience right the volumes will follow," Brover says.
Toyota's 200 plus local dealerships are privately owned and independent. Unlike many other franchising organisations, a corporate system is not imposed on dealers, who are free to choose whichever IT systems work best for them.
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