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Toyota Australia, reborn: auto giant plans post-manufacturing tech-driven future

George Nott | Feb. 10, 2017
With its manufacturing operating ending in October, the company is preparing for a rebirth says CIO Ellis Brover.

"The challenge for us is that we need to be able to work with this diverse landscape of back-end systems out there and yet try to produce a consistently outstanding guest experience," Brover explains.

The vision is what marketers often call a 'seamless customer experience', which will work something like as follows:

An individual is browsing the Toyota website at home on a device and choose a car they are keen on. They build an online 3D model to their own specifications - picking out the colour and seat material and accessories, and get a quote. When they go to their local dealership, the dealer has all their preferences (currently that information is "essentially lost" says Brover), ready-loaded on the already deployed big-screen kiosks, and then takes them on a customised test drive.

The experience continues after-sale too.

When booking a service customers will be able to book at the dealership closest to their work, for example, which might not be the same one they bought their vehicle from. A phone app will integrate with their calendar to find an available time that best suits.

"Then you drive up, your numberplate is recognised, they know who you are and welcome you," Brover explains, "they've got the paperwork ready to sign, or rather an iPad, and then off you go."

Making this possible requires some complex integration of a diverse range of systems.

"What we're doing essentially is working out which parts of that experience we believe are really unique to Toyota and need to be a particular way to make us the best. How do we make sure those things, that are delivered through systems that we're providing or that we're controlling, interface seamlessly to the back-end systems the dealerships are using? So they're not re-keying information and not updating systems and having to produce reports?"

Although this kind of seamless experience has been mastered by some in the retail sector, the automotive industry is still "catching up" Brover says.

"But we don't think that other automotive manufacturers are already doing this to any great extent. We are blazing a bit of a trail but it's a very competitive industry and we won't be alone for long," he adds.

In with the old

When the Altona plant ends its operations later this year and the last Australian-made Toyota, a Camry, rolls of the line, around 100 IT systems will need to be decommissioned.

"That process isn't as simple as turning off a bunch of switches and getting rid of servers," Brover explains.

Huge amounts of data will need to be retained, both for statutory reasons and for continuing business operations. In some cases that data will need to be reformatted so it can still be used by other systems, in other cases new systems will need to be built.


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