Back in 2014, Toyota Logistics Services (TLS) decided to move the export operations of its Highlander car from the port of Baltimore to the Georgia Port Authority’s (GPA) facility in Savannah.
The transition from one port to the other had to be completed in just 60 days. To further complicate matters, while Savannah had a long track record of shipping other automakers’ vehicles, the facility didn’t have the processing capabilities – such as car washing, undercoating, and tow hook installation – that Toyota required.

Working in close coordination with TLS and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL), GPA managed to pull it off.

“To do all of that in just two months is absolutely unheard of,” says Corinne Akahoshi, the senior manager of export and marine strategy and operations at TLS. “GPA and WWL are full partners in this operation. We would not have been able to do this without them.”

Establishing expectations
That sounds like the end of this story. But Toyota operates on the principle that there is no best, only ever better, so it’s actually just the beginning. Rather than simply thank GPA, WWL, and its other partners at the port for their exemplary performance, TLS sought to build on these business relationships by hosting a two-day training event in Savannah. The content? An introduction to Toyota Traditions and the Toyota Production System, similar to the orientation provided to new team members hired by Toyota.
The objective, says Akahoshi, was to make it clear what Toyota would ask of its new partners going forward based on the principle of kaizen, or continuous improvement.
“We wanted them to understand why we would come back to them again and again and request that they make changes,” she says. “Most people know Toyota is a successful company. They think we’ve always been successful. But when they learn about our early history, it’s an eye opener. They see that it’s our core values that have brought us from very humble beginnings to where we are today.”
Joanne Naylor, customer care manager for corporate accounts at WWL, was among the 65 people who participated in the training and came away impressed.

“It was a really good two days,” she says. “The more we learn about how Toyota manufactures its vehicles and the care it takes to get them to their final destination, the more we want to do our part. That was the primary takeaway: that we’re all working together toward the same goal.”

Akahoshi at Toyota Logistic Services adds: “These really are partnerships. It’s not about us simply telling them what to do. Our message to them is this: ‘You’re a part of the Toyota family and we want you to understand who we are and where we’ve come from.’ It’s that mind-set that sets us apart.”