Case study: Toyota fleet management system gathers global fork-lift truck data remotely

Toyota Material Handling Europe develops operational data management system that monitors and controls fork-lift trucks globally

Toyota Material Handling Europe has developed an operational fleet management system that monitors and controls fork-lift trucks globally. The system, which the company uses at its manufacturing plants in Sweden, France and Italy, and offers as service to its customers, is built using Microsoft technology.

It won two awards in the Computer Weekly European User Awards for Enterprise Software – one as the best private sector entry, the other for best of show.

CIO Håkan Borglund (pictured) describes the Toyota I_Site service as “a fleet management system, which is very interesting especially if you have a big fleet of fork-lift trucks”. 

He says its business intelligence functionality is built into the application, into the business logic: “You can have triggers for various things. For example, if a truck touches something and that suggests goods are damaged, you can see details about the event: when it happened, who was driving. It can indicate what training is needed for the driver. It is really alive. It is not something you download once a month.”

Black box gathers data for analysis

At the heart of the system is a black box on a fork-lift truck. Toyota I_Site collects data from the fork-lift truck, transmits the data to a central database using wireless technology and the regular mobile networks, without the need to install software or hardware. The data can then be analysed over a web interface.

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“Originally, we wanted to predict when service was needed for the trucks – that then enabled other functions, such as safety,” says Borglund. “It is a global system, and can be deployed anywhere using a mobile network, including in our own factories.”

Toyota Material Handling Europe's fleet management system is designed to address the problems material handling companies experience in optimising their truck fleets, improving the logistics process and reducing overall energy consumption.

The division makes Toyota fork-lift trucks and BT warehouse equipment – industrial equipment for material handling. Toyota acquired BT in 2000. As well as the three European factories, it has sales and marketing companies in 30 countries.

IT and business relationships

Borglund, who is based in Sweden, runs an IT department of 200, consisting of two teams – information systems and IT infrastructure.

The information systems team has a business relationship management structure, with a business systems manager for each process. “We have close co-operation with the business,” says Borglund. “I am glad that we have that. It works well as a set-up.”

The I_Site system, built on Microsoft’s .Net framework, is now in its third version. Borglund confirms it is being used in the company’s own factories and that there are some 10,000 black boxes beaming back data from fork-lift trucks worldwide.

"We have a fair mix of standard and custom-built systems," he says. "M3 is our ERP [enterprise resource planning], which is standard. But we are not afraid to build things ourselves.”

Borglund, who came to Toyota from the airline industry, says the KPI-driven service culture of that industry has informed his work at the Japan-based automotive company, which is well known for its culture of continuous improvement – the "Toyota Way".

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