Do you love to learn how things work? I recently found out that ‘learning’ is actually one of my strengths. That explains a lot. Naturally, when I was invited to the Storyteller’s Tour of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas (TMMTX) in San Antonio, Texas, I couldn’t refuse! While TMMTX has been manufacturing Tundras in San Antonio since November 2006 (and Tacomas since 2010) and I’ve driven by the plant many times, I had never been inside or on the grounds. I was excited to get to learn more about how Toyota produced over 1 million trucks in just seven years.
Storyteller’s Tour of TMMTX
Why was Toyota hosting a group of journalists to a Storyteller’s Tour of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas (TMMTX)? Toyota was the title sponsor of the 30th anniversary National Association Hispanic Journalist (NAHJ) convention held in San Antonio. The the tour allowed the storytellers behind-the-scenes access to Toyota’s manufacturing processes and its community engagement in San Antonio. We also had the opportunity to test ride a Tacoma with NASCAR Mexico Series champion Germán Quiroga, Jr.
“We are extremely proud of our engagement with the local San Antonio community and we were pleased to share this local involvement with the journalists attending NAHJ,” said Patricia Salas Pineda, group vice president of Hispanic Business Strategy Group, Toyota Motor North America. “Toyota is honored to be the number one auto brand for U.S. Latinos since 2004 and this was a perfect opportunity to showcase our San Antonio plant with Hispanic journalists from across the country.”
Claro, I cannot divulge all the details of the inside of the 2 million square feet plant. We were not allowed to take photos inside the plant nonetheless, learning about Toyota’s world-renowned manufacturing process was impressive. We learned about ‘Godzilla’ – their specialty robot that moves the trucks from one level to the next with incredible precision; the ergonomic-friendly work space; Toyota’s undeniable commitment to safety; and Japanese influence of Kaizen philosophy – constant improvement.
Community and STEM Education
After seeing where the Tundras and Tacomas were manufactured, we had an informative presentation and Q & A session about the Toyota processes and TMMTX in the community. TMMTX is Toyota’s 1st North American plant to have production facilities for many of its suppliers on the same campus. There are 21 onsite suppliers, 7 minority joint ventures including 6 locally owned. Four of those suppliers make up Los 4 Compadres. Four San Antonio-based Hispanic business men – Herbierto Guerra, Max Navarro, Frank Herrera and Fernando Reyes – were sought out by Toyota to become Tier 1 suppliers for TMMTX. This was part of Toyota’s commitment to investing in local and minority business owners.
Here are other quick facts about TMMTX Commitment to Community:
- Currently, TMMTX community focus is on education and workforce development. More than 75% of TMMTX’s effort in the community is focused on bettering the neighborhoods and city of San Antonio through investment in area schools.
- In 2013 TMMTX contributed both money and technology to school districts and colleges in San Antonio with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
- Among numerous STEM initiatives, Team members from the plant take part in classroom projects such as FIRST Robotics, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber Core4 STEM Conference and university programs that promote engineering studies.
- Team members are actively involved in the community and are encouraged by TMMTX to give time to better the community in which they live and work. Community based organizations such as Susan G. Komen, Street to Feet, Bibliotech, United Way, Centro Med Clinic and many more have benefited from both monetary and voluntary contributions by Team members over the years.
- In Texas, Toyota has contributed more than $15 million to organizations, including: American Heart Association, Boys & Girls Clubs (Greater Houston, Dallas and SA – Eastside Branch); El Centro del Barrio; FIRST Robotics; PreK 4 SA; and UTSA.
As an advocate for Latinos in tech and education, this was great news to hear. The workforce at TMMTX reflects the population of San Antonio in that 63% of their workforce is Hispanic. The investment in these schools is, in part, an investment in Hispanic students. We met students who have benefited directly from these donations like the BiblioTech Student Team, South San Antonio HS Robotics Team and the Southwest High School Electrical Engineer Team including one student from Southwest High School whose success with the team led her all the way to the White House. TMMTX also hires local high school students for summer jobs and the Toyota engineers serve as mentors to these students.
Tacoma Test Ride with a NASCAR Champion
We didn’t leave TMMTX without a bit more fun. We got to meet one more Toyota family member – NASCAR Mexico Series champion Germán Quiroga. Germán is the driver of the No. 77 Otterbox / Net10 Wireless Toyota Tundra in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Currently he is fourth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standing marking the first time in history that a Mexican-born driver has been in the top-five in points and any of NASCAR’s top three series. Before treating some of us to a test ride in the Toyota Tacoma, he shared his personal triumphant story with us. Besides the exciting ride, what I remembered most about Germán were his words:
I’m grateful I had the experience of the Storyteller’s Tour because I learned about excellence, commitment, and the Kaizen philosophy. I also glimpses of what this company is doing for San Antonio and the Latino community. From choosing San Antonio as the Tundra/Tacoma manufacturing site to demanding local-owned suppliers like Los 4 Compadres to tripling the number of Hispanic-owned Toyota and Lexus dealers since 2000, it’s clear that Toyota’s commitment to connecting with the Hispanic community is a priority. With a constant improvement philosophy, I’ll keep an eye on what Toyota does next.
Connect with @ToyotaLatino on Twitter and follow the hashtag #VayamosJuntos.