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What’s a typical day like as JTEKT Toyoda Americas Corporation’s product manager of special purpose machines — and the leading expert on the award winning Gear Skiving Horizontal Machining Centers?
Let’s start by explaining what a special purpose machine is. Special purpose machines are not necessarily industry-specific, like automotive grinding machines, but instead are machines designed with a particular product in mind. This includes Toyoda’s GS300H, GS700H, and our newest, most compact model, the GS200H. The division was conceptualized by combining the mechanical implementations and control strategies found on the GC20 grinding machine for camshafts, the GF50 grinding machine for crankshafts, and the FH500J Horizontal Machining Center. My whole career has been intimately involved in manufacturing. I came to Toyoda as a service engineer — replacing a customer’s machine components, improving processes, or writing new programs. Now as product manager for special purpose machines, I work intensively with customers to match them with their ideal CNC solution setting them up for maximum profitability.
Tell us about winning the 2017 Automotive News PACE Award for the High-Speed Axis Synchronization technology on the Gear Skiving Horizontal Machining Centers. How did you come to be included in the nominations?
The PACE Awards recognize technologies that are basically game changers to the automotive industry for both the consumer and the manufacturer. In 2017, there were hundreds of applicants, which were then narrowed down to 32 finalists. Judges from the PACE panel visited each of the finalists, which provided Toyoda with the fantastic opportunity of really diving into the unique mechanics of our submission, showing first-hand our enthusiasm and excitement for this innovation, and showcasing the technology supporting our machine that makes profitable high-speed axis synchronization a reality. This past year, in April 2017, Toyoda was announced as one of 11 winners, the first machine tool builder in nearly two decades to be nominated for the award! The overall process was truly amazing, emotional, and quite the experience! We really are honored to have our hat in the ring with other big automotive game changers. Gear skiving is a perfectly coordinated process that takes a high level of synchronization. It’s almost like an orchestra, if the woodwinds are a little flat or sharp; they’re going to make the whole band sound terrible, right? With gear skiving, every component on the machine has to work in harmony with every other component. Toyoda released the gear skiving machine to the market at IMTS 2016 but we really started this journey in 1986 with camshaft grinding. Our fundamental software and electronic components that make skiving possible have been under constant development literally for the last 30 years now. With the latest iteration of our control technology, it made gear skiving really, really attractive. Toyoda’s innovation combines cutting processes, like gear cutting, chamfering, milling, turning, and deburring, typically spread amongst several different machines, into one compact and powerful machine. This saves our customers money not only in the number of machines needed to produce a part, but in training, servicing the machine, spare parts inventory, man power, and shop floor real estate. This is the game changer for our customers.
What products and services does Toyoda Americas offer?
Toyoda’s lineup includes horizontal and vertical machining centers, cylindrical grinding mills, lathes, gear skiving horizontal machining centers, bridge mills, gantry mills, horizontal boring mills, automation solutions, and more.
Aside from receiving the prestigious PACE award, what are some of the corporation’s proudest moments?
Anybody who’s ever played on a team knows that there are a lot of people, besides the ones who score the points, who contribute to a victory. I haven’t been at Toyoda as long as others, so I asked my VP, ‘What are some of our proudest moments?’ He was really stumped and that speaks to that team mentality. Anytime Toyoda wins a big order, the whole corporation lights up; it spreads like wildfire. That is what we consider a proud moment. The PACE award really showcased that team mentality, bringing together applications, marketing, sales, upper management, facilities, to bring forth the best Toyoda has to offer in innovation — a great example of what we’re trying to accomplish with day-to-day sales.
What sets Toyoda apart when it comes to what you can offer a customer?
Simply put? Service and support. Toyoda machines are backed by an unparalleled team of service experts each with a unique set of specializations which is atypical to the industry where everyone is expected to be an expert on everything. This unique feature allows our customers to receive a higher level of expertise for their problem. Also, supporting our customers is a huge team of product experts with access to over $26 million in inventory, on the shelf, in America, right now, including parts our customers may need on antiquated equipment.
Where do you see the company in the next 10 years?
Toyoda customers love their machines because they’re so dependable and have proven time and time again to have a less expensive cost of ownership when compared to lower-quality machines. It’s the reliability behind our product, the technologies we patent, and the Toyoda team as a whole that continues to make our customers money and ultimately makes Toyoda machines great investments. In the next 10 years, I see Toyoda taking more of the market share by continuing to raise these expectations, pushing industry standards.