Toyota works with MBE TechSoft Systems
“Our industry is very competitive, but when we
come to the table as supplier diversity leaders we’re
working toward the same purpose.” – Adrienne Trimble
'Toyota’s formal supplier diversity effort actually began when we started building vehicles in the U.S. in 1986,” says Adrienne Trimble, supplier diversity manager for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America. “Ever since we started production we’ve had some sort of diversity initiative, and it became a formalized process in 1989.”
Toyota doesn’t think of its supplier diversity connections as a “program,” though. “We call it a ‘process,’ and the foundation of our supplier diversity process is our policy statement that holds good throughout the organization as well as with our supply base.”
The company’s policy includes measurable goals to ensure accountability, and requires senior management support and involvement. Other components include companywide awareness, accountability for tier 1 suppliers and a formal tier 2 program, as well as cultivating and enhancing relationships with current and potential suppliers.
“Our commitment to diversity recognizes the importance of developing a supply base that reflects our customers and team members,” Trimble declares. “We believe diversity provides
a path to our long-term business success.”
There’s a relatively informal mentoring program. “We have a dedicated group to mentor and develop Toyota’s minority suppliers, monitor their shop-floor conditions and work with them to improve production at their locations,” Trimble reports.
“We also identify and work with businesses we would like to see become Toyota suppliers in the near future. We work with our local minority business councils and participate in their mentoring activities.”
Working with key councils
Toyota works with several key regional councils, affiliates of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC): the South Central Ohio Minority Supplier Development
Council (MSDC); the Kentucky-based Tri-State MSDC; the Michigan MSDC; the Texas-based Southwest MSDC, and the Southern California MSDC. “Those include the markets where Toyota has the largest U.S. presence,” Trimble says. She’s on the board of the Michigan,
Ohio and Texas councils.
TechSoft Systems is also on the councils
Clifford A. Bailey is president and CEO of TechSoft Systems (Cincinnati, OH), a Toyota MBE IT consultant. He’s also chair of the MBE input committee of the South Central Ohio MSDC. There are, he explains, thirty-seven MSDCs as part of the NMSDC, each with its own MBE minority business enterprise input committee and committee chair. “Our role is to be the voice of the regional minority business community, and report back to the local council and the national MBE input committee,” says Bailey. He’s also on the board of the South Central Ohio MSDC.
Toyota supports WBENC and is a member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable. “We have a variety of methods to reach diverse suppliers,” Trimble notes with pride. Toyota was inducted to the roundtable in 2005, and “We’ve been able to maintain a billion dollars of spend with MBEs and WBEs every year since.”
To be counted as part of Toyota’s supplier diversity process, a diverse supplier must demonstrate a valid certification with an NMSDC or WBENC affiliate.
Founding TechSoft Systems
TechSoft Systems was started in 1983 by Bailey, a ChE from Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, AL) who began with Procter & Gamble (P&G, Cincinnati, OH) as a product engineer. “I was there for three and a half years,” he says. “While working at Procter I saw the proliferation of personal computers and the need to effectively integrate them into the workplace. Seeing that, I decided to pursue the opportunity while it was new.”
Back then, desktop computers were just beginning to make it into the business world. And Bailey, as a product engineer, had the background to research the burgeoning IT industry
“and focus on where the true opportunities were. I saw that if there ever was a time to test
it that was it, and I decided to go for it!”
For several years Bailey and some others worked at the new company nights and weekends after their regular jobs. “I went into it full time in January 1987,” he recalls. “I bought the others out in 1988.”
“We continue to grow,” Bailey reports. “Our technology abilities and capabilities permit us to deliver services as a global enterprise.
“Today we can remotely monitor a client’s server anywhere around the world; in the past someone had to physically go there. That gives us the opportunity to have greater reach,
a larger number of clients and better revenues.
“We have, for example, managed 400 servers around the world for one client.”
Sometimes, Bailey adds, “We will partner with organizations that have particular strengths that we lack, if the opportunity is part of our core business. When we do, we look for MBEs and we look at major corporations that are members of NMSDC and its affiliates. It’s a primary business networking tool for us.”
Working with Toyota
Around 2000, TechSoft Systems began providing IT staffing services and staff augmentation
to Toyota, and in 2002 it became a preferred vendor in a direct relationship with Toyota.
“Today we are supplying peripherals and cost-effective computer hardware and some software,” Bailey says. “We’re not doing staffing today but we do provide support like helpdesk services when necessary.”
The larger vision
The reselling of computers and computer-related equipment is a relatively young division of TechSoft Systems but, as Trimble notes, “Clifford had the foresight to start thinking about this earlier because he had a vision of how it could expand beyond contracts with individual corporations to a much larger scale.”
“We see it as a natural addition,” says Bailey. “We’re going to provide organizations like Toyota with innovative solutions they haven’t seen in the past. Toyota has even introduced me to other organizations that have listened to what we have to say. It helps when someone from Toyota makes the call and says, ‘Here’s what we’re doing with TechSoft; here’s what we think you ought to consider.’”
Working with the same purpose
“The automotive industry is very competitive in terms of market share and technology and things of that nature,” says Trimble. “But when we come to the table as supplier diversity leaders we’re working toward the same purpose.”
Trimble herself is a member and former past president of NMSDC’s automotive industry
group, which brings key diverse suppliers together and introduces them to other automotive companies, “That gives the suppliers the opportunity to network and build business relationships,” she explains.
More work for TechSoft Systems
Besides the auto industry, TechSoft Systems has worked with the healthcare industry and expects to be supplying services to the financial industry before long. Very different industries, “But what we’re offering is common to them all,” Bailey explains. “I think we can spend a considerable amount of time on those three industries and still have much to do.”
But TechSoft Systems will always have a special relationship with Toyota, Bailey believes. “They have been one of our strongest advocates, in the forefront of TechSoft Systems’ development.”
Toyota sponsored Bailey for two separate programs at the Kellogg School of Management,
and Bailey thought it was great. “I am a lifelong learner,” he says. “I’m focused on learning
as much as I can and as often as I can and applying what I know.”
Recently Toyota brought Bailey into the NMSDC “Centers of Excellence” program. Toyota
was module leader for the South Central Ohio MSDC business module, which involved inviting established minority suppliers like TechSoft Systems to meet with corporate participants. The aim is to help strengthen corporate supplier diversity practices.
Both participants agree that Toyota and TechSoft Systems are in a great relationship that is going in an interesting direction. “We’re very pleased,” says Trimble; “I’m ecstatic with the relationship,” Bailey concurs.