Toyota workers need to be team-oriented

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

BLUE SPRINGS – Ray Tanguay knows a thing or two about the Corolla, the car that Toyota Mississippi will build next year.
He knows what it takes to build them – and he also knows who it takes.
Toyota workers – “team members” in Toyota-speak – don’t need any particularly special skills.
But, Tanguay said, “We are looking for those who like working in a team setting and who are flexible. We also want people who not only can identify a problem, but also offer solutions.”
Tanguay, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada and executive vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, or TEMA, has been there since 1991. The plant began producing the Corolla in 1988.
Needless to say, Tanguay and Toyota Canada will be playing an important role in helping train workers at Toyota Mississippi.
While Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky – Toyota’s first U.S. plant – will be the “mother plant” for TMMMS, employees and managers in Canada will be lending a big hand, Tanguay said.
“My role is to share the experiences and knowledge to keep doing the process here,” he said. “There are no secrets.”
David Copenhaver, the vice president of administration at Toyota Mississippi, said “anybody can apply” for jobs with the company.
“We don’t care if you have manufacturing experience or not,” he said. “In West Virginia, 85 percent of the people there had never been in a manufacturing environment.”
Toyota employees need to be contributors, and open-minded, he added.
“You’ll like challenges and solving problems.”
Tanguay said not everybody is comfortable with the culture at Toyota – which is why the automaker casts a wide net to attract workers.
In fact, when Toyota announced in 2007 it was building the Blue Springs plant, officials estimated that 70,000 to 80,000 people would apply for the 2,000 jobs.
This time, with unemployment hovering in double digits – it was 12 percent in April in Northeast Mississippi, compared to 10.7 percent statewide – about 100,000 are expected to apply.
Toyota said hiring will begin later this year, with details about the process to be announced in a few weeks.
“We’re working with the WIN Job Centers and very shortly we will be very public about when that system will be up and running,” said Barbara McDaniel, manager of government relations and corporate affairs for TEMA.
The plant initially will employ about 1,000 people – most of whom will be hourly production workers. Ten to 15 percent will be salaried employees.
At full capacity, when the plant can deliver 150,000 vehicles on an annual basis, employment will reach about 2,000.
Copenhaver said that should happen in early 2012.
As for what workers will be making, McDaniel said starting wages will be $15 an hour and go up to $21 an hour.
The prevailing manufacturing wage in Northeast Mississippi is about $13 an hour.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.