by Warren Keckeisen, Incentives Administration Director, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.
How does a company known globally for progressive, efficient products easily transform an inefficient, straining burden into a streamlined, automated benefit?
That’s just the question we asked ourselves here at Toyota back in 2004. One of the most arduous challenges faced in recent years by Toyota’s Finance and Treasury groups was the sheer burden of paper. It’s surprising that something so simple and basic to business served as a near crippling force to our operation; however, the resources demanded to produce, distribute and manage this paper reached far and wide and had a stranglehold on our processes. This not only forced us to shoulder a hefty burden, but also served as a major distraction away from our core operations.
The situation grew to the point where it became a challenge we simply had to resolve – and quickly – in order for us to keep up with the speed of Toyota’s market growth. Initially it appeared as a daunting task: how do you eliminate a massive amount of paper in a short amount of time and turn a major burden into a significant benefit?
The challenge of paper
While the basic challenge for our group was rooted in all types of paper, the true culprit for us was the paper check. Toyota has thousands of sales professionals at over 1,400 dealers across the United States. These individuals are typically not employees of Toyota, but rather work directly for the dealerships and are agents for our company. Given the lack of direct communication auto manufacturers generally have with these sales professionals and the corresponding issues around establishing direct deposit for them, we traditionally depended on paper checks for payments to this group. For years this approach seemed like the only legitimate payment method on which we could rely. Yet despite its simplicity in concept, the use of paper proved to be incredibly complex, expensive and inefficient.