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Toyo's Hawk: Consolidation to improve distribution, fill rates

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LAS VEGAS—Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.'s reorganization earlier this year into seven business units worldwide resulted in the promotion of James L. Hawk, a 40-plus-year tire industry veteran, to chairman of Toyo Tire Holdings America Inc., an entity that oversees all of Toyo's operations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

At the same time, Toyo also named Noriyuki Dan as president of Toyo Tire Holdings, replacing Takashi Shimizu, who returned to Japan where he assumed Mr. Dan's previous position as general manager of Toyo's tire business unit and administrative department.

Interviewed at the Toyo booth during the recent SEMA Show, Mr. Hawk said the idea behind the consolidation “is to give North America more autonomy to develop our own products and synergies between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.”

Mr. Hawk continues as president of Toyo Tire North America, which is Toyo's U.S. manufacturing company in White, Ga. He also serves as a senior corporate officer of Toyo in Japan.

Previously Toyo was like a lot of companies, he said, in that it had a number of satellite sales organizations reporting back to the home office.

“So in our case it was not efficient, because we had Canada, U.S. and Mexican sales operations independently report back to Japan,” he said. “So we consolidated all that under a North America business unit.”

Mr. Hawk said a key objective behind the consolidation is to develop synergies among these previously independent organizations, with the ultimate goal of improving customer service, including distribution and fill rates.

This effort also includes new product development, an area where Mr. Hawk said he has been working on starting up a development center at the Georgia facility over the past four years for passenger and light truck tires.

The new products the company showcased at SEMA, for example, were developed there.

“We still rely on Japan for the real basic and very detailed research and development,” he said, “but the products from North America are very unique to the rest of the world. We're a huge light truck market, and you don't see that much in the rest of the world.”

Development work for Toyo's medium truck tires continues to be driven from Japan.

Asked about progress at the White plant, Mr. Hawk said it has seen steady production capacity growth since beginning tire manufacturing in October 2005.

The highly automated facility, which initially had capacity of 1.5 million tires a year, now is producing 4.7 million Toyo- and Nitto-brand tires annually following two expansions.

The plant features Toyo's Automated Tire Operating Module (ATOM) manufacturing system and still has room to grow.

“The nice thing about the ATOM process is we can grow incrementally,” Mr. Hawk said. “It's very modular by design. We don't have to build a 40,000 or 50,000 (unit per day) tire plant and then go look for business.”

Mr. Hawk joined Toyo in December 2004, coming from Yokohama Tire Corp. where he was vice president of manufacturing. In 2008 he was named president of Toyo Tire North America Manufacturing as well as a corporate officer for the parent company, the first American so appointed.

Prior to his time at Yokohama, he spent 23 years at Continental General Tire (now Continental Tire the Americas), also in manufacturing.

Mr. Hawk is based at Toyo's facility in Georgia.
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