Toyota Shares Assembly Line Expertise With Charity

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Toyota has partnered with St. Vincent De Paul in Cincinnati to help more efficiently pack and distribute Thanksgiving Day boxes. A Toyota employee volunteered during last year's handout and noticed the process could be more efficient. This year, he brought in experts from Toyota's assembly line to meet with key volunteers. They've got the packing of individual bags down to 15 seconds now.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And today's last word in business comes from Cincinnati, Ohio, where a local charity has teamed up with Toyota engineers to make their holiday food distribution more efficient.

Reporter Ann Thompson of member station WVXU has the story.

ANN THOMPSON: Volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul in Cincinnati are practicing stacking cans and putting them in reusable bags. The donation will also include fresh produce and turkeys. When they do it for real today, packing 1,000 bags, each bag can take only 11 seconds to fill. This practice session went much smoother than last year's Thanksgiving handout. That's when volunteer Kevin Thornberry noticed the process wasn't very efficient.

Mr. KEVIN THORNBERRY (Volunteer): Nothing was labeled. Nothing was marked. So you - a lot of times you have 20 or 30 people around this area bumping into each other.

THOMPSON: Thornberry is a manager at a Toyota plant just across the river in Kentucky, and he offered his company's assembly line expertise to the charity. Enter a team of Toyota experts who decide it makes much more sense if the food flow goes in one direction. Signs were installed to locate items, and worn cardboard containers were replaced with plastic crates.

St. Vincent de Paul's executive director, Liz Carter, thinks the changes are great.

Ms. LIZ CARTER (Executive Director, St. Vincent de Paul): We're a nonprofit and this isn't really necessarily our area of expertise.

THOMPSON: Senior Toyota executive Hideshi Yokoi is here to help. He's busily taping up more signs.

(Soundbite of tape)

Mr. HIDESHI YOKOI (Volunteer): We don't want people to be waiting for a long time.

THOMPSON: Toyota is making a video of the Sr. Vincent de Paul Thanksgiving handout and is encouraging its other plants to work on efficiencies at their local charities.

For NPR News, I'm Ann Thompson in Cincinnati.

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