PLANO, Texas — The glass is up on two buildings at Toyota’s half-built North American corporate campus. One parking structure is about to come online, and a new crew of builders soon will move inside the structures to prepare them for the thousands of workers moving in next year.
In temporary offices nearby, four brands of office furniture are being tested by employees who have set up shop, with balloons flying over desktops announcing new arrivals ready for onboarding.
Toyota’s Plano plot is beginning to look like a world-class corporate campus as it emerges from the dusty construction site just north of Dallas in anticipation of a migration of employees from the old headquarters in Southern California and from offices in Kentucky and New York.
Internally, the new HQ is referred to as One Toyota.
“By bringing us all together, this positions us to be competitive and innovate for the next 50 years,” said Steven Curtis, vice president of corporate communications for Toyota Motor North America. “That was the directive that [Toyota President] Akio Toyoda gave to our North American CEO, Jim Lentz.”
“Make the journey’
Lentz announced the move back in April 2014, settling on Plano as a place to consolidate the far-flung North American operations, not only because of its business-friendly tax policies and relatively low cost of living but also because it was entirely new territory for Toyota, a place where there would be no incumbent workers with an upper hand over newcomers.
At the time, Lentz said he was eager to avoid disruptions and personnel losses like those Nissan experienced when it moved its North American headquarters to Tennessee from Southern California in 2006.
Toyota offered all its workers retention and relocation packages. For the sake of continuity, those who elected not to move were given bonuses for staying on through the transition. And while Toyota was prepared for some attrition, it made clear that it wasn’t seeking to cut head count through the move.
“We’ve told everyone, if you want a job with us, you will have a job in Plano,” Lentz told Automotive News in a May 2015 interview.
To entice those on the fence, the company invited all the affected employees to check out North Texas living with their families, expenses paid. About 75 percent of the 4,000 eligible employees have indicated in surveys that they are open to the move.
“We want people to make the journey with us,” Curtis said.
Test-driving the furniture
Toyota is approaching the task of joining three parts of the company on a new single campus — a project that will cost more than $1 billion, including relocation and construction costs — in a characteristically methodical way. Call it the Toyota way.
“We announced it over two years ago, so we’ve taken full advantage of that timeline not to just develop the facilities that capture these values but also, we think, how we conduct business as a company,” Curtis said.
Take the furniture. The 500 or so Toyota workers in temporary offices in Plano are trying out desks and chairs and shared work areas from prominent vendors to find out what works best for different groups.
There are standing desks, sitting desks, desks that are just flat tables and others with drawers. They come in a range of looks, from a red-green-white combination to upscale-looking wood grain. They have front dividers or side dividers or some combination to mark space between workers — or no dividers at all.
There are even stand-up desks on treadmills for workers who want to hit their daily step goals along with their deadlines.
The same on-the-job testing goes for collaborative work areas that Toyota expects to make up about 50 percent of the workspace. Some look conventional, others like a booth at a diner. There are quiet rooms with no phones, break areas for casual meetings and comfy conference pods.
“We could move our people to Texas to a new facility, but that’s not going to guarantee that we become more collaborative,” said Javier Moreno, manager of external affairs and communications for Toyota Motor North America and one of the early arrivals in Plano. The new campus is designed to make sure of it.
“What’s really neat about it — even though when you look at it on a rendering it might look really large because 100 acres is a lot of space — the way that it’s been designed is so focused on keeping everybody connected that you can actually get from any building to any other building without going outside,” he said.
Outside, however, you will find an expansive sunken courtyard with native plants, Texas limestone and communal areas to collaborate in the shade.
The nonwork areas of the campus also are extensive.
One Toyota, made up of 11 buildings including parking garages, will have a main dining center with lots of choices, a medical clinic, a pharmacy, a convenience store, a two-story gym and perhaps a rock-climbing wall for those who might miss the topography of Los Angeles or Kentucky. There also will be a jogging track near the water-retention pond.
More than 50 percent of the construction timeline has already been achieved, Toyota said.
By the end of 2016, about 800 employees will be in temporary offices, with Toyota leasing more space than originally planned. By mid-2017, the big move will start and by year end, it should be completed, company executives said.
As would be appropriate for a car company headquarters, there will be close to 7,000 parking spaces, massive service bays in the Toyota Quality Center and a low-speed test track. A vehicle delivery center will manage a fleet of several hundred vehicles for use by executives, the press and others.
Brent Strong, senior project manager with developer KDC, said underground tunnels have been constructed as a basement loop for delivery and logistics.
There will be significant use of solar panels to help power the corporate campus, which is seeking a top-level sustainability certification.
Strong said the first parking structure to go into service shortly will be used for the vehicles of the 1,500 or so construction workers now on the site; the number will surge to just over 2,000 in the summer as the interiors are fashioned.
An intense Texas storm season this year hasn’t significantly set the project back, and with most of the heavy structural work behind them, the small army of workers on site continues to assemble the pieces of the puzzle.
It’s not One Toyota yet, but it’s 0.5 or so and counting.