How a Car Company Helped Philadelphia’s Largest Hunger Relief Organization Double Its Pace

With a little know-how and the right connections, minor tweaks to a nonprofit’s systems and set-up can lead to huge changes. This is precisely what happens when Philabundance, the largest hunger relief nonprofit in Philadelphia teamed up with a major car company.

Toyota has a nonprofit corporation called the Toyota Production System Support System (TSSC) affiliated with Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. and headquartered in Erlanger, Kentucky. Most nonprofits have no idea that this entity exists, but it’s been around for more than two decades and is taking its automotive expertise and sharing it with other completely unrelated industries.

For the past 20 years, TSSC has connected with over 200 small and mid-sized nonprofits, government agencies, and manufacturers working fields like hunger relief, healthcare, and disaster recovery. For nonprofits, the outcome has been more productive operations, maximized resources, and improved quality.

So back to Philadelphia, the nonprofit Philabundance has around 750,000 people in its service area who face hunger every day. With a network or about 350 member agencies, the group feeds 90,000 people per week on average.

By working with TSSC, Philabundance has been able to double its pace and better serve hungry residents of the city. To do this TSSC professionals join nonprofits on the “shop floor” to see exactly how they operate and collaborate to find improvements. The most important thing that TSSC shared with Philabundance was how to improve order accuracy for its clients in a few key ways.

The local nonprofit has cited a shift in mindset towards Toyota’s famed “continuous improvement” principle and put this to use to establish a more efficient work flow, especially around retrieving the most requested items. It's also committed to using color-coded pallets to streamline and improve deliveries. Another lesson learned was how to rework the daily truck loading directions for more efficient use of time and space.

TSSC has 15 full-time advisors who travel around North America on a weekly basis to push forward about 50 projects per year. Toyota says that this is just good business because it learns from its partners, and the positive PR certainly doesn’t hurt either.

James Bonini is the vice president of TSSC and worked directly with Stacey Behr, the director of business process improvement for Philabundance. Earlier this month, Bonini led a workshop at the Net Impact conference called, “Doing More with Less: Driving Change with the Toyota Production System,” at the Philadelphia Convention Center. In the workshop, attendees learned how to surface and solve problems in real time in a complex world with too little time and too few resources. In short, Toyota-branded concepts are being pitched to nonprofits to make a bigger impact with little to work with.

Check out TSSC’s nonprofit page to learn more about whether a partnership like this one with Philabundance might be a good fit. This is certainly an interesting example of how corporations can give back while also improving their image and bottom line. Services provided by the corporate supporter include onsite workplace support, workshops to learn about Toyota’s philosophy, management systems, and technical tools, and customized training options.