We like to think of Columbus as a small but world-class city rich in talented people who in many regards compete at an elite level.
The latest living proof is Kim Douglass, an associate at Toyota Material Handling’s Columbus plant, who last month traveled to an international competition in Takahama, Japan. She returned an international champion in the assembly category in Toyota Material Handling Group’s Global Skills Competition.
After taking part in TMH’s internal skills competition, Douglass won the right to compete in Japan by beating other US competitors from The Raymond Corp. In the international event, Douglass was victorious over top competitors from China, France, Italy and Sweden as well as other US participants from Raymond.
As if her victory alone wasn’t cause enough for celebration back home, it also marked the first time a woman had ever placed in the TMH global skills contest. Recognizing her accomplishments, the local plant declared a Kim Douglass Day recently in her honor.
A Toyota spokesman observed that Douglass approached the competition with respect and humility, in line with the company’s core values, and you could sense that after she talked about the experience and what it meant to her personally and professionally. She said she was surprised she won and was quick to credit others for her accomplishment.
“One of the things I realized when we went through the tour in Takahama was there were not many women on the lines,” she said. “So the fact that we’re showing everyone that women can do it – it’s awesome.”
That takes some commitment, and the company said part of its continuous improvement plan pertains to including more women in roles that traditionally have been dominated by men.
“Kim’s achievement is more than just a win for TMH or even for Toyota; it’s a win for all women in the material handling industry,” said Tracy Stachniak, TMH vice president of human resources, training and development. “We are committed to supporting and promoting diversity and inclusion in every way we can. Kim’s gold medal says one thing loud and clear — women can do it, too.”
But even though she had been with the company for 13 years, she said entering was a big step.
“The big thing I learned through this whole experience is just not to be afraid,” Douglass said. “I never entered the skills competition before out of fear. I didn’t know what to expect, so I didn’t do it. Ultimately, I decided to go for it because I feel like I’m good at assembly and felt like if I didn’t try, I was going to regret it. I’m so happy I did. I’m going to apply that mindset to other parts of my life and continue to take chances on myself.”
That’s some world-class advice. Congratulations to Kim Douglass for bringing home some well-earned gold and some worldly wisdom.