SINGAPORE – Keeping track of who gets what, and when and where, is a multi-billion dollar exercise for Toyota Motor Asia Pacific Pty. Ltd. that pays off in time, trouble and money saved.

The company name offers little hint of the many disparate jobs done here, but day in, day out this subsidiary has the ability, likely unmatched anywhere else, to expedite the movement of goods and services efficiently to regions around the world.

"Global problems require global solutions," TMAP President Motonobu Takemoto says. "No other auto maker has the same coordinating function, because no other automotive company manufactures in as many countries as Toyota."

What started here in 1990 as a regional center to smooth delivery of original equipment parts to Toyota assembly plants in Southeast Asia has blossomed into a unique regional distribution hub that oversees exports of replacement parts, car accessories and completely built-up vehicles as well.

And while TMAP remains Asia-oriented, the company's outreach now extends as far as Australia, Argentina and South Africa in an effort to strengthen Toyota's production, supply, marketing and sales networks by shortening delivery times and reducing logistics costs.

Turnover in fiscal 2004 exceeded $4.9 billion, a fourfold increase since 2000. Newer functions include the management of warranties and legal services for Toyota affiliates in Southeast Asia.

"We can manage some jobs better here than in Japan,” says Takemoto. We employ local people, are closer to sources and have better communications."

The Singapore hub is not involved with in-country deliveries from parts suppliers to production plants.

Rather TMAP's specialty is coordinating the movement of parts, accessories and vehicles among Toyota production and sales organizations in the four auto-making nations of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Among the exchanges between Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are engines, transmissions, body panels, bumpers, radiators and steering columns.

Sourcing, decided by planners in Japan, is multinational. TMAP then coordinates the delivery of exports, imports and exchanges. About 5% of annual volume consists of parts initially shipped to Singapore for consolidation in full containers for more economical shipment to final destinations.

Just-in-time delivery is the goal. However, since all shipments are by sea, time is measured in days rather than hours. For example, lead time from Singapore to Bangkok is two days, 14 days to Melbourne and 26 days to Buenos Aires.

"We do not do double sourcing, because it makes for double investments,"

Takemoto says. However, he admits the complicated supply chain requires risk management and backup production arrangements in case an accident or natural disaster shuts down a supplier.

Last year, experts here orchestrated the delivery of 16,100 different parts and 125,500 Toyota vehicles. Takemoto declines to reveal details but says the savings from TMAP operations are substantial.

TMAP's outreach steadily has been growing and now includes Australia, China, India, South Korea and Taiwan, plus Latin America and Europe. And it continues to expand as Toyota's Innovative Multipurpose Vehicle (IMV) project shifts into top gear. (See related story: Quiet Powerhouse Toyota on Quest to Be No.1)

Last August in Thailand, a new Hilux Vigo pickup truck rolled off the line, the first of three IMV models, and was followed in September by an

Indonesian-built minivan.

This year, production of pickups and an SUV will begin in South Africa, Argentina and Thailand. All of these newly developed vehicles will be produced outside Japan to take advantage of regional free-trade agreements.

Parts will be made in 10 different countries and IMV vehicles will be sold in more than140 countries located in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Oceania.

Takemoto says pre-planning for the IMP project is a major reason for the TMAP expansion that began five years ago. "IMV will increase our functions and volume substantially," he says.

That may prove to be an understatement, given Toyota's projection that IMV production next year will exceed 700,000 units, and not the 500,000 initially forecast.