Economic Development, Manufacturing, and Technology

Ford exec to auto suppliers: 'over communicate' on capacity, new technology

March 8, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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Ford exec to auto suppliers: 'over communicate' on capacity, new technology
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Jay Moore couldn’t emphasize two-way communication enough in his talk at the largest annual automotive suppliers gathering in western Michigan.

“What’s critical is; we need you to over communicate with us,” said Moore, director of chassis purchasing at Ford Motor Co.

His presentation at the 14th Automotive Suppliers Symposium at GVSU in Grand Rapids focused on Ford’s global purchasing strategy as it begins to accelerate its launch of new vehicle models that will be sold around the world.

“(2013) is going to be a competitive year,” he said.

“Our cars are relatively old,” compared to other new vehicles on the road now, said Moore, so Ford is continuing to consolidate its light vehicle platforms. In 2007 it had 27 platforms; by 2014, there will be 14, and the goal is to get down to nine platforms in the near future.

Key to success will be efficiency in launching new models, and that includes knowing precisely the actual capacity of its suppliers.

“You need to come in and sit down with us. Help us. What’s your optimal load (capacity)? Come tell us,” he said. If that capacity doesn’t match Ford’s needs, Ford wants to work something out in advance rather than be caught short.

Among all the major automakers, Ford and General Motors just posted some of the best sales results for the month of February. Ford reporting selling 195,000 vehicles, an increase of more than 9 percent over February last year. Ford sold 28 percent more of its redesigned Ford Fusions in February than Fusion sales a year ago. Ford Escape had its best February ever, and Ford Explorer sales were the best February sales since 2006, with a 59 percent increase. The company is planning to produce 800,000 vehicles in the second quarter, which would be an increase of 9 percent from the same quarter last year.

In southeast Michigan, Ford is spending almost $750 million on new equipment and capacity expansions at six manufacturing sites. It has committed to invest $6.2 billion in U.S. plants by 2015.

According to an announcement by Ford, its new investments in Michigan will create 2,350 new hourly jobs and allow the company to retain 3,240. It plans to add 12,000 hourly jobs across the U.S. by 2015.

To encourage innovation by its suppliers, Ford initiated Executive Business and Technology Reviews (EBTR) a few years ago. The process involves Ford managers visiting long-term suppliers, in search of the best new technologies.

“Tell us what you have,” said Moore. “If you can bring to us a better mousetrap, we’ll put it on cars,” he joked. But the strategy is real and pays off. Moore said a supplier contributed to the technology for the innovative hands-free liftgate on the new Ford Escape. Someone whose hands are full and wants to put that load into the rear of the Escape can swing a foot under the rear bumper and a sensor opens the liftgate.

The latest communications technology, especially, is of great interest to Ford, which hopes to lure young buyers to new Fords by building in technology that can access social media.

Companies that want to supply Ford need to know that the company places great value on those that have minority and women-owned businesses as subcontractors.

Another societal issue important to Ford is “proper working conditions,” an area in which Ford suppliers must be extremely careful when sourcing products overseas. Moore mentioned Ford’s discovery in 2006 that Brazilian charcoal used to produce pig iron for Ford had involved the use of slave labor. It was reported in the news media “and suddenly Ford is on the hook for supporting slave labor,” he said, adding emphatically, “we do not support slave labor.”

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