Running a reliable, efficient automotive supply chain depends on strong planning, advanced systems, capacity alignment and partnership. But true supply chan mastery will need a balance of two, seemingly contradictory objectives: designing as much standardisation and repeatability into processes as possible, whilst expecting constant change. Although getting the first part right helps with the second, manufacturers can no more avoid unexpected disruptions than we can in our personal lives, whether it’s a system breakdown, extreme weather, supplier fires or geopolitical strife. Companies will get caught out.
Even expected events can wreak havoc – as I write, the North American industry is bracing for possible strikes in the US and Canada at GM, Stellantis and Ford. Supply chain managers are building up inventory and prioritising models, but if the lines stop, supply chains will be hit, too. Likewise, the build-up of ships in the Panama Canal because of low water levels will almost certainly cause shipping delays and rerouting, for example through the Suez Canal or to the US west coast – but there are already capacity issues here, such as the rail ‘land bridge’ across the US.
Supply chain executives must manage these bumps by anticipating issues and spotting risks in advance. That’s a priority now at top management levels. GM’s purchasing and supply chain boss, Jeff Morrison, has worked to de-risk the carmaker’s battery supply chain, including in processing cathodes and anodes (p16). Now, with the entire industry facing vehicle logistics capacity shortages, GM is ready to take the same strategic approach for logistics, whether through partnership or investment, to better control its destiny. At JLR, meanwhile, Barbara Bergmeier, who leads production, procurement and supply chain, has helped to develop direct relationships with semiconductor suppliers, and has invested in upgrading systems, including using AI to spot potential issues (p48).
BMW has taken similar approaches, from digital control towers to autonomous logistics in plants and warehouses. But even with state-of- the-art technology, operations (and people!) will need to be flexible. Oliver Bilstein, VP of logistics for BMW’s Spartanburg plant and US operations, explains how the carmaker is constantly adapting material and vehicle logistics flows (p32).
Making order of this chaos is all in a day’s work for logistics leaders, and you’ll find plenty more examples in the pages of this magazine and by following QR codes to discover more online at automotivelogistics.media. For those of you picking up your copy at one of our major events this autumn – whether Global in Detroit, Digital Strategies event in Munich, or in Mexico City – you’ll have a chance to hear more from our global experts and discuss these topics directly. Come find me and let’s talk about the unexpected!
- Supply chain news analysis
- Controlling destiny with Jeff Morrison
- Finished vehicle logistics, the next chip crisis?
- Building a resilient, flexible supply chain
- Performing + transforming with Oliver Bilstein
- Mastering material control
- JLR’s end-to- end supply chain upgrade
- North American Rail
- Volvo Cars on sharing progress in logistics sustainability
- AI in the supply chain