While Yves Caracatzanis has had roles across the manufacturing process at Renault, logistics is at the bookends of his career to this point. He started with the carmaker in 1992 as project leader in logistics, before spending more than a decade in various manufacturing roles in plant, as well as being vice president of prototype engineering. In 2008, when Renault created a new supply chain organisation, Caracatzanis took over as VP of logistics planning and projects. “That was the bridge between my old life in logistics with the plant and engineering,” he said.

Caracatzanis is leading the supply chain as Renault, together with alliance partner Nissan, becomes a truly global manufacturer. His role sees him work in tandem with his counterpart at Nissan, John Martin, for joint projects (such as the new plants in Chennai, India and Tangier, Morocco), as well as Christian Mardrus, managing director of Alliance Global Logistics.

Meanwhile, Caracatzanis’s experience across manufacturing means that he understands both the importance and the challenge of introducing logistics planning sooner rather than later in product development, particularly at the prototype and design phase.

Christopher Ludwig: How has your previous experience in both logistics and manufacturing prepared to you to lead Renault’s global supply chain?

Yves Caracatzanis: It was useful to start in the logistics field and then to live the real life of the plant to see the impacts that logistics has. With a takt time of one minute, between two assembly lines, you see just how important logistics is for the day-to-day volume. In prototype engineering, since you are not in the serial phase, it is also a challenge to be able to get the right part at the right time. So I’ve had a good overview of the product phase from prototype through to serial production.

CL: Considering you started in 1992, before the alliance, what has changed most at Renault for the logistics and supply chain processes since then?

YC: The company is more global with more worldwide locations and has had a large increase in international flows. Also, more recently, due to the crisis, we have reinforced a lot of things such as inventory management.

CL:What do you enjoy most about working in the supply chain?

YC: I enjoy the transversal role of the supply chain, which covers every part of the company from suppliers to final customers. We have to synchronise the network and the suppliers’ plants constantly to deliver the best performance, and also to deliver the vehicles to the customer at the right time at the best cost.

CL: What do you find most challenging?

YC: That the supply chain must anticipate rather than only follow decisions. That means to have good performance, we need to share information early in the project phase. For me what is most challenging is that we have to explain the stakes of the supply chain to the other [manufacturing and purchasing] functions, and to be there in the upstream phase to help make the right decisions. Since I was involved in engineering, I know that for projects to be built efficiently, we [global supply chain] need to be there in the design phase, together with engineering people, to explain what could be done for logistics. The cubic metres that we transport are directly linked to the shape of the parts, for example. We also must work with purchasing to have the best sourcing footprint, which means calculating the cost of the part to the plant.

CL: Is there a leader either in business, politics, art, culture, etc, whom you admire and seek to emulate?

YC: Rather than someone from my professional life, I will say Nelson Mandela. I admire his courage, tenacity, and his ability to federate and to drive change. For those of us in supply chain, driving change is also important in our own way.

CL:What do you enjoy outside work?

YC: I enjoy spending time with my wife and three children and playing sports with friends.

CL: What are you reading right now?

YC: I’m reading La carte et le territoire, by [Michel] Houellebecq. It is not his best, but I like French literature both modern and classic.

CL: What is your favourite music?

YC: As I am 46, I belong to the rock generation, so I like groups such as Led Zeppelin. But I have an eclectic taste, which includes opera as well. Plus, since I have a 17 year old, I hear a bit of everything, and I am open to many kinds of music.

CL: Finally, did the ‘great recession’ change anything about the way you approach life or business?

YC: This crisis has shown that the simple solutions are often the best ones. So a move back to basics has become very important to being agile and flexible. After all, it is our job in supply chain to always be flexible.