Editorial


 

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Stress is the Word...is the Word...

By: Brad Kuvin

Wednesday, June 01, 2011
 

Okay, first off, never in a million years did I ever think I’d quote the Bee Gees in a signed editorial. But, here goes, carrying one-step-further the title of this piece, a play on the theme to Grease:

“We take the pressure, and we throw away, conventionality, belongs to yesterday.”

To the Bee Gees (they wrote it, Frankie Valli sang it), this lyric meant forgetting life’s pressures, solving your problems and being who you want to be. I couldn’t help but think of this while attending the PMA Automotive Parts Supplier Conference (APSC), May 2-3 in Novi, MI. Why? Because in this post-Great Recession period, the one word on everyone’s lips when describing business conditions and customer-supplier relationships: “Stress.”

One APSC speaker, a purchasing agent for a large Tier One automotive supplier, used that one word to describe everything about the automotive supply chain. Hammered home to those in attendance was the sense of urgency that permeates the industry. It certainly permeated the room.

But I’m here to urge you to forget about the pressure, throw away conventionality and, as Frankie Valli sang, “start believin’ now that we can be who we are.”

Just exactly who are we (you)? According to one speaker at the conference, Timken’s Brian Ruel, vice president, light vehicle systems, suppliers are more vital than ever to OEMs. Ruel alerted the 120+ conference attendees to the brain drain (his words) prevalent throughout the OEMs. He emphasized more than once how much expertise has left the industry in recent years. His message: OEMs require supplier expertise now more than ever, and that trend has no boundaries.

Three years ago, Ward’s reported that retirements alone were expected to cull as much as 30 percent of automaker senior executive ranks by 2013, and as much as 50 percent of executives by 2018.

“This is leading to a potential brain-drain situation,” Ward’s authors wrote, “where younger executives will be over-promoted into jobs they do not have the knowledge or experience to handle—setting them (and their organizations) up for failure.”

Just a few weeks before PMA’s APSC, the Detroit business publication dbusiness published an op-ed called, “The Brain Gain,” noting how immigration and diversity can stimulate and enhance Michigan’s economy. Author (and attorney) Scott Cooper wrote:

“The (automotive) industry needs new thinking, new ideas, new technology…migrating from brawn to brains…Michigan is suffering from a brain drain.”

The OEMs’ loss in this case is the suppliers’ opportunity to gain, to be the source of new thinking, new ideas and new technology. Meet the challenge and the accompanying stress head on, forget convention and be who you are. OEMs—not just automotive but nearly all—need strategic partners throughout their supply chains. Such partners provide expertise in product design and development, and in marketing and distribution.

Consider these final thoughts from senior product manager Tony Francisco at medical-device maker SunTech Medical:

“The truly valuable partnerships can enhance how end-user customers view the manufacturer, their capabilities and the benefits they provide.” Seek ways to fit Francisco’s definition of a partner into your value statement. Then go out and make it happen.

Grease is the real word…forget about the stress.

 


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