Oh Say Can You Sue?

It no doubt came out more ironic than he wanted.

Sigmund Huber, assistant general manager-purchasing/supplier relations for Toyota Motor Engineering and Mfg. North America Inc., gamely responds to a question from the audience during the World Class Manufacturing panel discussion.

Why is an attorney in charge of supplier relations?

Huber explains he actually had a good bit of experience in purchasing and other related business activities prior to his current position.

But then, in a good-natured attempt to distance himself from a previous life, he sends a shudder through the crowd by explaining he was not a “litigater” but a bankruptcy lawyer.

A Shot in the Dark

“It's no secret that the machine tool industry is on intensive care, and it's from self-inflicted wounds," says Richard Pearson, president and CEO, National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, in response to whether there would be a domestic tooling industry 10 years from now.

"The future of manufacturing is not onshore or offshore, it's ‘anyshore,’ he adds. “Material and transportation costs are going so high, they're going to past labor costs."

Center for Defects Disease

Using Dell Computer as a model for building vehicles and major components such as engines is nothing new.

In fact the idea was first launched – and famously misinterpreted by the media – some years ago here at the Management Briefing Seminars after a speech by a Toyota executive.

However, Bruce Coventry, president-Global Engine Mfg. Alliance, says he’s benchmarking another organization that doesn’t come up too often in automotive circles: the Center for Disease Control.

He wondered out loud why it takes days to find the source of production glitches using the typical methods when the CDC can isolate meningitis outbreaks overnight.

The Rain in Spain…

Learning new languages is a challenge for offshore suppliers, but almost as difficult is learning new accents for English, says Hema Rao, of the Indian engineering firm Harita TVS Technologies.

For help, there’s Powerway.com, a software program that links various product lifecycle programs and others for suppliers, which is available in seven languages, the most recent being Chinese.

Translating the program into a new language is a matter of $100,000 and 90 days, company founder Rick Ringlespaugh says.

Who’s at the Door?

The number of gates suppliers have to go through has an effect on the time needed to get a project into production.

A study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers found General Motors Corp. has 17-20 gates, Ford Motor Co. 15-18, Chrysler Group 11-13, American Honda Motor Co. Inc. 10-11 and Toyota Motor Corp. 9-10.

Ricardo Plc developed an engine for GM faster than the General could do it for itself, because it bent the auto maker’s rules to get through the gateways faster.

Could GM do that?

Ennie, Meany, Minnie, Moe

Outsourcing is rapidly changing the global automotive business.

SKF, the Swedish manufacturer of bearings and seals, did 70% of its business at the Tier 1 level in 2000 but by 2005 had fallen to 20%.

“It has changed our processes,” says Gregg Rasmussen, vice president-car business.

A big change: The company now has to work with as many as five suppliers bidding for the corner of a car project, only one of which will win the contract.

We’ll Always Have Paris

The phrase “Lean Manufacturing” got 15,634 hits in June on a major search engine, according to Doug Gregory, chief operating officer of Plexus Systems Inc.

Associated terms “kaizen” drew another 8,029 searches and “kanban” had 3,904. By comparison, “Paris Hilton” was tapped 3,220,530 times.

India was the leading country searching for “lean manufacturing,” followed by Mexico. The U.S. was in sixth place.