Two Out of Three Ain't Six Sigma

Words probably can't describe the incredible stress that Carlos Mazzorin must be under due to the Firestone-Explorer mess. We'd like to let Ford Motor Co.'s group vice president of Global Purchasing and South America tell you for himself what his life has been like since the issue arose last August. But he was too busy for an interview, we were repeatedly told.

For the past several years, WAW has interviewed the Big Three purchasing chiefs, including Mr. Mazzorin, as part of our July supplier issue. This year, you'll have to settle for two of the three. Our coverage of DaimlerChrysler's Thomas Sidlik and GM's Bo Andersson begins on p.42, along with stories about the North American purchasing operations of Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd.

As a substitute, we called a few top supplier executives with a question: What would you do if you were Ford purchasing chief for the day? “I'd take the day off and go golfing,” quipped one supplier executive. Then, more seriously, he says he'd look closely at how Ford interacts with its partsmakers, because smart suppliers are choosing their customers more selectively and are less likely to accept aggressive price cutting.

Another supplier executive says the entire industry needs a new model for managing suppliers. “The fundamental problem is the industry doesn't make enough profit to be shared with the supply base, and we're not doing enough to change that model,” he says.

As for next year, we hope Mr. Mazzorin — or some other top-level purchasing executive at Ford — can find time to update us on procurement initiatives at the No. 2 automaker. Maybe we should pull a Michael Moore and wait impatiently in the lobby of the Glass House.