The purchasing chiefs of North America’s largest auto makers face the unwieldy task of getting quality parts to their assembly plants. From day to day, complications arise: Labor unrest at a supplier plant, fires, inclement weather and shipping accidents all can raise the likelihood that parts won’t arrive on time – or at all. But through the daily machinations of supply-chain management, the purchasing chiefs must keep their focus on the end product – the car, truck, minivan or SUV ...

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