Ford shows a new reflective side, but how far will they take it?
Lately, they’ve been hampered by the embarrassing problems in relaunching the Lincoln brand through the MKZ. But, in the face of these problems, they are doing their best to reflect and make systematic improvements to prevent these problems in the future, as Automotive News reported.
The old behavior? Beat up the suppliers, and beat up any of the managers who allowed the suppliers to fail in the first place. Tell the dealers to stop complaining because they are lucky to have the Blue Oval anyway.
The new Ford? When you screw up, admit it. Then, reflect on why. Then, fix it.
The industry has been going through many supplier problems lately. During the downturn in the industry, a lot of capacity was taken offline, both physical capacity and human capacity. As things have ramped up, it has put a strain on the supply base across the industry.
Joe Hinrichs, new President of Ford North America:
Hinrichs admitted that the frenetic pace of new- and redesigned-model launches during the past two years strained Ford and its suppliers as they were recovering from the recession. Because the rapid pace of launches will continue, Ford and its suppliers have to be prepared, he said.
To solve this issue, they are putting more resources in place closer to the point of activity, at the suppliers, to help both identify issues earlier and help resolve them. That’s the “what” of the solution. The “how” will matter greatly. Will they put in place people who act collaboratively with suppliers, and processes to enable issues to be surfaced without retribution, or are they just an earlier bat to the side of the head of the supplier? I hope the former, but execution will matter.
Another root cause of their problems relates to product complexity, where offering more choices to customers goes beyond paint color and selecting what stereo interface you receive, there are more combinations of components that affects fit and finish and assembly processes that they can’t test them all. As a result, they are trying to use more 3D modeling to identify such issues earlier in the process.
Ford has come a long way. Rarely has that change been more dependent on one person: Alan Mulally. Many, many people did the work, but he established a new culture for Ford. The real test: he has put in place steps that lead to his retirement. Will the new Ford culture continue to grow, or will it quickly revert after his departure? Only time will tell.