Challenges of material planning and logistics, for a global company of the magnitude of Ford Motor Company, is exceptionally high. While the drive is towards ensuring efficient logistical operations, what makes it complicated is the multitude of platforms on offer, both from the products and powertrain perspective. The answer lies in being flexible, said Stephen J Harley, Executive Director, Global Material Planning & Logistics and Parts Supply & Logistics, Ford.
From the materials perspective, it is important to anticipate forecast, and that’s what Harley’s team has been working on. “Being a large global company, it is important to get a correct forecast of demand. We’ve invested quite a lot of time and money in trying to manage demand. But we also need to take into account calamities like the tsunami in Japan, and floods in Thailand,” Harley said during his recent trip to India.
There are constraints on certain manufactured components, and Ford is trying to pull together that information and get a short-term fix. Concurrently, it is also trying to develop measures for the future so that the company can more appropriately provide guidance to the suppliers’ community, which also relies on multiple tiers. “We concentrate on the first tier, but one of the things those disasters showed us it that we got to go deeper and have more knowledge and access. We are using technology extensively to understand demand signals and provide a far more accurate forecast.”
Through the years, Ford has deliberately designed factories that have a flexible production system, manufacturing both vehicles and powertrain in diesel and petrol variants. While Tier I suppliers may have a degree of flexibility, they need to ensure they remain flexible further down the sourcing chain. Moreover, for companies nurturing global aspirations, it’s important to be flexible, even to the extent of being able to survive natural calamities, Harley said.
The global demand for electromobility has also brought about an interesting challenge for companies that need to procure specific materials, which often border on being hazardous. Battery components, for instance, is one such product that requires special conditions for shipping.
Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah