Part 1 - How Supply Chain Pros at Automotive Suppliers Accelerate Program Launches


Photo Source: MSU 2019

Have you ever been a part of a really successful team?

APICS Greater Detroit is proud to share this two-part blog guest written by William Crane, CSCP, CEO of IndustryStar.

Part 1: Assemble Your Team and Craft Winning Game Plan

The best teams are player-coached teams,” once said Head Coach of the men’s college basketball program at Michigan State University, Tom Izzo.

We often draw analogies between sports and business; winning teams offer wonderful examples of what is possible when a group of hard-working people mesh to accomplish something bigger than themselves.

As supply chain leaders, we can relate to the immense effort that goes into sequential wins in the March Madness tournament to our positive milestone outcomes during a successful new program launch.


Unfortunately, at times our program launches can resemble the heartbreaking losses of March Madness, emphasis on the word madness. We have come to accept that launches are a high-adrenaline effort riddled with stresses and late nights. But must they be? Sure, they will always take immense effort, as do all things worth doing, but are there specific plays that can reduce our anxiety and increase our win percentage?

The question then becomes how we can harness the same magic that high performing tournament teams exude to form tight knit program teams that consistently deliver launches on time and budget?

As a plethora of blue chip and new OEMs strive to accelerate an ever-wider range of all new vehicles and technologies from electric to autonomous vehicles; launch speed will become an increasingly deciding factor in determining future new program business awards. Further, our ability to consistency bring programs to market will continue to shape our organization’s profitability.

We need to equip our teams with newer tools to lead and make better day to day decisions faster. Below are the first two winning plays that will aid your team’s efforts in accelerating program launches.

Play 1: Assemble Team of Talented-Complimentary Players

The simple fact is there is more work to be done in a compressed amount of time during the period of program award to ultimate production launch. This understandably creates a high-pressure environment at the onset for our teams where one bad decision can quickly snowball into timeline delays.

As OEMs strive to pick up the pace in which they bring vehicles to market we need to seek more cost-effective ways we can add and subtract people bandwidth from program teams. Further, as OEMs continue to infuse more and more electric-connected technologies into systems we need to also align the right supply chain technical expertise at the appropriate times to ensure consistent forward momentum.

Our standard approaches 1) hiring full time employees 2) staffing contract employees and/or 3) engaging specialty consulting firms to solve people and skills bandwidth spikes has worked ok. However, these approaches are starting to prove more expensive in our increasingly high mix-low volume environment.

Today, automotive supply chain leaders are deploying a fourth lever, technology enabled services firms, to acquire people bandwidth and expertise. Technology enabled service firms represent the next evolution in business process outsourcing (BPOs) and can dramatically reduce program delays by providing your team with the right support at the right time.

Typically, these Supply Chain as a Service firms are a mix of experienced professionals with productivity software e.g. technology enabled services. This lower cost support model enables them to also support focused sub-processes over short time durations, e.g. prototype build inventory management. Every win starts with a great team, technology enabled services firms can be a cost-effective way to suit up the best possible team to play and win your launches.

Play 2: Craft Winning Game Plan to Play to Strengths

One the greatest challenges of launching a new program, whether a full module with a large bill of material or a series of shoot and ship parts, is organizing, managing and reporting on all the critical business data. The data ranges from system cost to part revision to supplier to lead time to inventory level. When aggregated together there are roughly 120 best practice automotive industry business data points per part that should ideally be tracked from program award to production launch to ensure a safe launch.

Typically, due to a lack of bandwidth and standardized systems, our teams are forced to manually track a shorter list, usually 20 data points, only the most mission critical that pertain directly to their function’s job responsibilities. This is understandable because each function needs some of the same data as well as unique data. The net result is that each representative on a program launch team often is forced to develop their own program tracking document, typically in Microsoft Excel.

Launch delays tend to happen from decisions made from inaccurate untimely data. The root causes of which germinate from conflicting data pulled from varying sources, updated at different intervals and formatted in various ways.

Leading automotive suppliers are accelerating new program launches by deploying light weight Automated Plan for Every Part (PFEP) cloud software to replace early manual BOMs and part tracking templates. Automated PFEP software enables multiple cross functional team members from program management to purchasing to materials to logistics to manufacturing to view, edit, track and report on a program real time all in the same document. As with a winning game plan, Automated PFEP Software can help your team play better together at a faster pace.

Come back for next week's Part 2 of this blog post that will look at three more winning plays to aid in your team’s efforts in accelerating program launches including:

  • Adjusting to What the Defense Gives You
  • Tracking Your Stats to Continuously Improve Ahead of Each Game
  • Pursuing Program Launch Excellence

About the Author

William Crane, CSCP, CEO of IndustryStar, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based on-demand supply chain services and software technology company that partners with leaders to reduce the cost, time and risk of bringing new product ideas to production and beyond. William is a trusted advisor in supply chain with demonstrated results starting, launching and enhancing procurement, logistics, supplier quality and manufacturing organizations.

His work has appeared frequently in the Institute for Supply Management, Sourcing Industry Group, Automation Alley, and Modern Material Handling among others. William’s passion for bringing technologies to market that have a positive impact on the world can be found via his blog Supply Chain for Tomorrow’s Technology. William is also Host of the Supply Chain Innovation podcast where he interviews top change-makers to uncover strategies, tips, and tools for improving new product launches. William may be contacted at

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