Part 2 – How Supply Chain Pros at Automotive Suppliers Accelerate Program Launches

Part 2 – How Supply Chain Pros at Automotive Suppliers Accelerate Program Launches


Want to help your team to be more successful?
APICS Greater Detroit is proud to share this two-part blog guest written by William Crane, CSCP, CEO of IndustryStar. Part 1 shared last week discussed assembling your team and crafting a winning game plan.
Part 2 looks at adjusting to what the defense gives you, tracking your stats to continuously improve and pursuing program launch excellence.
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.

Once you’ve assembled the right team and have crafted a winning game plan, you can move on to plays three through five.


Play 3 – Adjust to What the Defense Gives You

As a supplier we can’t control OEM customer changes, but we can govern how we receive and process them. We can choose to develop proactive versus reactive processes to better execute throughout our launches. Leading Tier I automotive suppliers are starting to embrace Agile Supply Chain to navigate our exciting new frontier of mobility.

As with other methodologies that have gone before, Total Quality Management, Lean and Just-In-Time. Agile is a mindset and not a destination. Agile doesn’t replace these proven methodologies. It simply adds in tools for managing the unknown changes that haven’t historically been needed in our predictable high volume dominated industry. In fact, a consistent repeatable process for managing the unknown is exactly what we need to maneuver through the rapid innovation our industry is experiencing.

As you breakdown what an Agile supply chain looks like, they tend to encompass the following four characteristics which afford their companies a competitive advantage:

  1. Shared – Increasingly data is shared via cloud software with key stakeholders inside and outside the organization leveraging Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to push and pull data real time.
  2. Speed – The velocity of work is accelerated with an empowered cross functional team that has data organized into information via dashboards that allows informed quick decisions.
  3. Scalable – It’s scalable in that the program team is fluid and can instantly add and subtract members to ensure the right skill set at the right time.
  4. Sustainable – Lastly, the program team strategy and daily actions are positioned in line with company vision to drive value creation for all stakeholders ensuring sustainable success.

Once you’re able to adjust to changes, the next play is to track your stats!

Play 4 – Track Your Stats to Continuously Improve Ahead of Each Game

It’s OK for coaches to draw up plays on a clipboard, but us supply chain professionals need real time information on program health throughout launch. Our industry is moving at far too fast a pace to wait for various functions to pull together data and program management to then consolidate it.

In an ideal world we have both the summary dashboards of system critical path timing and the ability to drill down into our specific team members tasks so that we can provide support and resources where appropriate.

Another area in which focused software is taking hold is program-task management collaboration. Light weight collaborative supply chain cloud software tools can help teams create, view, edit and assign tasks, ingraining newer Agile ways of working. Further, the more flexible nature of these tools provides the perfect blend of standardized processes for identifying, managing and executing work while also providing a higher level of flexibility.

We spend a lot of time tracking and reporting to leadership and OEMs on open and critical path tasks. Today you can automate these update reports to free up your time. Collaborative software allows you to empower each member of the program team to track their personal to do items and the software rolls up all tasks and statues. Program Managers can now better support their customer and teams by identifying statues and remediating headwinds faster. Our last play is where it all comes together for the win and we pursue launch excellence.


Play 5 – Pursue Program Launch Excellence

Business as usual in automotive is in the rear-view mirror. Gone are the days of gathering, analyzing and presenting information to a single leader who then makes decisions. We need empowered player coach supply chain professionals that can drive program strategy real time based on sound information.

It is possible for you and your team to work less, and as a result be less stressed by experiencing more flow during launches. To accomplish this, we need to mimic winning high performing basketball teams like MSU to focus on the right plays that generate the most outsized results.

Continued program launch excellence has several organizational benefits; happier, more productive, less stressed, lower turnover teams, oh and less coaching from OEM customers. Our mobility future will be different, dramatically different. It is up to us as supply chain leaders to empower our teams with the winning plays to thrive during new program launches.

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


APICS Greater Detroit also offers globally recognized certification programs throughout the year for individuals and companies looking to improve their supply chain management efforts. Please contact us via email at: with questions on our offerings and how they can help your company prepare for global changes.


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