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DETROIT - After a year of getting hammered by the pandemic, a semiconductor shortage and storms that snarled Dana Inc's global supply chain, the auto parts maker is reaching for a new playbook.
Many automakers and suppliers like the Ohio maker of axles, driveshafts and other auto parts, are deciding that securing their supply lines is the most pressing order of business.
Dana's Craig Price, senior vice president of purchasing and supplier development, is pushing companies in his supply network to change the way they do business, stepping away at times from the just-in-time, lean production practices that have guided automotive manufacturers for nearly 40 years.
Dana is sourcing such key commodities as resin, castings, forgings and some electrical components from multiple suppliers, asking suppliers to hold in warehouses a backlog of critical inventory, and building out its software network to better track suppliers, a process Dana hopes to complete this year, Price said.
That cuts against the just-in-time inventory and production approach manufacturers have adopted from Japan's Toyota Motor Corp since the 1980s. The new catchword in manufacturing is "resiliency," underscored by Toyota's February revelation it had built a four-month chip stockpile.
Dana has also moved to help its smaller suppliers recruit workers and secure shipping space on containers to avoid any impact on its operations, Price said.
And in the company's headquarters outside Toledo, Price is working on suppliers to join a data sharing network that will give Dana a detailed look at how suppliers two or three steps removed are doing – rather than just counting on shipments to show up as provided in a contract. "We are working toward complete supply-chain transparency, which is not typically available at the moment," he told Reuters of the plans at the $7 billion company. "It's a journey that we're on to get as much data as we can, not for any other reason than just security of supply."
BRITTLE SUPPLY CHAIN Efforts like Dana's are under way throughout an industry buffeted by a series of unexpected events. The chip shortage is a high-profile problem, but not the only one.
"The whole issue is exposing the brittleness, the fragility of the automotive supply chain," said Richard Barnett, chief marketing officer of Supplyframe, which provides market intelligence to companies across the global electronics sectors. BorgWarner Chief Executive Frederic Lissalde told Reuters companies are looking at the total cost of any approach instead of simply its upfront price tag.
"We're trying to dual-source whenever possible critical components," he said. David Simchi-Levi, a professor of engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has worked with companies like Ford Motor Co on strengthening supply chains, said interest has exploded in the last year. "Resiliency is here to stay." The math is simple. Such approaches may cost more upfront, but they are likely to pay for themselves if they help companies avoid the charges of up to $2 billion and $2.5 billion faced by General Motors Co and Ford, respectively, for the chip shortage.