Brad Brennan

Brad Brennan

Supply chain optimisation is becoming accepted as a vital tool for improving vehicle manufacturers' production efficiency and, ultimately, profitability. Matthew Beecham catches up with Brad Brennan, managing director of emergency logistics specialist Evolution Time Critical, who explains the critical role played by supply chain contingency. 

We last spoke in September 2012. How has your business developed since then and what/who has shaped it?

In that time we have seen an intensification of emergency logistics requirements. This has been driven by a greater acceptance by vehicle manufacturers of the importance of combining supply chain fluidity and ruggedness, and also by the willingness shown to move production locations in a bid to reduce costs.

The acknowledgement at senior management level of the benefits that can be brought by optimising all links in the supply chain can be seen by logistics now playing a major part in future strategy and business development; it's no longer seen as a turbulent factor that can be covered by a well-oiled contingency. In that respect, we have seen an increase in the need for contingency planning but, alongside this, also in last-minute deliveries as companies' appreciate the impact of missed deadlines or halted production lines when the unforeseen or freak incident happens.

In increasingly capricious markets, we have seen that firms of all sizes must have production activities under constant review and to be ready to act swiftly to changes in economic environment and costs. Emergency logistics must be suitably prepared to handle this trend, helping vehicle manufacturers and Tier 1 and 2 companies move production on an almost ad hoc basis without losing time and revenue to prolonged production outages. Companies involved with vehicle manufacture in particular are becoming under more pressure to find the lowest cost manufacturing location at every point in the supply chain, and the frequency at which these points are being reviewed by senior management teams is increasing.

Labour costs, strategic sourcing and even regulatory changes are all drivers in the relocation of production, and ultra-response logistics is a crucial enabler for companies who cannot afford a break in supply.

What areas of your business have seen increases over the last 12 months and what are the reasons behind this?

An increase in analysis and contingency planning has been demanded to reduce the possibility of delivery delays as Europe, for instance, experiences a rapid growth in component sourcing from Africa, particularly Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. These areas traditionally have weaker infrastructures in place, which has recently been confirmed in a study by The World Economic Forum, and also face perhaps unfair expectations for rapid logistics developments.

We have needed to handle a number of sensitive issues this summer using private charter air freight to facilitate just in time deliveries for major vehicle manufacturers wishing to avoid production line delays and the disappointment of customers. The pressure on automotive and commercial vehicle manufacturers' to maximise efficiency is driven by the increasing dependency on evolving, complex technologies. The combination of customer expectations and stringent government emissions targets necessitate the reliance upon the next developing technology, even in volume-market vehicles and, of course, at no extra cost. OEMs are increasingly reluctant to risk their reputations with consumers by delaying delivery of a new car and, in the era of far-reaching social media, even small-scale delays can cause significant damage to a company's reputation.

Without naming names, could you give us an example of how you found a solution to the knottiest of problems?

We recently worked to coordinate a major OEM and its Tier 1 and 2 suppliers to bridge a break in the supply chain triggered by a last minute-quality issue. It is a situation that required immediate action and a swift formulation of a contingency plan - all our operators are trained to respond to calls within 15 minutes, during which time we are already working out the best possible solution. Initial inquiries were exacerbated by the Tier 2 being in shutdown, three European locations and a 24-hour window to work in.

The most sensitive issue could have arisen due to a skeleton staff being present, who wouldn't release the parts critical to the success of this time-sensitive delivery. Fortunately, we had pre-empted such a problem and ensured that a fluent Spanish-speaking Evolution representative was on site to escalate the problem to holidaying senior management, who could then authorise release of the parts in time for last-minute shipment.

Without this resolution and decisive intervention, quality issues would have escalated through the supply chain and lead to potential line-stoppage and reputational damage between the vehicle manufacturer and its customers, the Tier 1 and the vehicle manufacturer, and the Tier 2 and Tier 1.

I guess that annual summer supplier shut downs, no matter what supply chain contingency plans are in place, can sometimes result in halting a vehicle assembly line. How can you help?

The summer shutdowns traditionally test even the most robust supply chain, and vehicle manufacturers in particular are increasingly reluctant to risk their reputations through failure of their supply chain. Major vehicle manufacturers are realising that working with an emergency logistics partner significantly reduces the risk of disruption, and often pushes down the cost of resolution.

As the trend we have seen for a quick-heeled optimisation of the supply chain grows, the need for effective and proactive emergency logistics will undoubtedly grow. We can provide help to analyse chain failures to ensure the chances of a repeat are reduced, and offer appropriate premium rate solutions using a variety of modes to ensure deadlines are, when possible, never missed.

Emergencies can't always be avoided, but we can work to ensure they're reduced in frequency and severity.

Emergency logistics provides a fairly unique combination of specific skills and the need for quick-thinking in a high-pressure workplace. Recruitment must provide quite a headache?

The remainder of this interview is available on just-auto's QUBE research service

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