Quest for Excellence: Johnson Controls
“Automaking is highly competitive. You have to recognize that’s the business you’re in and get on with life.”
— Bob Ellis, Johnson Controls
To continually exceed the customer’s ever increasing expectations is the mission statement of Johnson Controls and the company seems to be living up to that guiding light.
“We all have to earn our business every day,” stresses Bob Ellis, vice president of marketing and communications. “We reinforce this continually with our Leadership Institute, by stressing Six Sigma techniques and craftsmanship. We go very deep into those things, integrate them. Only when everyone buys into them do they become a way of life.”
Johnson Controls has achieved a good balance of global customers and in the U.S it’s well balanced between the domestic builders and the transplants such as Honda, Toyota and Nissan.
Much of the company’s success comes by forcing collaboration early in the product development cycle. When a company is trying to sell integrated systems rather than components this approach is a must. This is how innovation has the most impact.
The company uses a system call BOS (business operating system) that covers every aspect and process of the business from financial analysis to costing, reporting to manufacturing. It drives consistent quality and narrows the variations in processes to eliminating waste. Ellis believes a great deal has been learned by working with the Japanese auto makers. “Everyone recognizes that the Japanese are good competitors. They bring to the market strong systems and processes,” he tell AI.
“We were fortunate to get involved early on and saw the strict discipline with consistent, repeatable processes that function day in and day out. In our culture, we like our freedom and we kind of rebel, fight the system. You simply have to move past that and we have and the domestic OEMs have also made great strides.”
He feels the gap is closing and the industry is learning. “When launching a product or looking at a process for costing or whatever it is in the development cycle, having very strong disciplined processes makes all the difference,” believes Ellis. “I think you can see that in product that’s coming out and you see that in the improving quality scores. “Several years ago you might accept a slide in quality when you were doing a lot of launches. That doesn’t make it anymore. The day when that product or system goes out the door into the very first car it just has to be perfect.”
Ellis has a philosophical attitude about price. “Automaking is highly competitive. You have to recognize that’s the business you’re in and get on with life,” advises Ellis. “Put in the disciplined systems and processes that enable you to be competitive. It’s an attitude where you get up every morning and you know you have to compete. That’s when you really begin to be highly competitive and still make a fair return.”