“The OE will always be the system integrator, but will depend more on the subsystem supplier to have the expertise in particular areas.”
Solving customer problems may sound trite, but that’s the guiding mantra at Dana. Simplicity certainly works.
“We identify five different drivers in solving problems for our customers,” says Charlie Heine, president of technology development and diversified products. “Fuel economy is one. Emissions is another. Then we have driveability.
“Driveability breaks down into subcategories of ride and handling, mobility and NVH. We’re spending a lot of effort on making the driveline as quiet as possible. The fourth area we identify is safety and predictive performance. And the fifth area is recycleability. Europe is leading the charge, but recycling becomes a serious issue in the U.S. when we get to the 2006-2007 timeframe.”
Dana is very focused on its core competencies and the business model calls for more internal growth rather than acquisition, according to Heine. So he feels the company is even more innovation driven than in the past. Then it’s a question of packing that innovation to match up with customer demands and expectations.
Each customer has a different set of metrics for measuring suppliers, Heine point out. And Dana must measure itself in its customers terms. “We work very hard at improving those metrics. We use Six Sigma tools but also our Dana Quality Leadership Program which we’ve had since 1992. This is the Dana operating system and it uses lean techniques and stresses managing with facts.
“It focuses hard on putting processes in place and is modeled on Malcolm Baldridge principles. It’s a driver to make sure our processes are robust and then we augment that with Six Sigma.”
Processes are not the whole answer. They function best when there are solid relationships behind them. “You need the relationships with OEMs in all functions at all levels,” says Heine. “All the OEMs have somewhat different systems whether it’s the domestics or the transplants and you have to get to know each one and what the systems are, what their launch processes are and develop the numerous relationships you need to be successful.”
With consolidation of the industry, notes Heine, the new platforms tend to be larger and when you win, you win big. The speed of the launch has also picked up. Those are the changes that Heine sees in the equation. In the future there will be more and more collaboration as the technology changes. There will be more collaboration between Tier 1 suppliers and more collaboration between the OE and suppliers.
“The OE will always be the system integrator,” he says, “but will depend more on the subsystem supplier to have the expertise in particular areas. And the supplier has the expertise because he can leverage it over a number of customers. The whole thing now is offering the consumer more for less cost. So I only see more collaboration in the future.”