Secret computer lets Nissan planner peek into future

Larry Dominique can view top secret ideas in far-flung global locations without having to fly there.
NASHVILLE — That mysterious dark flat panel hidden in an alcove of Larry Dominique's office here is a symbol of how rapidly his job is changing.

Just don't ask him to turn it on.

Dominique was appointed vice president of product planning for Nissan North America two years ago. Today he is working on a growing list of vehicle programs in an expanding list of markets. The computer screen allows Dominique to peek at top secret design and engineering ideas in far-flung global locations without having to fly there.

"The idea is to cut down on all the travel," he says, nodding at the dark computer screen in the corner, "and also speed up the work."

Until a few years ago, Dominique primarily traveled back and forth from Nissan's California home base to global headquarters in Japan, with occasional side trips to Nissan Research and Development in Michigan.

Today he's based in Nashville and has companywide planning responsibilities. He travels to design and r&d centers in California, Michigan, Japan and France.

Dominique also is starting to deal with product planning decisions across the Western Hemisphere. Last year, Nissan North America became the central office for operations from Canada to Argentina.

The display screen is a secure line over which designers from around the world can reveal — for Dominique's eyes only — their latest sketches and engineering solutions. Only three people have access to the system on the U.S. side, and Dominique declines to identify the other two. "Somebody needs to have access in case I'm not around," he explains.

The system does not allow any images to be forwarded or printed. Nothing on it can be transferred to a different system, and content automatically self-destructs after a couple of weeks, he explains.

"If I'm over in Japan looking and ask to see a change, it might take a week to execute it," Dominique says. "With this new system, I don't have to turn around and fly back to Japan a week later." 

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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