For James Solberg, the blinders are gone.
In the early 1990s, a stint at a U.S. transplant opened his eyes to the broad scope of running an independent business. Today, Solberg is relying on that insight to outsmart global competitors.
'The more we can understand the total business of running a product program, the more efficient we will be,' Solberg said. 'It is not just technical knowledge that is required. It is also business knowledge. They have to be complementary.'
In February, Solberg was named manager of Ford Motor Co.'s powertrain operations in Dearborn, Mich. To manage the unit, Solberg is drawing on a big-picture outlook he developed as president of AutoAlliance International Inc., the Ford-Mazda joint venture in Flat Rock, Mich.
'When I got to Flat Rock, I thought I had a good background in manufacturing and manufacturing engineering. I had spent 25 years inside Ford,' Solberg says. 'But when you are in a transplant, you are in an independent business unit. And total business is what you are pretty well insulated from in a large organization.
'In the four years I spent there, I picked up a total business outlook,' Solberg says. 'Your horizon expands about 20-fold. You have to manage all types of issues including cash flow and your ability to fund the business while you control your core functions at the same time.'
When he left Flat Rock in 1996, Solberg carried those lessons to Ford's operations in Argentina and Brazil, where he was manufacturing director until February.
'The experience I gained in the transplant (op- eration), where we were a stand-alone business, I put to use on a daily basis,' Solberg says.
Today, Solberg stresses the importance of developing a broad outlook throughout an organization.
'As we get more globally competitive, we all have to look at how to manage our assets and how to find the dollars and the resources to do what we want to do for the customer,' Solberg says.