As DaimlerChrysler post-merger teams seek ways to combine operations, the company's new chief engineer in Auburn Hills. Mich., wants to keep the role of suppliers in product development just as it is.
Before the merger, Chrysler Corp. and Daimler-Benz AG had different development philosophies, said Bernard Robertson, senior vice president of engineering and technology.
Daimler tended to do its own engineering and research in-house, but Chrysler formed partnerships with suppliers, and they worked together on programs at a very early stage, he said.
'The former Chrysler had a lot of success in developing supplier relationships, and we don't want to give up on that,' Robertson said. 'In most cases, the supplier would own the intellectual property or we'd share it. But our objective was to leverage that investment, and those philosophies are quite different. We don't necessarily want to pick one or the other.'
FILLING THE VOID
But now that the companies have merged, Robertson said each product-development approach can be improved by picking the best practices from the other.
Dana Corp., a major Daimler-Chrysler supplier, says it has been business as usual since the merger.
'Chrysler has always had outstanding relations with its suppliers,' said Gary Corrigan, a Dana spokesman. The merger has not affected the way in which suppliers are brought in early and as partners on projects, he said.
Robertson fills the void created by the departure last month of Chris Theodore, who was head of platform engineering in Auburn Hills. Theodore went to Ford Motor Co. and is one of several DaimlerChrysler executives who have left Auburn Hills since the merger.
Robertson, 56, is responsible now for all platform engineering activities associated with the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Plymouth brands. That is in addition to his other responsibilities, which include technology strategy planning, scientific labs, the proving grounds and Truck Operations.
A QUESTION OF TIME
Robertson said he will take advantage of the strong in-house development and research capability that comes with the merger. He said he can handle the additional work load of platform engineering activities.
'Obviously, we have to figure out how I'm going to manage the time, which meetings I can be in and which not,' he said.
Theodore's former title, senior vice president of platform engineering, has been eliminated.
The former Chrysler Corp. continues to use platform teams for product development. The teams bring together people from all fields, such as design, engineering and manufacturing, to develop vehicles.
Before his departure, Theodore rolled platform engineering into a 'seamless enterprise,' Robertson said. He will continue to operate engineering as one large enterprise with one budget.
Theodore was interesting, creative and entertaining, and he will be missed, Robertson said.
'When you lose someone like that, it's kind of a blow on a personal level,' Robertson said. 'But on the other hand, we have a lot of talented people. One person leaving, two or three people leaving, is not a catastrophic blow to the enterprise.
'I suppose the biggest concern, and this is true of any number of us, is that Chris knew everything we were doing. He was deeply involved in all the products we're developing.'
But Robertson said that kind of knowledge, unlike basic engineering skills, has a very short shelf life because plans can change quickly.