HAMILTON, Ontario - Computer-savvy Internet customers will change the way manufacturers and suppliers do business by 2004, says General Motors' worldwide purchasing and North American production chief.
Harold Kutner, GM group executive for worldwide purchasing and North American production control and logistics, says e-commerce is going to create customers who will demand instant gratification when ordering vehicles.
'How are we going to deliver that vehicle to that discriminating customer tomorrow, after he ordered it today? And how are we going to customize it? And by the way, how are our suppliers going to deliver the parts needed to do so without wasteful inventory sitting in their plants?' Kutner asked delegates to the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association of Canada's annual conference here this month.
GM's solution, Kutner said, is something it calls 'sense and respond': anticipating customers' needs and acting quickly to satisfy them.
'I think we are going to have to understand what that means and how to do it,' Kutner said. 'And that doesn't mean sensing what the customer wants by having a portfolio of products warehoused and gathering dust and creating quality problems.'
The other side of satisfying the instant gratification demands of this new breed of customer will be reliability. 'If we tell the customer, 'The vehicle you have just customized will be here in two days,' it has to be there.' And, Kutner said, the e-commerce customer may even consider two days too long.
Today, customers often must wait a week to three months - depending on vehicle content - to take delivery of ordered vehicles, Kutner said. 'I'll stand here before you today and tell you this system is going to die, and it's going to die fast.'