BERLIN - By the time Daimler-Benz AG and Chrysler Corp. merged in 1998, Dennis Pawley already had chosen a new course for his life.
The former executive vice president for manufacturing at DaimlerChrysler wanted to step back from the day-to-day hustle of the industry he loved. The merger gave him an opportunity to retire and set up his own management consulting firm, Pawley Enterprises.
At DaimlerChrysler, he had been responsible for 80,000 employees at the company's 12 car and truck assembly plants, five manufacturing technical centers and 18 component, stamping and powertrain plants.
Pawley has become a consultant and member of the board of Oxford Automotive Inc., a Troy, Mich.-based company that buys old-line stamping plants and makes them productive with new technology, cost reductions and manufacturing efficiencies.
Although he left DaimlerChrysler, Pawley thinks the company has lots of 'upside potential.'
In fact, before he left the company, Pawley told DaimlerChrysler Chairman Juergen Schrempp: 'You're lucky I'm not 10 years younger or I'd be gunning for your job.'
Pawley, 58, now spends his days giving advice gleaned from his years in manufacturing.
As automakers outsource as much as 60 to 70 percent of their componentry to suppliers, Pawley thinks there is still much to be learned from the Toyota Production System, which is considered one of the industry's leanest approaches to auto manufacturing.
'I caution leaders of OEMs and suppliers - Toyota doesn't just write that contract and hand the work out. If you go into those Toyota supplier plants, those suppliers understand the Toyota production system. They know how that work is done. They are not reactive thinkers. They are process thinkers.'
Not only must manufacturers communicate with suppliers, they also must not forget labor unions, Pawley said at the Automotive News Europe Congress last month in Berlin.
He said: 'You can have the greatest product strategy in the world, but if you haven't taken the time to develop an equally effective labor strategy, your product strategy will not succeed. Our unions are around the world. They are not going away. They are a major stakeholder in the decision being made by the supplier organizations and OEMs around the world. Bring them in early and educate them on the way you do things.
'If we head down the road we're now heading down - taking more and more work out of the OEMs and ignoring the unions - just handing that work over the fence, we're going to wake up in two or three years from now and see not only is Toyota ahead, they've lengthened that distance.'