BMW purchasing executive Bruno Dehler believes people are the key ingredients in successful supplier relations.
'The people side of the business for me is very important,' Dehler said. 'The people side, in the end, it's the one that is the biggest driver for international business. If the people don't get together, you can't sell the product.'
Dehler, 61, who is known in the industry for spreading this philosophy, has retired from his position as BMW's manager of supplier support and purchasing strategy in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
But Dehler says he is not leaving the auto industry behind. Beginning in January, he plans to work as a consultant for some high-tech companies, helping them achieve Six Sigma status. His new projects have Dehler considering a move to the Detroit area.
Dehler is most proud of his success in encouraging BMW executives in Germany to purchase products from North American suppliers.
When Dehler joined BMW in 1978, he said the German automaker had only three North American suppliers with about $3 million in export sales to BMW. In the last 22 years, Dehler was able to achieve a total of 30 North American suppliers, which account for about $300 million in export sales to BMW.
Including sourcing for the Spartanburg, S.C., car and sport-utility plant that Dehler was instrumental in launching, BMW has about 150 North American suppliers that generate about $1 billion in sales.
'The biggest problem was always to have the Germans believe in the new ideas,' Dehler said. 'They (North American suppliers) have to be there for a while until they convince the Germans that their stuff works.'
The German-born executive also is known for a series of conferences he launched in the early 1980s. He invited BMW executives and North American suppliers and analysts to these two- or three-day events, to discuss possibilities for new technology and supplier relationships. Dehler said he might coordinate more of these conferences in the future.
Before joining BMW, Dehler worked in the sales department at Volkswagen AG. He assumed his first purchasing position with VW in 1965.
Heinz Prechter, CEO of Southgate, Mich., supplier ASC Inc., said of Dehler: 'He knows the back doors to where all the ideas are.'