Ask the top IT person at one of North America's largest parts suppliers about his or her top challenges for 2005, and you're likely to get an answer involving cost control. Automotive News surveyed six IT leaders at large suppliers. Here's what they told us.
CIO, Freudenberg- NOK
Challenges: "The biggest challenge is building an agile IT organization, which includes looking for step-function improvements in supplier collaboration, lean manufacturing automation and business intelligence. These are big rocks, and my job is to ensure we focus our IT spend in areas where we can achieve the biggest return. Are these the right areas? The answer may change as economic and other external pressures impact our business.
"If I am not providing the service levels and value for the business' IT investment, they will find other ways to deliver the IT required to support business objectives. We need to be flexible as an IT organization, and this requires a new breed of IT professional. I need athletic players on this team - professionals with the right skill sets but who also understand the business."
CIO, Siemens VDO Automotive Corp.
Challenges: "Improve the level of service in our current offerings to be able to respond faster with a better solution. We must reduce the costs of our current portfolio of products and services. Also improve business performance by helping to improve business processes and help our staff to develop better technical and leadership skills."
Global CIO, TRW Automotive Corp.
Challenges: "We're getting compliant with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (federal regulations passed in 2002 to protect investors from shady accounting practices). It's a great lever to bring all different processes and systems at our 165 worldwide locations into a more standardized and consistent way of working."
CIO, American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc.
Challenges: "Across the board, the biggest challenge for CIOs is determining the best way to apply the latest IT tools to produce innovative must-have products and services - while controlling all the cost factors. R&d, product development, electronics and IT technology are our future. These are things we will never thrift on.
"We've developed a strategic plan that will guide us through the next decade. In this structurally changing sector, we know that our challenges will change as we move forward. But as CEO Richard E. Dauch says, 'You don't eat your seed corn.'
"I am focusing on the key strategic initiatives that have the biggest impact on our organization, from an innovation and cost savings perspective."
Global IT vice president - Automotive Group, Johnson Controls Inc.
Challenges: "We're launching a single global financial and purchasing system that is part of SAP.
"We piloted plants in Europe and North America late last year and will have it rolled out by the end of the year. It's a huge project management effort. We have to assure the supply base, quality, manufacturing and sales are all synched up."
Vice president, information technology, Lear Corp.
Challenges: "Cost and efficiency. The key is to maintain key IT vendors as partners in efficiency."