All for one
It might not be entirely altruistic, but this industry sticks together -- even when that means tacit assistance to a competitor.
"I do believe the industry comes to the rescue when there is a crisis," says Neil De Koker, president of the Original Equipment Manufacturers Association. "Typically, this is done more to support the customer than it is to help a competitor."
In the Takata case, the supplier worked with customer Ford Motor, competitor Autoliv Inc. and other companies to ensure that parts deliveries would continue while the plant was repaired. Working with its partners, Takata resumed full operations at the plant in a month.
"We were successful because Takata had a good business-continuity plan," says Bill Storves, Ford's supply chain manager for North America.
Wanda Jackson-Davis, Ford's purchasing manager for restraints in North America, says Autoliv substantially increased its inflater production during the down period.
TRW Automotive Inc. also was prepared to help, but its assistance wasn't required.
"That's the point," Jackson-Davis says. "You have a competitor step up to help a customer."
Such problems can occur in the supply base anywhere in the world.
In 1997, a fire wiped out an Aisin Seiki Co. brake parts plant in central Japan. Customer Toyota went to more than 20 alternative suppliers, inside and outside the Toyota Group, to line up sources for clutch master cylinders for manual-transmission cars, brake master cylinders and proportioning valves.
Toyota lost about a day of production; but without the cooperation of the supply base, it could have lost many more days or weeks of production.
Solving such problems in the future won't get easier. As cars and trucks are built with highly complex electronics and technology, suppliers must develop even more extensive backup plans.
As an example, there was a potentially catastrophic shortage of computer chips in January that threatened many of the world's automakers.