Smith's realization that the computer and auto industries could learn from each other parallels the kind of wisdom he imparted to Clancy regarding the superiority of Japanese manufacturing techniques.
"At first, Jim thought we were accusing them of not knowing what they were doing," says Richard Hervey, a manufacturing consultant who traveled to Japan with Smith and was present at the Detroit meeting where Smith raised Clancy's hackles.
What Smith and Hervey had seen -- first at Honda's Marysville, Ohio, plant and later in Japan -- was that Honda used lighter dies and fewer overhead cranes on its stamping lines. Moreover, Honda maintained its lines better than Detroit manufacturers. The first part to come off the line was a good part.
Says Clancy: Smith "made me and others think differently and be more data sensitive rather than jumping up on the table and shouting the loudest. That's what we did back in those days in manufacturing. We had tunnel vision. He helped me see the real value in collecting data and analyzing things."
More important, Smith and Hervey realized the Japanese manufacturing engineers worked closely with those in product development to design parts that were easier to manufacture. That was a sharp contrast to Detroit, where the functions worked in silos.
"We came to the conclusion there was billions of dollars of savings potential for the Big 3. This was a big deal," says Hervey.
As a result, Clancy says, Chrysler changed its hiring practices.
"We began to hire younger, smarter engineers instead of salty guys. We didn't work very closely with product engineering. We'd just take what they gave us. The biggest thing he gave me was to go to engineering, gain their respect and do product design that was manufacturable. At one time, product design would just throw it over the wall.
"Now, it's institutional so manufacturing and product engineering work together so you can manufacture it at a least-cost basis," he said.
Above all, Clancy and Smith developed a lasting bond. Now that Smith is gone, there's a hole in Clancy's life.
"He was a good friend, and I miss him dearly."