All great manufacturing executives come from sales and marketing, Heath Holtz likes to tell people as a wry joke.
Holtz, named Nissan North America’s senior vice president for manufacturing, supply chain management and purchasing last October, happens to be an engineer and describes himself as “an operations guy.” In other words, he is strictly a manufacturing manager as he oversees Nissan’s factories in Tennessee, Mississippi and Mexico, and the global supply chains that support them.
But Holtz, a native of small-town Nashport, Ohio, really did start at Nissan in 2006 on the sales and marketing side. His job was to provide the interface between Nissan’s vehicle and parts distribution and its manufacturing and purchasing operations.
Today, barely a decade later, the manufacturing boss is still melding together interests from different parts of the automaker.
Task No. 1 for Holtz now will be making Nissan’s booming, three-shift factories more responsive to dealer inventory needs, Holtz said.
The job will be “to better align supply and demand, to adjust the dealer’s inventory overall in line with his requests, to make sure we have the mix they want,” he said.
That is part of a new drive at Nissan to help make its U.S. retailers more profitable and less burdened by factory production schedules.
At the same time, Holtz will be developing ways to bring Nissan’s North American operations closer to those of Renault and Mitsubishi, as Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Chairman Carlos Ghosn presses the global network to pursue greater synergies.
“We’re constantly benchmarking best practices for plant operations,” Holtz said of the alliance effort. “Even though Renault has no physical presence in North America, we take ideas from Renault that they have developed outside of Nissan’s way of doing things, to develop more of an alliance approach to manufacturing.”
Ghosn has challenged the three automakers to increase their use of shared vehicle platforms and components. That will create opportunities in purchasing, he said of his second hat.
“As we go to more common platforms, it gives us additional purchasing scale,” he said. “As we roll out common platforms to our various plants, there will be improved investment and new approaches to production layout.”
Along the way in his career, Holtz also handled a supply chain logistics appointment in Japan, and in 2013 was named Nissan Europe’s vice president for supply chain management, based in Sunderland, England. That role gave him responsibility for the supply chains of Nissan plants in the U.K., Spain and Russia, with a production planning team in Paris that — once again — coordinated factory planning with sales and marketing.
“A good manufacturing operation recognizes that there are always ways to improve,” Holtz said of finding new common practices through the alliance.
“When you’re working with other people, you can always pick up new ideas.”
-- Lindsay Chappell