DETROIT — He was the tough guy ticking off suppliers as head of General Motors’ global purchasing operations in the decade leading up to the crash. Then he was the tough guy breaking eggs as president of Russia’s bloated Soviet-era AvtoVAZ auto company.
Now Bo Andersson has been dispatched by the president of Japan’s giant family-owned wiring supplier, Yazaki Corp., to fix the business where it needs it most — North America and Europe.
And not surprisingly, he’s fully prepared to step on toes again to get it done.
“I’ve known Shinji Yazaki for 30 years and respect him a lot,” Andersson, 62, said of the company’s president. “But he has a huge problem — the company has been underperforming for a long time.
“We’re a private company and we don’t disclose our numbers,” he added, “but it’s very clear that we’re below average.”
Given the twin title of president of Yazaki Europe and North & Central America,Anderson’s mission is to make Yazaki more profitable, more efficient and more streamlined.
That will be a handful. His two territories consist of 139,000 employees and 75 factories spread across 18 countries, which deliver $8 billion of Yazaki’s $15.6 billion in global sales.
At the same time, Yazaki is under pressure to make its age-old core products — wire harnesses — smaller, lighter and more sophisticated with more connectors to handle more electronic vehicle functions. And Andersson is under pressure to improve their cost and quality.
He took over the European operations last summer and then was given the added responsibility for North America in March. But Andersson already is doing what he is famous for: calling out inefficiencies, dismissing underperforming managers and looking for plants to get rid of.
In his first eight weeks on the job, he has challenged his North American team to do what he already did in Europe: free up 40 percent of all plant space. He has asked engineers to find new ways to automate whatever they can within the extremely labor-intensive art of assembling wire harnesses. He has created a new logistics command post in Nashville to figure out more efficient ways to move materials and finished products around North and Central America, and to find new business opportunities. And he has cast a cold eye on the sprawling operations he inherited in Mexico — 44 factories that were built over the years by four companies, some of which still have different cultures and manufacturing processes.
Andersson’s plan is to standardize everything under his watch, from Texas to Tunisia, with the same production processes, the same launch practices and the same quality standards.
“First we look at the managers to see if they are good people leaders,” Andersson, a former officer with Swedish special forces, said of his plans during a recent visit to Automotive News here. “If you have a plant with 5,000 people and you don’t like people, you’re the wrong man in the wrong job. So we’re changing some of the management.”
His target? Andersson says Yazaki’s North American operations are too far off world-class standards when it comes to zero-defect production, and the company’s track record on product launches needs serious attention.
He began closing plants in Europe during his first nine months on the job. How many might he close in North America, he was asked after his first two months?
“In Europe I had nine months,” he said. “I could do more damage ,but I’ve only had two months [in North America].”