DETROIT — In the throes of the Great Recession, a team of Ford Motor Co. purchasing executives spent hours assessing the financial health of the automaker's supply base by poring over spreadsheets in conference room 3B007 at the Product Development Center.
The group — tasked with shrinking Ford's exposure to parts disruption — dubbed itself "Project Quark," an homage to the family dog in the 1989 film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. They gathered in the third-floor war room from early in the morning until long after the janitorial staff had left for the evening to dissect everything from a parts maker's liquidity and creditworthiness to what and whom they supplied, often discovering that smaller companies could affect operations further up the chain.
As the financial crisis eased, team members felt the experience left them with a detailed understanding of their supply network and a firm grasp of potential future problems — and they assumed they had seen the last of 3B007. But the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan shook the global automotive industry, sending Ford's purchasing team back to that conference room.
Despite the progress made during the financial crisis, the team wasn't prepared for the sudden disruption to some 55 parts makers it had otherwise considered financially healthy and stable.