So much of our online content, (blogs, articles, videos, etc.), is geared around productivity improvements, quality defects and other “cost” related elements of manufacturing. All good stuff, but maybe a little blind to the essential goal of growing your business. Whether it’s expanding business with your current customers or acquiring new customers, much of what we talk about can help.
Using the Automotive industry as an example, we largely serve two types of customers.
- The Automotive OEM’s, (the companies making the vehicles).
- Tier 1 Automotive suppliers, (the companies supplying components to the OEM’s).
While we traditionally have focused on what we can do for our customers, we are starting to shift our focus to the customers of our customers. For example, instead of focusing on how we impact an Automotive OEM’s throughput or quality, we are starting to consider what we can do to make it easier for a car buyer to select our customer’s vehicle. For our Tier 1 customers, we think about how we can make it easier for Automotive OEM’s to select them as a supplier or to accept their incoming product. Granted, this is a slight shift but let me share where we started to make that conversion.
I attended the North American International Auto Show a few years ago with an Automotive OEM Paint Engineer. One of the first vehicles we saw was a new model introduction by a competitor. The car was on a turntable under a bright light and the Paint Engineer pointed out the orange peel texture in the paint on the passenger side. Just walking up on the vehicle, I hadn’t noticed the texture but after it was pointed out, it became glaringly obvious. I asked him, “If most people won’t notice it unless you point it out, why do you care?” He gave me two reasons.
First, there are many people who do notice and it matters to them. It indicates the overall quality of the product and it is unacceptable. Second, there are people that don’t know what they’re looking at or how to articulate it but they just don’t like it. It’s hard to quantify but it’s real.
Later we saw a vehicle that had three distinctly different paint colors between the fascia, the hood and the rearview mirror. They were supposed to match. He told me that this is not uncommon. Paint match is difficult. They are assembling the vehicle from parts that come from different suppliers, painted in different plants and often using different paint. When they all come together they don’t match perfectly. Unfortunately, some manufacturers have to settle for the best they have.
Having the opportunity to walk the Auto Show and hear his perspective helped adjust my perspective about what we’re doing. Yes, we’re helping reduce costs, minimize quality defects and improve repeatability but more than that, we’re making it easier for our customers customers.