Title: Vice President, Global Vehicle and Powertrain Purchasing & Supplier Diversity, Ford Motor Company
Previous Title: Director, purchasing, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa.
Birthplace: Pontiac, Mich. “I was born to be in the auto industry. I’ve been a car guy all my life.”
Where he went to college: Alma College, a liberal arts school in Michigan.
College sports played: Football and track
Early mentor: GM vice president Roy Roberts, whose advice included: “Create strong relationships with people, because people doing business together have to trust each other.”
Where he got his real-world schooling:
1. GM, where he began his career as a cost estimator in the purchasing finance group. “It was the early ‘90s when the industry was in turmoil, the supply base was struggling and there were a number of bankruptcies. So I was out at suppliers learning about processes, doing cost studies and cost estimates and trying to understand what problems were in the manufacturing process. It was fascinating.”
2. Toyota in Georgetown, Ky, where he was recruited away from GM. “They were just starting the business in the United States, so it was a company that was really teaching its employees. We could actually go to the line, see our parts being installed and talk to the suppliers that were there.”
3. United Technologies, where he worked his way up to director of purchasing and learned the business from the suppliers’ side.
Why purchasing’s cool:
“It’s one of those areas you can actually see, day to day, how you impact the business—making sure the parts are launched on time, with quality and in the most cost-effective way. And you never know what’s going to happen. When you come in you may have a schedule, but that schedule’s quickly altered because of a supply problem or some other issue that arises.”
What Ford was like when he got there in 1999:
“I was amazed at the intellectual capability. It seemed like everybody was smart. One of our problems, to be honest, was discipline. We were always thinking out of the box and were very good strategically but not very good on process discipline and uniformity. And having been an athlete, I was used to a more disciplined process in terms of thoughts and how you reacted.
“In the past ten years, with the One Ford Plan, we’ve become a much more disciplined company.”
Year Ford’s Supplier Diversity program launched: 1978, under the direction of Henry Ford II
Amount Ford has purchased from minority- and women-owed suppliers since then: $93 billion, with $8.4 billion of that in 2015.
Little-known nugget about the program:
Initially, it was mostly made up of assemblers that had a hard time making the leap to manufacturing parts. Ford then developed a Joint Technology Framework to give those small companies access to technology and intellectual property and partner them with Tier One suppliers. The Tier One suppliers act as mentors, teaching the smaller suppliers how they do business at a high level.
Diverse supplier success story:
Detroit Manufacturing Systems (DMS), an instrument panel manufacturer owned by self-made entrepreneur Andra Rush. Rush built her first startup, Rush Trucking, into Michigan's largest woman-owned business.
DMS, which initially partnered with Tier One Supplier Faurecia, now supplies Ford’s F150 and Mustang plants with instrument panels and employs 700 people in the city of Detroit.
Most challenging assignment:
Working in purchasing in Asia, particularly three years in Japan. “When I first got there, I couldn’t order a glass of water. It was the only country Ford operated in where English wasn’t the business language. I never was able to speak fluent Japanese. But because they knew I was taking lessons, they were more welcoming to me than others because I was making the effort to fit into their country.
“The Japanese people are very, very polite, but it’s also one of the most homogenous countries you’ll ever go to. I think being non-Japanese made [it harder], and being younger than everybody who worked for me. But it was a great personal and professional experience.”