Moving Parts: A Framework for Improving Automotive Supply Chain Performance

Moving Parts: A Framework for Improving Automotive Supply Chain Performance

Moving Parts: A Framework for Improving Automotive Supply Chain Performance

Without context, strategy, and systems, the current automotive supply chain can seem like a complex web of disjointed parts. Combine that with the pressure to deliver on the promise of delivery and you have a recipe for disorder, bottlenecks, confusion, and frustration.  

Fortunately for OEMs everywhere, Cathy Fisher, Founder and President of automotive systems firm Quistem, and Terry Onica, who directs vertical solution strategy for enterprise resource planner (ERP) and supply chain solution provider QAD, dove deep into ITF 16949 and MMOG/LE. Their goal — to unearth and demystify the workings and management of the auto supply chain machinery — resulted in an easy-to-implement framework that integrates and summarizes the two sets of professional standards and guidelines.

In this episode of Auto Supply Chain Prophets, co-host Jan Griffiths talks with Cathy and Terry about their findings and how they used them to identify 24 processes that are essential to the automotive supply chain, creating a five-step, easy-to-follow roadmap to optimize supply chain performance. 

Themes discussed in this episode: 

  • How a simple roadmap can make the seeming complexity of the automotive supply chain a lot more manageable and improve performance. 
  • The value for an organization of identifying its 24 essential processes in making good on the promise of delivery.  
  • How, without context and careful application, investing in IT solutions can cost time and money instead of saving them. 
  • The extremely valuable (but often under-utilized) employee who’s been with the company for decades and knows its systems and processes inside and out. 
  • The necessity of a seat at the C-suite table for supply chain leaders. 

Featured on this Episode 


Name: Cathy Fisher

Title: Founder and President, Quistem

About: Cathy’s firm helps its clients, particularly automotive clients, eliminate customer complaints and increase their profits. She has worked in the automotive supply chain since the 1980s when she started her career with General Motors.

Connect: LinkedIn

Name: Terry Onica 

Title: Director, Automotive at QAD

About: For two decades, Terry has been the automotive vertical director of this provider of manufacturing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software and supply chain solutions. Her career began in supply chain in the late 1980s when she led a team to implement  Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) for all the Ford assembly and component plants.  

Connect: LinkedIn

Name: Jan Griffiths 

Title: President and Founder, Gravitas Detroit

About: A veteran executive in the automotive industry, Jan previously served as chief procurement officer for a $3 billion, Tier 1 global automotive supplier. As the president of Gravitas Detroit, Jan provides online courses, speeches, podcasts and workshops to break the mold of command and control leadership to help you unleash the potential of your team and allow authentic leadership to thrive!

Connect: LinkedIn

Episode Highlights

Timestamped inflection points from the show

[2:19] Twenty-four processes, five steps: Cathy Fisher and Terry Onica identified 24 essential supply chain processes and mapped out five steps (click to download whirepaper) to help OEMs deliver on the promise of delivery. Their roadmap begins with recognizing what the essential processes are within a particular organization. 

[3:11] Beyond recognition: Once a manufacturer identifies the essential processes they need to assess their organization’s level of competency to manage those processes (Step 2), train them where they fall short (Step 3), and then focus strategically on supply chain to make sure they have the right resources and teams in place to manage these essential processes as a system and improve overall performance. 

[4:13] Putting it all together: Having the plant manager, supply chain manager, quality manager and IT manager join forces and figure out how to integrate and automate all their essential processes is critical to making Cathy and Terry’s system work. 

[6:00] The wisdom of years: Especially considering workforce shortages, it’s important to find the remaining veterans who have worked with the organization’s systems for years and can impart that knowledge to current, newer employees, before they retire. 

[7:39] Standard derivation: You could say the “DNA” of Cathy and Terry’s 24 essential processes is a combination of the standards set forth in IATF 16949 (the International Standard for Automotive Quality Management Systems) and MMOG/LE (Materials Management Operations Guideline/Logistics Evaluation), both of which outline best practices for the automotive supply chain. 

[10:35] From theory to practice: To be sustainable, organizations need to implement the 24 essential supply chain processes, and to do that they need to focus strategically on supply chain with the aid of technology. Giving supply chain leaders a seat at C-suite tables is crucial to making this happen. 

[12:07]  Look before you leap: Often companies invest in technology without thoroughly assessing the supply chain processes they’re trying to automate and learning how specific technologies could be applied to facilitate them. Supply chain leaders should reach out to their ERP organization to ask about functionality before rushing to apply an IT solution they don’t fully understand.

[16:42] Streamline your systems. Don’t reinvent the wheel: To Cathy and Terry, perhaps just as important as making their essential processes and roadmap comprehensive was making their solution intuitive and easy for companies to use. 

[17:21] The power of systems analysis: By identifying an issue with supplier performance and learning how to use their existing technology more effectively, a customer of Terry’s was able to reduce monthly purchase orders from 100 to five and save $400,000 in inventory. 

[18:20] Context is the key: Automation is powerful, but often companies will implement a solution without understanding the dynamics of how it will interact with their organization’s processes. When they take the time to study this they can leverage it to save money and time. 

[18:45] The one thing: If you’re a supply chain leader and you want to improve your ability to deliver on the promise of delivery, the hard work has already been done for you. Take the roadmap, take the 24 processes, and off you go.  (click here to access the documents)

Top quotes

[2:53] Cathy: “We've lost many people inside of the automotive supply chain over the past several decades, and so a lot of that institutional knowledge has gone away and we see this as one of the reasons why organizations are struggling so much to maintain delivering on the promise of delivery.” 

[4:12] Terry “What we find is really key is bringing the plant manager, the supply chain manager, the quality manager and the IT manager together to look at these processes.” 

[5:28] Jan: “As I look back at my time in supply chain, there was always that guy, that one guy who just knew everything about the system, and he'd been there for decades. Everybody went to him for advice. Those kinds of people are extremely valuable, and usually, they're not appreciated as much as they should be.”

[6:50] Cathy: “We can speak to automating or adding technology to improve individual processes, but if we're not looking at those processes holistically, and where they connect to each other and developing a system that connects those processes together from a technology standpoint, then you're not going to have the visibility of what's happening in your supply chain. [Instead] you’ll have a lot of disagreement inside the organization about what strategically are the right steps to take to manage, whether it be supply chain disruptions or opportunities to grow.”

[10:56] Cathy: “For many organizations, there's no supply chain seat at the C-suite table, and that's really one of the key points that has to change in order for automotive suppliers to be successful, not only delivering on the promise of delivery today but being able to be sustainable in the future against organizations like Amazon.” 

[13:18] Terry:  “When we work with organizations, tiered suppliers  sometimes don't even have the knowledge of the existing system. Reach out to your ERP and organization ask about the functionality there, because oftentimes people are on very old ERP. They should be on more current ERP, so they don't understand that it's even there to be able to address what they need.” 


White Paper
for Leveraging Risk Management in Automotive

Download here

Operational Restart Readiness

Download here

The 24 Essential Supply Chain

Download here


Keep in touch with Auto Supply Chain Prophet's co-hosts Cathy Fisher,Terry Onica and Jan Griffiths LinkedIn.


QAD WesbiteQuistem website


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