Supply chain leadership: Risk, resiliency and trust

Supply chain leadership: Risk, resiliency and trust

General Motors’ former Executive Director of Global Supply Chain Operations Bill Hurles is back to share more insight on the current dynamic supply chain landscape. 

In a wide-ranging discussion, Bill (who spent almost four decades in the automotive industry before he retired) reflects on his time working with GM's former head of purchasing Ignacio Lopez. He also talks about the qualities he'd seek if he were hiring a Tier 1 supply chain leader today — and the strengths of younger generations in the workplace.

Themes discussed in this episode: 

  • The most important qualities a Tier 1 supply chain leader must have 
  • How simple changes in the supply chain can save automakers thousands or even millions per month
  • Why there’s more to supply chain than improving labor efficiency
  • The resiliency and promise of younger supply chain workers
  • What it was really like to work under Lopez, GM’s former head of purchasing
  • The power of enthusiasm in supply chain leadership

Featured Guest: 

Name: Bill Hurles

Title: Executive Director, Supply Chain at General Motors (Retired)

What he does: Over the course of a long and prolific career at GM, Bill worked in engineering and lean manufacturing before pivoting to supply chain management. By the time he retired after 38 years with the company, Bill led its entire global supply chain. 

Connect: LinkedIn 

At the heart of The Prophets’ vision are “The 24 Essential Supply Chain Processes.” What are they? Find out, and see the future yourself. Click here

Episode Highlights

Timestamped inflection points from the show

[1:14] Core competencies: A Tier 1 supply chain leader needs to have a broad understanding of the entire supply chain and the technology used to manage it. Bill also says it's crucial to be aware of the best procurement processes and have the ability to cultivate good relationships with suppliers.

[3:25] Real talk: An ecosystem model of the supply chain demands transparency and open communication between an OEM and its suppliers. 

[4:26] One hand washes the other: If Bill were to advise Tier 1 CEOs today, he would underscore the direct relationship between supply chain and profitability.

[5:54] Raising awareness: Quality organizations and the engineering community are the two most important partners supply chain leaders have in helping CEOs and C-suite executives realize that supply chain is a profit center, Bill says.

[7:45] Millennials to Gen Z and beyond: Younger people entering the industry are showing themselves to be motivated and resilient, with a broad awareness of the latest technologies. 

[9:38] Constant connection, rapid progression: The industry’s newest generations of workers are much more connected to their peers than their predecessors were when they started their careers. Not only are they knowledgeable about technology, but they share information with each other on a daily basis. Bill is excited about this because it can give companies a much clearer view of how to drive improvement.

[11:59] The Lopez era: Recalling his time at GM working under former purchasing head Ignacio Lopez., Bill says Lopez’s dictatorial, confrontational leadership style cost GM the trust of many of its suppliers, “which inhibited the growth of the organization.”

[12:28] The one thing: To build trust and connection with employees, a supply chain leader has to be a great communicator — and an "all in," enthusiastic, excited, open-minded, humble member of the team.

Top quotes

[2:36] “The most important tool in 'de-risking,' or increasing resiliency, is great supplier relations.”

[2:52] “You can't control when an earthquake is going to happen. You can’t control when a pandemic is going to happen. But you can build a foundation that allows you to react effectively and not be in total firefighting mode.” 

[4:30] “Supply chain helps you make money. In reality, it's where money can be made and is made.” 

[7:38] “Especially after recovering from bankruptcy, I think there was a hesitancy to broaden [GM's employees') responsibilities. But as younger people come into the workforce, they're extremely resilient. They want to contribute. Their desires are so strong. And at the same time, they value partnerships and value working in a team. They're extremely active in their communication.”

[8:33] “Understanding the entire system is so important. Gen Zs and [other] young people are getting a much better understanding of [supply chain] capabilities … They have a much broader and greater understanding of the technology of the future.”

[13:08] “Being someone enthusiastic and really excited about where you're taking your organization can motivate your employees [and] also your colleagues. With that, they know you're with them  that you're 'all in.' You need to be all in as a leader, and you need to do that with an open mind, great communication, and humility.” 


Delivering on the Promise of Delivery: Automotive Sustainability and Profitability

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White Paper for Leveraging Risk Management in Automotive

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Operational Restart Readiness

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The 24 Essential Supply Chain

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


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