Sunderland, UK-Nissan has set a tough timetable for its Almera replacement, the HS program. Development will take 31 months (the Primera took 39 months); development costs will be 30-40 percent lower than the Primera's; and full production at Sunderland, UK, will be reached six weeks after Job One in January 2000.
Peter Hill, Nissan's director of European purchasing, and Robert Hampson, manager for purchasing strategy and planning, were interviewed by Edmund Chew.
How will you achieve the ambitious timetable for the HS?
Peter Hill: First, make sure you select good suppliers. We said from the outset that we wanted to work with a very small supplier base. We have this notional target of 200 suppliers, which we've kept to.
We make sure that they have a clear understanding of our objectives and the way we do things through the supplier interface functions - whether that's the purchase function or the production or quality function or the improvement program at Nissan's European Technology Center in Cranfield, UK.
Also, we held a very high level meeting with all suppliers selected for HS a couple of months ago. Our boss, Ian Gibson, attended, and all of the functional directors. We went through in detail what the targets were, down to the shift patterns we were planning for the vehicle.
What do the targets mean for suppliers?
Hill: The majority of suppliers on the new Almera have worked with Nissan, so they are used to the culture that each time you get a new program you are going to have stiffer targets. Maybe the size of the targets has been a surprise, but it is no surprise to the suppliers to have the improved targets.
With the big groups I sit down with the managing director to go through performance. If a supplier is missing the targets we know it, and when he doesn't pick up new business he is not surprised.
What about new suppliers?
Robert Hampson: Where we introduce a brand-new supplier we categorize them as high-risk, even if we are confident of their preparations.
For example, Kansei is going to do the instrument panels. Even though they are they are supplying Nissan in Japan, they're still categorized as high risk.
Our cross-functional team will spend more time actually at the suppliers premises checking the organization of the preparation rather than just the plans submitted.
Hill: We focus our resources where there is something new, managing by exception. The reason is that as we are not taking on additional staff as we introduce more work at the Sunderland plant.
Any other big changes in the way you manage suppliers?
Hill: One significant change we made when we introduced the NEXT21 improvement program was that we kept the quarterly evaluation, but we prepared a full explanation of the system.
Now that suppliers understand it, some have established their own databases and are even getting our results format before we send them.
Hampson: People know what we're looking for and what they're being measured against. They can make their decisions and now they're able to do it even more on a continuous, real-time basis.