Karen Leggio joined General Motors' Vauxhall unit in the UK as director of supply in October 1999. Before moving to Europe, Leggio worked for GM in the USA. She spent eight years at Saturn Corp., initially on production scheduling and later on supplier quality. She was then appointed program purchasing manager and director for the Delta (Astra) program. She later became program purchasing director for GM's North American car group.
Leggio's responsibilities at Vauxhall include product purchasing, logistics and central planning. She reports to Robert Socia, vice president of purchasing for GM Europe, based in Germany, as well as Vauxhall CEO Nick Reilly. She was interviewed by Edmund Chew.
What are your biggest challenges at the moment?
Two things. First, we are trying to get our purchasing team more focused. We did not always manage logistics efficiently and effectively. We did not always bring product purchasing and supplier quality closely enough together. Second, the biggest drive as a total purchasing team is to improve the quality of the supply base.
Are you going to establish more supplier parks or develop more consolidated sequencing operations?
Yes and yes. You will definitely see more sequencing than in the past, which will drive more people to be closer to our operations. We have a common GM Europe vision, but conditions (in the UK) might drive us to do something different. For example, our Luton plant (which builds the Vectra) doesn't have a supplier park like Ellesmere Port (which builds the Astra). There will be different adaptations to that vision depending upon local requirements.
Are you reducing the number of suppliers going into your plants?
Yes. Reductions are inherent in the use of modules and systems. There is actually no target in terms of how many suppliers we have. It is what makes sense for a particular plant in terms of how the lineside delivery is going to be made. Then we look at the capability of the suppliers in the supply base to carry out our requirements.
How are you working to improve quality?
We are using internal resources. We go out and hold a lot of workshops. We spend a lot of time talking to suppliers about where they are in the process and where they need to improve. We are offering them tools - either tools that we have, or linking them up with the (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders') Industry Forum. We're just kind of stacking up our resources to get the quickest improvements possible.
How is that different from what you were doing before?
There has been a huge change in pace. We have always talked about continuous improvement, but our industry is accelerating the pace of change. The danger is that our supply base will continue to erode here in the UK.
Why has that erosion happened?
We source based on quality, service, price and technology. We look at the total value of those four things put together. We carried out a major sourcing exercise quite recently, and some of the UK suppliers are not winning that replacement business. It is definitely a challenge.
What is going wrong?
When we look at the changes that are happening in the industry, we see the creation of global mega-suppliers. A lot of vehicle makers are moving to more global platforms. That gives an advantage to suppliers who are able to design and manufacture for global usage, or who have multiple manufacturing sites to support the same program or the same platform. You don't see a lot of global suppliers in the UK.
How has the strength of sterling affected UK suppliers?
I don't think it has helped. UK suppliers are working very hard at productivity improvement, but then the strength of sterling wipes it away. That's another reason why we are not just working on quality but also on how can we help suppliers reduce costs.
What do you want to change most?
Quality. We should see significant improvements in what suppliers deliver to the plant. The UK has not advanced as fast as other regions.
We want to help. We can explain the business, how it has changed and how they really need to move quickly.
We need to do something fast, because obviously we are working on future programs. When you look at the sourcing plan (for future programs), if there is not drastic change in quality and competitiveness in a very short period of time, I don't expect many UK suppliers to win that business.