Nissan Europe ran its 'Cogent' keiretsu-like program alongside the development of the new Almera with the aim of improving supplier performance.
'The Cogent process is really about trying to create a pseudo keiretsu relationship with our suppliers,' said Nissan spokesman Stewart McKee.
The focus of the program has been to align suppliers' processes with Nissan's best practice, without incurring additional costs. Cogent encourages suppliers to produce 'right first time' technical drawings and trial components.
Nissan wanted to develop the kind of intuitive carmaker-supplier relationship that exists in the keiretsu system. Typically, keiretsu is a group of companies that benefits from business relationships and common interests.
The Cogent process started when Nissan met with the major suppliers' managing directors. These were followed by a series of workshops with the suppliers' technical directors.
Those meetings identified what Nissan calls 'gap statements' -what needed to be improved to fully exploit supplier relationships.
Nissan worked through these gap statements in a three-year supplier education program. Supplier performance was then measured via a scoring system.
McKee said: 'For example, when a supplier sent in a drawing - if it was on time or early, he received 10 points. If we had to correct it, we gave him five points. If it was late, he received zero points. If we rejected it, he also got zero points.'
Over the three-year life of the program to the end of 1999, supplier performances improved by 25 percent.
Nissan's next target is what it calls '80 percent low-touch.' In any interaction with its suppliers, Nissan does not want to have to undertake corrective action in more than 20 percent of cases.