Kevin Williams, 39
Purchasing director, Dana
Family: Wife, Marie-Floor; daughters, Isabel, 7, Emilie, 5; son, Tom, 3
Born: Birkenhead, England
Education: Master’s degree in supply chain management, Bolton University, England; member of Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (MCIPS), Stamford, Lincolnshire, England; Certified Professional in Supply Management(CPSM), Tempe, Arizona, USA
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
Engineering buyer apprentice at Eagle Precision Technologies, a Tier 2 machine tool builder for the exhaust system business. I was fresh from college and wanted to follow my father and grandfather into the industry. The catalytic converter regulations were new at this time and I saw a path to the improvement of material and wrapping technologies. Loved every minute of those early days – there was a fast pace with a huge learning curve.
In recent years at Dana, developing my great team in building a pragmatic bridge between supplier risk management and supplier relationship management. We had been through a decade of outsourcing and global sourcing, and with the financial crisis travel was restricted. Coupled with a series of natural disasters, that meant we were in danger of being out of touch with our supplier base.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
During my time at MG Rover in 2003, I was tasked with improving in-car entertainment in existing vehicles. Young and enthusiastic, I went headstrong in rallying the supply base to harness new technologies and the all-important time to market. MP3s, Bluetooth and radios with fiddly buttons were far away from the Rover-buying community's requirements. Lesson learned: Listen to the customer.
What is your current challenge at work?
There are several, which makes it a great place to be. Growing a great business, adapting to the pace of changing technologies and the depth of talent and the development needed to keep ahead. Developing a technological lead and a sustainable supplier base with scalable development for new vehicle propulsion and heat management.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The scale of production and global reach. Innovation and its application each year to our vehicles to meet changing regulations and global customer demands.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Never wait for things to happen. Make them happen for yourself through hard work, not giving up and remembering where you started from.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
This is not for the fainthearted and this is far from the conventional 9 to 5 job. That makes it one of the best industries to be involved in. Challenges will come thick and fast. Be brave, remain humble and communicate. You will enjoy the ride, the dynamics and the like-minded people that you will meet.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Engage and surround myself with key functional and business leaders. Listen and learn how their creativity can add value and aid the growth of the business and shareholder value. Demonstrate constant vision and leadership.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
Vice president of purchasing & supply: a challenging position in a growing and results-oriented organization that has the vision to recognize that its success is a by-product of its respect and commitment to its staff as well as to its suppliers.
What do you do to relax?
I have a young family, so many hours on the road during the week are washed away in supporting the kids with swimming, hockey and tennis at the weekends. I also like to drive my cars when I get the chance.
A 1972 Ford Escort MkI that was already 20 years old when I got my hands on it. More bottle green than racing green; tan vinyl instead of leather. That said, this car was my freedom and it consumed most of my spare weekend hours in maintenance.
My bus: Volvo XC90. My fun: Mini Cooper S. My everything: BMW 5-series xDrive.
2011-present: Purchasing director, Dana, Zug, Switzerland
2007-2011: Global supply chain director, ArvinMeritor, Amsterdam, Netherlands
2005-2007: Senior commodity management, Bentley, Crewe, England
2003-2005: Senior buyer, MG Rover, Birmingham, England
2001-2003: Senior buyer, ArvinMeritor, Amsterdam
1993-2001: Purchasing manager, Eagle Precision Technologies, Birkenhead, England