UAW Strike: Preparing for a Successful Industry Restart

UAW Strike: Preparing for a Successful Industry Restart

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In this Automotive Leaders Podcast episode, host Jan Griffiths and Thomas Kowal, the president of Seraph North America, discuss the current state of the automotive supply base during the UAW strike. They begin the episode by exploring MEMA's statistics, shedding light on concerns about layoffs, financial viability, and restart times, emphasizing the importance of understanding the strike's impact on the supply base across various timeframes.

The conversation shifts to the importance of conserving cash, including labor reduction and inventory optimization. They also address the potential challenges that could arise when trying to restart production after supply chain disruptions. Stressing the significance of working on rapid ROI projects, finding ways to collaborate with consulting firms when financial constraints exist, and building relationships with OEMs.

Thomas shares practical advice on how to prepare for the production restart, including conducting startup FMEA, analyzing logistics, and improving communication with suppliers. He suggests creating a startup plan and involving the workforce to ensure a smooth transition when production resumes. The episode concludes with insights into evolving automotive dynamics, adaptability, and leadership's role in a positive workplace.

Themes discussed in this episode:

  • Impact of the ongoing UAW Strike
  • Strategies for cash conservation
  • Outline of potential short-term to long-term scenarios for suppliers
  • Decision-making for CEOs
  • The importance of proactive preparation
  • Role of leadership during restart
  • The new normal of the auto industry

Featured Guest: Thomas Kowal

What he does: Thomas is the President of Seraph North America. His areas of expertise include operations, business development, project and team management.

On leadership: “I recommend the plant office people, when you start back up again, get out on that shop floor, be with the people, solve the problem for them, take this as an opportunity to rebuild the relationship with the workforce.”

Mentioned in this episode:

Episode Highlights:

[00:02:35] Understanding Challenges: The discussion dissects key MEMA statistics, highlighting challenges in the auto supply chain during ongoing strikes. Thomas offers insights into short, medium, and long-term implications. They also examine how strikes affect suppliers' finances, program management, and the potential shift to low-cost regions.

[00:10:06] Industry Layoffs and Resilience: The unexpected salary layoffs in the supply base due to the strike's indirect impact. Insights on addressing this issue through workforce training line adjustments and the importance of long-term strategic planning and open communication for industry resilience.

[00:16:10] Advice for CEOs: Practical advice is provided for CEOs and leaders facing liquidity challenges, including considering rapid ROI projects and seeking collaboration with consulting firms while finding financial solutions.

[00:20:50] Strengthening OEM Relationships: The importance of building strong relationships with OEMs and working on solutions proactively is emphasized.

[00:25:15] Strategies for Production Restart: The episode highlights the need for open communication in preparing for production restart, suggesting strategies such as conducting startup FMEA, analyzing logistics, and rebuilding relationships with the workforce during startup.

[00:27:54] Leadership in Shifting Auto Industry: The role of leadership in fostering a positive and productive work environment is discussed, along with the evolving dynamics in the automotive industry and the need for adaptability.

Top Quotes:

[00:21:54] Thomas: “If an OEM does not have a good relationship with a supplier, they will do everything, not only to hide it but to fight the OEM.”

[00:23:20] Thomas: “If you haven't done it already, try to work on a solution; they [OEMs] will not stop their production, they will bring people in and they will be much tougher with the suppliers that were not at least open and try to work with them beforehand.”

[00:28:33] Jan: “But it's the leadership and the enthusiasm that comes along with it that will really make the difference, I see an opportunity, for leadership to be real cheerleaders for the shop floor.”

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