Wednesday 26 June 2013

Challenges ahead for Stadler

When Wolfgang Stadler arrives at JaguarLandRover to begin work full time for his new employer he will find much with which to familiarise himself.

Recently, JaguarLandRover (JLR) appointed Wolfgang Stadler its new director of manufacturing. Stadler will be responsible for JLR’s global manufacturing operations and will report directly to Dr Ralf Speth, chief executive officer.

Stadler will join the company from BMW Group where he has held the position of senior vice president, BMW Plant Dingolfing. Prior to this he has held a number of senior positions at BMW Group internationally, including the post of managing director, BMW South Africa.

According to JLR, Stadler brings a wealth of experience at this exciting time when JLR is restructuring and heading for sustainable and profitable growth simultaneously. He will replace Paul Cope who retires at the end of the year after 37 years at JLR and Ford Motor Company.

First on Stadler’s agenda, in terms of familiarising himself with JLR’s activities, will be the company’s existing vehicle manufacturing plants. Bearing in mind his close connection in recent years with BMW’s Dingolfing plant he will obviously be interested in comparing this ‘home facility’ with Castle Bromwich and Solihull in the West Midlands, and Halewood on Merseyside.

But his move to JLR brings an obvious wider brief, namely that of his responsibility for engine manufacture. So next on his agenda is the new engine facility now taking shape at site i54 close to the M50 Motorway adjacent to Wolverhampton.

Although both Jaguar and Land Rover have made their own engines in the past, the company’s change of ownership over years, most notably by BMW and Ford, brought an end to this practice – as it did when Ford acquired Volvo. However, under the new ownership of Tata Motors, JLR has revitalised its interest in powertrain manufacture.

‘Why buy from Ford when we can make engines ourselves and be guaranteed of our own quality, delivery and cost’, might be the argument.

The new ‘Hotfire’ engine facility is perhaps most likely to attract his attention. Already familiar with BMW’s engine plants in Germany, Austria and the UK, Stadler will take more than a passing interest in vendors’ equipment earmarked for the new site. One of BMW’s key machine tool suppliers, Grob-Werke, is not on the vendors’ list

As a former ‘BMW man’, Stadler will be familiar with the high standards achieved at the BMW’s facilities around the world, including the engine plant at Hams Hall which last year completed its three millionth unit. Among the vendors to that plant are well established German companies such Grob-Werke of Mindleheim, established in 1926 in Munich. Grob-Werke has a long list of manufacturing customer awards from Bosch, Chery Automobile, Daimler, John Deere, Ford, Volvo and Volkswagen.

As proof, this year, for the seventh time Grob-Werke won the GM Supplier of the Year Award 2012, and for the next three years will be GM‘s main supplier of cylinder block lines; it is also working on a number of other projects. Grob-Werke also won an Excellence Award from Volvo as well as Chery’s highest award in the powertrain sector. In the US, where Grob-Werke has invested some $15 million in the last three years, it has seen sales quadruple from $40 million to $160 million. Grob-Werke is also a Ford supplier and has supplied much equipment to BMW's Steyr engine plant.

Newly resited this year in Solihull, Grob-Werke will be within a stone’s throw of JLR, but more importantly it is close to BMW’s Hams Hall facility for which it has a massive order to supply 100 machine tools.

Grob-Werke UK is now also closer to the new JLR engine facility in Wolverhampton for which it has no contracts. Machine tool supplier MAG won the contract to provide machining lines etc. for the new Hotfire modular engine family. MAG was named Renault-Nissan Best capital Equipment supplier for 2013

        It is hardly surprising that MAG IAS of the US has scored so heavily in winning the Hotfire machine tool contract. MAG's links with Ford Motor Company go back a long way - on both sides of the Atlantic with the Chihuahua Engine Plant contract in Mexico being one of the most recent, there to machine compacted graphite iron (CGI). It was only to be expected that the line of least resistance at the i54 facility would be that of following past practice and walk in Ford's shadow - hence the 'cut and paste' layoout design. Added to which, by using Ford as a benchmark, Tata Motors and JLR could apply purchasing pressure; they could effectively argue Hotfire was not a 'new' contract but merely an extension of a long-standing preferred supplier association with Ford. Time will tell just how well this contract works out.

                                 Natural affinity

As a German, Stadler will have a natural affinity for any piece of German equipment, so there is a reasonable chance that German equipment vendors might stand a good chance of winning some future business from JLR.

 As a newcomer, Stadler probably will be keen to watch and wait, closely observing how his new employer runs the business. At the same time, he will be anxious to stamp his own authority on manufacturing.

And while there may be a difference in both language and culture, the common theme between the newcomer and those he will be managing will be engineering, technology, and quality. The fourth element will be one of cost.

Much depends on Stadler’s relationship with BMW’s existing plant managers around the world as to whether he can maintain open his lines of communication. For, although soon to be working for a rival company, Stadler will nevertheless continue to have an affinity, affection and pride even for the company that once employed him.

He will no doubt bring with him various new aspects of business practice and methodology that he has acquired while working at BMW. The extent to which they can and will be applied depends on appropriateness and timeliness. Some practices may have to wait rather longer than sooner.

He will be aware that he is leaving behind a huge technology-based organisation – a company where engineering is deeply cherished. BMW is effectively a large family with colleagues around the world. In contrast, he will be entering the somewhat rather parochial world of JLR with its bedrock activity in the West Midlands and on Merseyside. But a bigger picture evolving, one in which JLR will be taking on more of a world class mantle with its sights set on more facilities overseas.

This will provide Stadler with both challenges and opportunities, not only to make his name, but also to share in and develop the wider expansion plans of Tata Motors.  

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