Volume 13, Issue 6 - November/December 2011

Supply Chain Dynamics
inside distribution

Moving the Supply Chain into the Future
by Dino Lanno

Itís clear: the auto glass supply chain isnít what it used to be. Throughout this year-long series, we have discussed numerous external factors impacting the industry. This includes the ever-expanding size and complexity of parts, the growing need for environmental sustainability, the risks of globalization, and the fragile nature of manufacturing and moving vehicle glass.

In the past, it seemed the auto glass repair and replacement industry just had to focus on having the right technician on the job. But todayís itís so much more complex and also requires that companies have the right part for the job.

Moving into 2012, many of these issues will only multiply. Our supply chains must operate more strategically and responsibly than ever before in order to succeed. In an already tough environment, there are three trends that will influence our work in the coming years.

Evolving Designs of Vehicle Glass
The automotive industry is trending toward moreóand biggeró glass in every vehicle. Some designs, such as panoramic roofs, actually blend into the windshield. Secondly, auto manufacturers also are making auto glass lighter in weight to address energy and gas efficiency. Thirdly, as the automotive industry introduces new technologies, there is an increase of technically complex vehicle glass. Finally, there are more radical glass shapes with extreme curves, all-glass tailgates, and double and triple curvatures.

As these new enhancements work their way into the mainstream, they make auto glass more difficult to distribute and warehouse while keeping breakage and scrap down to a minimum. With so many nuances, it also makes it more complicated to have the exact right part to the right customer at the right time and place.

Increased Partnerships
Interestingly, auto makers are taking note of the successful auto glass supply chain and now are requesting information on best practices so that they can mimic the way we store and move glass. Moving ahead, there will be increased partnerships between the car manufacturers and the auto glass repair and replacement industry to work together to improve the packaging, racking and distribution of auto glass.

Likewise, the auto glass supply chain will collaborate more closely with suppliers to develop more solutions to streamline the process from beginning to end. This includes things like wrapped barcodes, picking electronics, and overall warehouse management systems.

Together (through a group effort among both auto manufacturers and suppliers) this holds great promise for the level of sophistication that can be reached.

Protecting Consumers
One such example of collaboration is the way in which we track our products. Technology has allowed us to track when, what and where inventory is sent efficiently. This is particularly important in potential recall situations. The more quickly we, as an industry, can identify where the affected inventory was used, the faster we can react to protect the end-user, thereby protecting us all from negative outcomes.

Before the industry evolved from paper transactions to electronic, there was not a reliable way to track this information, which left us exposed to risk damage. Ideally, we will continue to build technologies and systems to keep us moving forward on this path.

As we enter the new year, the auto glass supply chain industry has a lot to celebrate, and there have been many terrific innovations. Yet, as the challenges continue to unfold, we must continue to learn and change and invest in a strategic supply chain for the betterment of our industry.

Dino Lanno is senior vice president of supply chain and manufacturing for the Safelite Group in Columbus, Ohio.

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