Friday, May 4, 2012

General Motors in Mexico

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If you were a top executive at LKF, how would you redirect your reverse marketing approach?

As an executive facing a budget crunch after the Asian Economic Crisis, I believe that I would develop a system to rate the projects that are critical to the success of LKF. With fewer dollars to spend, each supplier development activity needs to be worth the cost. Another way to implement this more constrained approach is to focus more on supplier development activities than on true reverse marketing activities as exemplified by the case of East-Ex. By offering more technical assistance rather than financial assistance, LKF can maximize its budget to develop suppliers.

Supplier development through reverse marketing can be quite expensive but can produce dramatic results. For example, LKF’s assistance to Three-San reaped a costs savings of “.1 million on materials and reduced lead time by half a month”. Clearly, the supplier development is crucial to the success of the firm and should not be reduced in a declining economic environment. But to accomplish more with less requires a greater focus on the priorities of the corporation. A list of critical processes/products and the responsible suppliers should be drawn up. This list should be compared to the corporate goals and strategies and a final list should be drawn from process improvements that align to business goals. By doing this, LKF is assured that the few dollars that are spent on projects that produce the greatest benefit.

A second approach to containing supplier development costs would be to provide more technical assistance than actual financial assistance to suppliers. An example of this approach can be found in the East Ex Precision Case. East Ex had several technical and cultural issues to resolve. By providing the right technical support the supplier was able to improve its performance. The LKF engineer provided documentation support by issuing engineering change orders which consequently solved technical issues as well as the objections of the British workers. This second approach encompasses more supplier development initiatives rather than Reverse Marketing techniques. While there is always an expense to providing technical assistance, the expense is paltry compared to providing large financial assistance to underperforming companies.

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In conclusion, the smaller supplier development budget in the Post Asian Economic crisis translates to getting more achieved for LKF’s money. By first prioritizing the dollars to the projects that are “key” to the success of the company, LKF assures itself that supplier development dollars are not wasted. To further maximize cost savings LKF should focus on using more technical assistance rather the full financial assistance when possible. The new direction for LKF would focus more on traditional supplier development activities and save reverse marketing dollars for only the most critical project.

What two learning points did you take away from this topic of supplier development and reverse marketing?

The first point that I learned is how effective reverse marketing can be both financially and in terms of productivity. I think Reverse Marketing the Asian Way has allowed many Asian countries, not just strictly Korea, to develop a competent domestic and international supplier base. I think many American corporations would be risk averse to expending so many resources upfront on their suppliers. Many “focus initiatives” mainly come at the expense of the suppliers in the U.S. In contrast, LKF took a leading position to truly develop their suppliers and make them partner and gave them a vested interest in the success of LKF. The second, lesson that I learned was the life cycle of a true reverse marketing approach. This list included incorporating the following approaches into supplier development technical capability, financial support, training and education, and international expansion. Most of the supplier development activities in the U.S. focus on what can the supplier do for the Customer. The more comprehensive approach by LKF demonstrates a more complete approach that helps suppliers to actually develop on a long term and continuous basis. LKF’s approach produced greater results than in most U.S. supplier initiatives and that credit is owed to LKF’ long term outlook on developing its supply base.

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