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Annual Automotive Gathering Addresses The Industry’s Digital Supply Chain Evolution

Nearly 150 automotive professionals from every facet of the industry gathered on Wednesday, May 29 for MICHauto’s annual Automotive Roundtable discussion. The lineup of speakers included presentations from IHS Markit Automotive’s Michael Robinet, KPMG LLP’s Brian Higgins, and General Motor Co.’s Steven Kiefer, as well as a panel moderated by Autoline’s John McElroy and featuring KPMG LLP’s Brian Higgins, Toyota North America’s Jeff Makarewicz, May Mobility’s Alisyn Malek, and Ford Motor Co.’s Robert Transou.

Setting the Stage
The conversation opened with a MICHauto progress update from Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives at the Detroit Regional Chamber, which featured the release of new economic contribution data. The first-of-its-kind data showcased the automotive industry’s $225 billion total contribution to Michigan’s economy. Shortly after, Robinet took the stage to discuss the “five forces” impacting Michigan’s automotive industry at its current inflection point: growing influence of China, global propulsion design islands, evolution of autonomy, new company versus old company, and secular forces.

The Digital Supply Chain Evolution
Higgins picked up the conversation on the industry’s transformation with an analysis of the evolving digital supply chain, reviewing the findings of a survey conducted by KPMG LLP. The survey results showcased various companies’ desire for increased visibility into processes and technologies that have easily measurable outputs. Higgins’ presentation extended into a panel that addressed how today’s industry leaders are adjusting to the digital supply chain evolution in terms of adoption and talent needs.

“The work itself is changing, giving rise to new skill sets and capabilities,” Higgins said.

Transou shared insight into the process of developing organizational structure and governance to support this digital transformation. Similarly, Malek outlined organizations’ roles in communicating these changes to their internal teams, suppliers, and customers.

“We’re focusing on the user to determine what data is useful to help communities be able to adopt new technologies with fewer unintended consequences,” said Malek when describing May Mobility’s approach to this transformation.

Makarewicz and Higgins highlighted another crucial component of the digital supply chain evolution—data. Both executives expressed the importance of not only gathering data but also understanding how to organize and apply it in productive ways to benefit suppliers and consumers.

Avoiding the Dangers of Digital
Kiefer wrapped up the session with a powerful presentation about distracted driving. Having lost his teenage son, Mitchel, a few years ago to a traffic accident caused by a distracted driver, Kiefer shared his personal and professional passion for creating safer vehicles, driving conditions, and behaviors through the elimination of distracted driving. Hands-free and autonomous vehicle technology, as well as stringent policy changes, are top priorities for him and his team at General Motors Co.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding customer and supplier needs leads to the successful implementation of new technologies and overall industry growth.
  • The digital supply chain evolution poses challenges and opportunities in the talent sector to improve training and foster a more versatile workforce.
  • Strategic application of data will enable more productive adoption and development of new industry technologies to encourage improved sustainability, efficiency, and safety.