Working experience in the automotive global supply chain

Published by Ngoc Tran on

In this post, I’d like to share with you my experience of working in the supply chain of the automotive industry. What can you expect from the automotive supply chain? Would you be interested in getting a job in automotive industry?

The first impression when I started engaging in automotive industry is that it has a considerably complex supply chain. Firstly, there are a lot of motor parts to produce a car, from the little screws to large parts like frame and bumpers. Secondly, with the huge number of components, it certainly means that they come from multiple sources all over the world. This increases the complexity of the supply chain, especially when there have been several challenges such as Covid-19, Suez Canal, energy crisis, etc. What could possibly affect the automotive industry at the moment are shortages of semi-conductors and chips, truck drivers, and containers. As a result, new projects which are supposed to start now could be postponed for a few months, or longer lead time of shipping can negatively affect your service level and customer satisfaction because you don’t have stocks on hand to ship as promised. Consequently, you may have to make urgent transport by air which is quite expensive and eco-unfriendly. The bad news is that these troubles can’t be solved immediately as you wish. In fact, it could take months to a few years. Finally, the automotive industry is one of the most highly regulated industries, so a global car manufacturer needs to make significant efforts to learn their markets in terms of regional, national and international rules. This puts more pressure to its supply chain because there are left- and right-driving countries, that results in intricate BOMs (bill of materials) for different markets. Furthermore, car manufacturers are required to offer guarantee after a car is sold and the duration of the guarantee depends on country-wide laws. If you search on the Internet, car warranty can last from 2 to 10 years, indicating that a car producer should have sufficient spare parts in its warehouses for this period of time to provide you with them when your car needs maintenance. Since automakers introduce new car models annually, a significant number of spare parts need to be stored while part of it could become obsolete after a few years. Thus, the supply chain in the automotive industry must be resilient and flexible to maintain the operations in dynamic environment.

I would also like to share my second impression. It is a well known fact that giant organizations are quite slow with adaptation to changes (as the operations are so complex and diverse in terms of geographical size), whereas SMEs or startups can be more flexible and faster with changes. Working in a global firm has pros and cons. Benefits are that it could provide (1) a more international working environment than a smaller one, (2) chances to learn more by switching to other positions, (3) more competitive salary and other employee benefits, (4) more stable and secured working environment, and (5) it often attracts more talents, so communication with experienced people helps you to learn a lot. However, internal communication within a global company may take more time and involves more stakeholders compared with SMEs or startups. Another drawback is that changes do not get implemented quickly. If you want to make some changes, it could be done quickly or slowly, or never. This indicates that we should look at it from diverse perspectives. A big bundle of chopsticks can’t be broken with one effort, so the solution is to separate them into smaller groups and to break them. A global organization can’t change immediately, so it may change gradually, step by step. In fact, the more complicated the organization is, the more things can be improved (lots of opportunities for you to learn and innovate).

The last impression can especially be interesting for students and those who started a new job. Learn this: even professionals who have worked for few years sometimes don’t know what they’re doing. This applies not only to automotive but almost to all other industries. Therefore, as a starter, don’t undervalue yourself just because you lack experience. Instead, try to focus on improving yourself daily by showing curiosity, initiative and expanding your network within and beyond your team! Second advice to young professionals: follow your passion and have a good manager. You’re searching for your career paths, so don’t let anything like high wages stop you from doing what you like. All millionaires around the world are successful because they passionate with what they’ve been doing. Hence, define your dream and talent, and then find a market which needs you. Moreover, regardless of company types and industries, it is highly important to be supervised by a dedicated manager. A good manager is who patiently guides and trains you and shares his working experiences and tips with you. And it’d be amazing if you and your manager (and other teammates) have good chemistry with each other. In some cases, your manager is really nice yet is too busy to teach you. Sharing your concerns with your manager and asking him for support is one of the effective ways to deal with this situation. Next, don’t worry too much if you don’t know how to use a software (e.g., SAP) or you have limited knowledge of automotive industry. People at your company will teach you and you will be amazed how fast you can learn new things.  Last but not least, knowing more than two languages (your native language and English and one more foreign language) is highly recommended in an international working environment.

In conclusion, automotive supply chain is highly complicated because of global sourcing, complex product structures, and strict regulations. Working at automotive companies (or in other industries) could be an amazing or awful experience, depending on yourself, your attitude and behavior.

Thank you for reading and I hope it’s useful to you! Don’t hesitate to share if you think someone else would be interested in this article.

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