GM inks huge logistics deal with CNF

www.infoworld.com |  Business

IN RESPONSE TO what GM sees as a changing customer base that is demanding more control over the purchasing experience, the automaker announced this week that it will outsource the management of its $5 billion in logistics spending. The aim is to shorten the time it takes to deliver a customized car to a buyer.

However, GM's outsourcing effort will take a unique approach. Rather than signing a deal with a logistics company, the Detroit giant will form a new company called Vector SCM (Supply Chain Management) in partnership with CNF, a 70-year-old logistics and supply chain management company. Vector SCM will have a single customer -- General Motors.

CNF, based in Palo Alto, Calif., currently has three major operating companies in the logistics business -- Con-Way Transportation Services, Emery Worldwide, and Menlo Logistics -- with total revenues in 1999 of $5.6 billion, almost the same amount that GM spent last year on logistics alone.

CNF will have majority ownership but not majority voting control at the boardroom level through an arrangement that gives GM what officials called "super majority voting rights."

Revenue and profit sharing will be based on the ability of Vector SCM to reduce costs directly attributable to logistics, such as inventory levels and order cycles.

"The problem is we can't afford to take 11 to 12 days to get a car to a customer," said Harold Kutner, GM vice president of worldwide purchasing and production control and logistics.

The way to reduce order to delivery times, according to Kutner, will be by increasing "visibility" or knowledge about the location of vehicles and parts.

"There are thousands of vehicles around the world in transit going to dealers for inventory. If we get a specific configuration request from a customer and can match that to a car en route to a dealer, we can relocate that vehicle from the point it is going to, to where the customer is. That would be a major part of the process of a build-to-order environment," Kutner said.

One of the first goals of build-to-order is to cut delivery times down from 12 days to eight days next year, and to four days in three years, Kutner added.

"It all ties into the transformation of General Motors from a brick-and-mortar company to a brick-and-click. OTD [order-to-delivery] will transform our company," Kutner said.

Successful or not, the deal is huge. Greg Quesnel, president and chief executive officer at CNF called it "the largest supply chain management contract in history."

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