Bringing Detroit into the 21st Century

If you're a small shop, it's always nice to know whether your clients are going to be in business a few months from now. It's not always easy, and in many respects, long-term relationships are a thing of the past--but it's always a plus when you can rely on a client to stay in business and pay your bills. VARs and other IT providers serving the Big Three automakers in Detroit may not be in such an envious position these days. In another month, the Big Three may be the Big Two, the Big One, or the Big Goose Egg.

So is it a good idea to target the automakers and their satellite companies? They're cutting jobs, closing plants, and asking for government handouts, and self-admittedly on the verge of bankruptcy. If there were ever an industry in desperate need of a good shot of high-tech efficiency, it's the auto industry. One high-tech consultancy reported that they are doing just that. There are a lot of things the carmakers can do to become profitable again, starting with making better-looking cars. I used to drive a Chevy Cavalier, which was adequate enough, but the problem was, it looked like every other car in the parking lot. I could never find it when I walked out of the mall. I still long for the highly individualized styles of the '50s and '60s. Tailfins. Yeah, that's what I want.

But beyond that, what the automakers need to do is get more efficient, and that's where IT comes in. Like any big business, there are always efficiencies to be found through technological solutions--reducing complexities, improving the supply chain, and re-visiting the shop floor with an eye towards increased automation. Just a suggestion to Detroit--when you get that bailout money, spend most of it on IT to improve processes wherever possible.

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