The executive team helped evaluate both the value and the risk in IT's cost-cutting plan, including deferring PC renewals through hardware redeployment, delaying increases in network bandwidth in some areas, and postponing the renewal of some noncritical applications. BPR participants also helped to confirm the best areas for IT investment.
"That understanding of the business from a functional and global perspective has given us a huge opportunity to drive efficiency and helped us to focus on innovation," says Smither, "which had not historically been the case for Ford IT."
Global I.T. for Global Vehicles
In 1995, Ford's then-chairman and CEO Alex Trotman announced a grand integration plan to "combine the power, resources and reach of a world company." Symbolizing the new world order would be a new world vehicle, a four-door sedan sold in the United States as the Contour and in Europe as the Mondeo. But--as CAR's Cole relays the story--when the resulting vehicles hit cross-continental car lots, the only thing the American and European versions had in common was the cigarette lighter.
When the 2012 Focus goes into production later this year, company executives say it really will be a global car and, they hope, a hot seller worldwide. Approximately 80 percent of its parts will be the same no matter where the vehicle is made. It will feature the same brake and tail lights in South Africa and Singapore, use the same design and engineering standards in Germany and the United States, and be marketed and sold using global processes and pricing data that stay the same in China and the Czech Republic.
"We have to have a strong focus on IT integration to support that new global product," says Smither. Ford employees will be able to build, sell and support the same Ford Focus in the same way despite remaining differences in plants, people and equipment around the world, due in large part to new common IT systems, processes and data.
As the company's manufacturing hubs in Dearborn and Cologne, Germany, prepare to assemble the car, Ford employees are logging in to a global commodity hub, which allows engineers and designers to share information with the company's purchasing agents. Before this hub existed, each region used unique, sometimes ad-hoc, databases. Processes and systems for soliciting quotes and preparing purchase orders from suppliers once varied by part, region, vehicle, even buyer in some cases. Now the WebQuote system connects every corner of the company with its 1,600 suppliers using standard procedures.