One Thing We Can All Learn from the Auto Industry
They deal with a global, complex supply chain in which any interruption, whether political, natural, or self-inflicted, can have rippling effects with disastrous results. The number of pieces that go into a modern vehicle, and the degree to which their production has to be planned and coordinated, is nothing short of outstanding.
They are heavily regulated because when they mess up, people can die. All the airbags in the world won’t help a company that introduces a software flaw that, say, punches the accelerator when you turn on the wipers (make no mistake, that gas pedal is not connected to anything more than a digital sensor that can get its signals crossed just like anything else).
The product they build is an engineering marvel and therefore at least as complicated as it is impressive. But there’s no technological moat commanding fat margins – due to intense competition from all sides, they pour billions into capital projects and R&D, not to widen their lead, but to survive.
And they’re expected to innovate every year, like clockwork. If Fall comes around and they’re not introducing a new model, something is wrong. That pace of incremental evolution would be brutal enough, but on top of it they’re also dealing with potentially existential threats that could turn their whole business inside out – self-driving cars, electric vehicles, share vs. buy business models… Japan’s now even trying to introduce IRL flying cars!
(As an aside, if the pace of innovation for cars seems natural, compare a car now vs. one in the 90s to an airplane now vs. one in the 90s. Not only does the plane look and feel the same – it probably is the same plane.)
When we look at all these challenges, what is one clear and pervasive lesson we can draw from the auto industry? That in spite of all these obstacles, or probably because of them, they’re still able to maintain an insane focus on quality.
To read the full article, please visit asq.org/blog/2018/11/one-thing-we-can-all-learn-from-the-auto-industry/.