Balancing Demand and Capacity to Meet Customer Expectations

Where Are They Now?

Catching Up with an MHEFI Scholarship Recipient

will black

Consumers expect fast service—at their favorite restaurants, in retail shops, and especially from the service department of their car dealership. The expectation for quick turnaround on service and repairs is what makes Will Black’s job both rewarding and challenging.

When he graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management, Black found the job offer from Mercedes Benz attractive from a number of perspectives. “It is exciting to work with a brand that is recognized globally and to serve in a role that is critical to customer satisfaction,” he said. “Customers don’t want to wait for weeks at a time for a part to arrive at the dealership, so I am constantly evaluating and re-evaluating global inventory levels to identify which parts are needed and then conveying the priority to suppliers.” Maintaining steady inventory in locations across the world enables quick delivery to dealerships, reduces repair times and increases customer satisfaction, he added. “We also have to consider the seasonality of parts. For example, brake disks are most often needed in summer or winter seasons, so the inventory might be increased in some locations to prepare for heightened demand.”

Parts that are supplied to overseas locations require careful planning to avoid air freight charges for single parts, pointed out Black. “We want to ship full pallets of parts to avoid multiple freight charges, and then have our consolidation centers distribute the inventory accordingly.”

Black is especially proud of the role he played in preparing for the manufacture of three models of electric vehicles in Alabama. Before the market introduction of the EVs, Black set up suppliers for the eligible parts that were most likely to be ordered by dealership service centers. “I traveled to more than 10 different suppliers throughout North America to make sure they had the capacity to provide parts and were aware of our quality standards,” he said.

Once the EVs were launched, the majority of replacement parts were at the dealerships, said Black. The philosophy of ‘just in case’ versus ‘just in time’ means that Mercedes Benz is committed to holding parts in inventory in North America that can supply the entire world, he added.

Black appreciated the opportunity to visit suppliers in person because building relationships is key to success in supply chain management, he said. “My interactions with suppliers are relational versus transactional, with the intention being that we can work together to solve unexpected challenges.”

The ability to build relationships and work on a global level is what attracted Black to supply chain management. “Supply chain management encapsulates how we all depend on global economies and how technology enables us to automate services that ultimately enhances an organization’s performance,” he said.

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