As part of its mission to create a cohesive and unified network of in-state manufacturers and their suppliers through strategic discussion, South Carolina Manufacturing requested an interview with Thomas Koehler, General Manager of Berrang, a global company headquartered in Germany and first-tier supplier of fasteners to global brands like BMW and John Deere.
- As a first-tier automotive supplier, how critical are Berrang’s supply chain management and logistics processes? (Does the inland port in Greer make this easier?)
Supply chain management (SCM) and logistics are very important in an industry that fine-tuned the concept of “just-in-sequence”. For example, a missing fastener (a nut or a bolt) could bring down the whole assembly line of an automotive manufacturer. At Berrang, we are always measuring our “on-time and complete” delivery performance. If required, we tweak our logistical parameters, such as safety stock levels, internal processing time, etc., while constantly monitoring ocean container vessel positioning and inbound truck traffic to ensure our incoming fasteners are on-time.
SCM-Risk assessment is another variable we focus on at Berrang, be it if we evaluate the general risk of a country (Turkey, etc.) and deploy manufacturing activities accordingly or by measuring our individual supplier performance and taking corrective actions, if needed. Currently, we are reviewing the services offering of the inland port in Greer.
- As local companies compete for space along each of the supply tiers, what are established suppliers doing to maintain their position?
I tell myself “Take nothing for granted”. The customer score card re-sets again each day. Success must be earned. You must be ruthless in this industry.
- Can first tier automotive suppliers in South Carolina improve their bottom line by doing more business in-state?
South Carolina has created ample opportunities for everyone to be “open for business”, especially in industries like automotive, aerospace and agricultural, but also in medical application and other business segments.
- As a company with home ties in Europe and longevity in the Palmetto State, what is South Carolina doing (or can do) to ensure more global companies expand here?
In my opinion, the recent tax law changes should help trigger more capital investments on a federal level. On the state level, recent upgrades to the Charleston port should support the rising container traffic.
Regarding South Carolina’s effort to further strengthen its workforce, I like initiatives such as “GSSM Accelerate“. The goal of this program is to develop the next generation of local engineering talent. It is funded through the SC General Assembly and through corporate partnerships. The SC Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics manages this three-year virtual-based engineering program that is offered to motivated 10th – 12th grade students who can earn the first year of college engineering credits while remaining in their home high school.
- Where do you see Berrang and South Carolina’s automotive manufacturing sector in the next 25 years?
The industry is ever-changing. I see continued efforts in automotive manufacturing to increase automation through data exchange (this concept is called “Industry 4.0”). At Berrang, we opted for the RFID-based Kanban inventory management over the Two-Bin Kanban Inventory. The system has the potential to significantly reduce manual processing time.
In addition, new types of automotive products such as hybrid and electric vehicles are available. An example of new products at Berrang is the “Tamper Evidence Screw” which reduces unjustified warranty cost. Its patent pending design shows the opening and thereby, the possible manipulation of the OEM’s component.
Regarding the ability to change, the upstate of South Carolina was able to reinvent itself after the demise of the textile industry in the 1970’s or 1980’s. That demonstrates a critical feature of survival: Being able to adapt to a changing environment. It’s easier said than done. It requires hard work. However, as a fastener guy, my motto is: “No nuts, no glory”.
Thomas Koehler is the General Manager at Berrang with more than 20 years of relative experience and a graduate of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
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