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May 24, 2023

The Road Ahead: Overcoming Supply Chain Hurdles in the Auto Industry

The Road Ahead: Overcoming Supply Chain Hurdles in the Auto Industry
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How has the global pandemic shaken the automotive supply chain? Join us with our  guest, Dr. Robert Hanfield, as we dive headfirst into the factors that have impacted automobile production, from stay-at-home orders to port bottlenecks and material shortages. Learn how the Big Three are monitoring their supply chains to stay ahead of potential vulnerabilities and why just-in-time production has been particularly challenging in this industry.

We also acknowledge the toilet paper shortage and hoarding behavior during the pandemic and discuss the struggles small dealerships across the US face in regarding infrastructure and training to sell electric vehicles. 

Join us for this insightful and timely conversation on the current state of the automotive supply chain and the challenges faced by the industry.

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Speaker 1: Welcome to another In Wheel Time podcast, a 30 minute mini version of the In Wheel Time Car Show that airs live every Saturday morning 8 to 11am central. It's the In Wheel Time Car Talk Show coming up. Dr Robert Hanfield on the supply chain outlook when it comes to automobiles. Later we'll have the stories making automotive news headlines this week, along with some of the little goodies and tidbits here and there about auto world. Howdy, along with Mike out of this world, mars King, conrad DeLong. we need more, jeff Zekin. I'm Don Armstrong, glad you could join us on this Saturday And, speaking of joining us, he's joining us right now. is Dr Robert Hanfield? Are you a professor at North Carolina State? Yes, sir.

Speaker 2: Go Wolfpack. And what Go Wolfpack? Go Wolfpack, absolutely.

Speaker 1: Well, we're right there with you And I understand. Also, are you a member of the Institute for Operations, research and Management Sciences.

Speaker 2: Yes sir, i am as well.

Speaker 1: Which is an acronym for that is Informs. And I say all of this because I wanted to know a little bit more about you and the credentials that you bring with you, because you study supply and demand and supply shortages in the automobile industry.

Speaker 2: That's correct. Yeah, I've studied supply chains which are suppliers and buyers, and sellers and distributors. I've studied those for 33 years And I can tell you I've had more media hits in the last three years than I have in my entire career.

Speaker 1: Well, I will tell you that I never even thought about supply chains until the pandemic hit and all of a sudden everybody's going well, wait, where are my computer chips? We are having computer chips, toilet paper, stupid things, that what is going on? So let's focus our attention, if you don't mind, into the automobile business and the supply chains. And you know, I don't really kind of understand why we have a supply chain issue. Because why? Because people couldn't get to work to make the microchips.

Speaker 2: Well, in short, it's a bunch of different things that happened all at once And for a really long time. Automotive supply chains have in fact been very fragile And we've outsourced a lot of the production to places like China and India and overseas. And what happened is, first of all, during COVID, you had to stay at home orders, so everyone had to stay at home, so people who were working in factories didn't go in, and so production was shut down. Number two the ports became log jammed, especially the port of LA, which gets about 30% of all imports into the US comes through Los Angeles, and that port was with bottlenecked and they couldn't get things through. And then the third element, of course, were the material shortages. There just wasn't enough material to produce these items, and semiconductor chips are one of those, and people forget. You only need one part to not show up and you can't ship that entire vehicle. It only takes one part to shut down production of a vehicle. If you don't have it, you can't ship the final vehicle.

Speaker 1: Well, as a matter of fact to that end, i mean Ford Motor Company there's a perfect example. They would build the car and then stick it on a lot until the next part that they needed microchip came in, and they had cars scattered throughout Detroit that were ready to go, except for that one little itty bitty thing.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's exactly right. And then the other thing, of course, was labor shortages. You know, during COVID a lot of people retired and so a lot of factories had, and distributors had problems getting people to come in to work. So they were massive labor shortages And you put all of that together and there were a lot of problems within the automotive supply chain.

Speaker 1: That's how we stand today.

Speaker 2: Well, things have gotten a lot better, and one reason for that is the big three and other automobile companies have figured out that they need to start monitoring what's happening in their supply chain, and in the past, they relied primarily on what they call their tier one suppliers, the companies like Lear Seating, johnson Controls, magna, some of those big tier one suppliers So well, you guys handle everything below that. Well, they realized that sometimes these tier one suppliers weren't monitoring what was happening in upstream in the supply chain and what they call their tier two suppliers the suppliers to the suppliers And so companies like GM and I interviewed a guy from GM and he said look, we're tracking and mapping out who is in these supply chains And we're talking to these suppliers and we're figuring out wow, we've got some big vulnerabilities and we need to get second sources, we need to get additional suppliers as a backup, because perhaps we're relying on one particular supplier for all of these components and we didn't even realize it.

Speaker 1: Well, I will tell you that people ask because I've been doing this talk, show stuff now for quite some time and I will tell you when. It automotive anyway, and I will tell you that most people really don't understand how a car is built. They think that the car manufacturers make the parts. No, they don't anymore. I think at one time that they did early on. They did, but they don't anymore, and they are basically assemblers of automobiles and they buy parts from all over the world Compoundetry comes in on a train and it gets plugged in play Well just in time has been part of the issue, because when something doesn't show up in time, just park it out back.

Speaker 5: Yeah.

Speaker 1: Yeah Well, or either that, or just shut down the entire assembly line.

Speaker 4: Which they don't want to do.

Speaker 1: Correct. Well, because for one little measly part they can run it back through there and fix that part or send it on to the dealer and let the dealer install it. I mean there's so many layers to all of this. Well, what has changed since? well, let's just say in the past year, what's changed? because now we're starting to see cars come back on car lots again new cars and the used car market is changing rapidly right now. A lot of big changes going on.

Speaker 2: Yeah, i think we're in a much better place than we were, say, even last year. You'll notice there is a lot more inventory on the lots. If you want a special order vehicle that isn't in red, white or black, you might have to wait a little longer for it. If you want a specific color, if you want a specific custom package vehicle, you might have to wait a little longer. But other than that, the inventory is pretty good. And what happened is our companies figured it out. They've started ordering more chips in advance. They have long lead times on these chips. They buy them in advance, they put them in inventory. They're relying less on that just in time system, which means they're carrying more inventory of parts and components and they're requiring their suppliers to do that.

Speaker 1: Why is it that this is just my belief? I don't have the figures, you do. You know, throughout all of this, tesla has never stopped making cars. To my knowledge, they've always made cars. They weren't really affected like the big three have been. So how did they avoid this? Because they don't make as many cars.

Speaker 2: Well, they don't make as many cars. But the other thing is they were pretty smart. You know, love them or hate them. You know their CEO is a smart guy and he's an engineer, and one of the things they did is they redesigned their vehicles so they weren't reliant on the same chips that were in short supply during 2021-2022. So they were able to continue to build vehicles using different chips that were more plentiful than the ones that were in short supply And the chip market. I could go on and on about semiconductor chips, but a chip is not a chip And, believe it or not, most of the chip manufacturing that's going on in the world is for the smaller chips. Most of the automotive sector uses the larger standardized chips, and capacity of those is the ones that's causing problems. So you know it's every supply chain has their own issues and you have to understand those and you have to dig in and figure it out, and I think that's what Tesla did.

Speaker 4: But also supply chain issues can erupt from unfriendly governments wanting to impact the economy of the United States, and I think that's been a part of it. The world right? What's going on with China? They were overly dependent And tell me if I'm wrong overly dependent on China for component products that weren't coming out of China, be it because of their COVID restrictions there in China or, my personal opinion, is their desire to destroy the US economy.

Speaker 2: Well, no, you're exactly right. China shut down their borders during COVID and have continued to restrict components. One of the things my personal pet peeve is around electric vehicles. If you look at the seven, what they call the green metals nickel, cobalt, silver, lithium China has essentially cornered all of the mining for all of those materials, and they've also cornered all of the refining processes. So people are saying, well, we're going to move to 40% EVs by 2030. Ain't, no way that's going to happen because China is going to control all of those resources for EVs, and so I think we're headed into a difficult period where I don't think we're going to grow the EV market to the extent possible. I think I'm going to keep my combustion engine for some time here.

Speaker 4: Yeah, we don't have to worry about China destroying the US economy, or politicians will Okay.

Speaker 5: Well there's that.

Speaker 1: The other thing is is that I've read that there are several battery manufacturing plants massive, massive plants that are in process of being built today. But even building today doesn't mean that they're going to turn out batteries here in the United States anytime soon. They got to get all of the equipment to do that And the raw material Once the building is built.

Speaker 2: Well, that's absolutely right, and it takes a huge amount of equipment to build those. The mines that we have today are not capable of producing the level of minerals that are required to build that level of EV battery. On top of that, if you look like at Cobalt, there's a book that's out Cobalt Red. That describes the working conditions in those mines in the Congo, which is 40% of the world's Cobalt. It's horrific. It's child labor, workers getting injured and it's all run by the Chinese. So you know, i think there's some real problems with the EV supply chain that people are not aware of. And you know new mines. It takes 20 years to build a mine. Who's going to invest in an investment That is not going to pay out for 20 years? So it's. There's some real problems in the infrastructure, these electric vehicles.

Speaker 3: Particularly the way technology is changing. You know, 20 years from now, what we know just is useless possibly.

Speaker 1: You're in education, So tell me what is the education process like when it comes to supply chain, You teach the methods that go into all of this. So these kids that are graduating from North Carolina State, what are they learning? What degree do they have? Where are they going once they graduate?

Speaker 4: How can they help?

Speaker 2: Yeah, well, you know, we have a unique program at NC State. We have something called the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative And we partner with companies. And then what we'll do is we'll have undergraduate and MBA students and we'll plop them into the middle of a company problem. So the company will say, hey, we don't have enough of this kind of material, or you know, we're having quality problems, or what have you. And we'll have the students work over 15 weeks with that company And you know, they learn how to collaborate, they learn how to call a meeting, they learn how to work with data, they learn how to solve problems. And I think that's what we need in supply chain is problem solvers, people who can deal with real world problems and be creative in trying to figure out how to solve those problems.

Speaker 1: I find it fascinating, You, you, what a great job, What a wonderful thing. I mean. I'm just going to say I mean you place these kids in major corporations and they figure out things where the problems lie within the company, to figure it out and make suggestions to. what are you laughing at?

Speaker 4: Because some of the problems are senior management in these corporations.

Speaker 5: Well, there's that That stuck in there, stuck in the old school, yeah.

Speaker 2: Yeah, No, we put them. we put them in the thick of things. And you know, I'll tell you, some of these kids are so creative because they're looking at it differently. You know, they're not like old farts like you and me. They're looking at it from a whole new perspective And sometimes they come up with some really creative insights. And that's what we need Our young people trying to solve these problems that we're having.

Speaker 3: They don't have, they can't do.

Speaker 4: They don't have the bad habits of experience Exactly.

Speaker 2: Exactly Right Yeah.

Speaker 1: So what kind of degrees are these?

Speaker 2: students graduating with. Most of them get a bachelor of science. We also have a number of industrial engineering students that come over and take us our classes, and then we also have an MBA in supply chain. So it's, we're in a business school and we're teaching business, but we give them a lot of tools on how to deal with a lot of data, how to structure problems, how to map out business processes, how to, you know, explore supply chains and understand the intricacies of what's going on in these supply chains. If you don't understand it, you can't solve the problem. Right, right.

Speaker 1: What kind of, what quality of students are you getting these days? Do you find that things are progressing along really quickly and and the kids that are coming out of high schools around the United States coming to your school, are they educated to the point where you can teach them and they're readily available and they can graduate in four or five years?

Speaker 2: Yeah, they do. We have a lot of kids who come in and they've never even heard of supply chain management. They don't know what it is or how it works. The first time they're exposed to it they say, kind of a light goes on and they say, hey, this is fun, this is interesting. I want to work in this area And, if you can believe it, the number of positions for graduating supply chain majors has doubled in the last year. So more and more companies realize they need these type of kids, young men and women, to come in, and we're, you know, we love having, we're really promoting it for young women too. This is not just a, you know, a men's engineering position, because a lot of times the young women are much more creative than the guys are, believe it or not.

Speaker 1: Okay, I've got to ask a question before we let you go, and would you please explain to everybody what in the hell is going on with toilet paper. What is that about? What, what, what happened.

Speaker 3: Who created that problem?

Speaker 1: He didn't ask about baby formula. He's asking about toilet paper.

Speaker 2: You know we we did. We never had a problem with capacity of toilet paper. Almost all the toilet paper is made in the US is actually produced in the US. We had what was called hoarding behavior, and hoarding occurs when there's a perceived scarcity, and that's what happens. Everybody went out and started clearing out the shelves and storing it in their garage, and I you know what I am guilty of the same thing. My wife went crazy on toilet paper. You just worked through our garage inventory of toilet paper last week.

Speaker 3: Some place in Oklahoma there is a big garage.

Speaker 1: There is a big garage full of toilet paper, vintage, vintage.

Speaker 5: No kidding Well barn, barn fine toilet paper.

Speaker 1: You know that that's going to happen while there's some toilet paper in there, martha, from 1955. What do you know what happened? Smells like corn cob. Well, doc, thank you so much for joining us today. It has been a real what is it? Yeah, and a real pleasure to talk to you Very enlightening. Go Wolfpack, yeah, wolfpack, yeah, wipe them up out there. Okay, thanks again. We appreciate you. All right, robert Hanfield. And what, what a great interview.

Speaker 4: That's pretty cool.

Speaker 1: Exactly. All right, don't pull me different.

Speaker 4: Well it's. It's good to see that there are people learning how to deal with this being placed into corporations, as opposed to the the guy in the order desk that has no clue what he's doing.

Speaker 1: Nobody ever thought of it. Have you ever thought about it before, before this?

Speaker 4: A little bit, but not at this level.

Speaker 3: No, not realizing that you know you can't get stuff, you're back in some college classes You had to deal with some of that stuff, but it was basically around the just in time ideas and stuff. But everything has been so readily available. You walk into Walmart or wherever and you get what you want Right. And then once, like you said, for a lot of reasons there, that's where I've seen you. I'm the people of Walmart. Thank you.

Speaker 3: Yeah, i'm the guy in the blue shirt, that's it. But you know, it's just. Stuff is so readily available, and the hot pants, and now you. There is more stuff out there, but some of it's post dated, i mean it's already hit an expiration date. It's still sitting on the shelf, but the toilet paper.

Speaker 1: There's a perfect example. You got it used by date on them now.

Speaker 5: Does it? No, do not buy the reusable. The recycle The reusable. Don't buy that.

Speaker 4: Well, we've lost control again.

Speaker 5: Just a little later in the day.

Speaker 1: Here's. Here's an example. Who would have ever thunk in a million years The Seuss gets a diet of dry dog food and a big dollop of pumpkin. Now, not pumpkin pie filling, just pumpkin. Okay, out of a can. During the pandemic, the pumpkin, the regular plane, not the filling, now just the regular pumpkin in a can. They run out all the time They'd run out. Now, wait a minute. You mean to tell me that there aren't pumpkins somewhere being grown and they grind them up and put them in the can? No, people were staying at home and making pumpkin pies And they put their own sugar in it and whatever else goes in the pumpkin pie filling. Go up to Hempstead and buy the pumpkin Whatever. No, i don't buy it. No, it's processed pumpkin, it's not the whole damn pumpkin.

Speaker 5: Yeah, i see your point. It's part of the recipe that she has for her lifestyle Right, and even the dog was affected by it.

Speaker 1: Yes, the dog was affected by it. All right Time now for some of the stories making automotive news headlines this week. Ready Mm-hmm. Electric vehicles are still tough to fight at most US dealerships, according to a survey by the Sierra Club. The group said 66% of those surveyed didn't have any EVs in stock Of those stores. 44% say they would sell EVs if they could get them, but 45% said they would not sell EVs no matter what. Wow, because they're being forced to put in infrastructure into the dealership Hundreds of thousands of dollars If not a million dollars And the training involved on top of that, right Yeah.

Speaker 1: They said no, we're not doing it, And I don't blame. I mean, if you've just think about it, There are a lot more small dealerships across the United.

Speaker 4: States, oh yeah. There are these ginormous mega stores in the area. There's a lot less of them than there used to be, but yeah.

Speaker 1: And we have mega stores here in Houston compared to there.

Speaker 4: You still have some of the mom and pop shops.

Speaker 5: Yes, They're further on the outskirts, though.

Speaker 1: Yeah, or you know in Elgin Texas or whatever.

Speaker 5: Well, you got Ryan out there on the I-10 going west. Ryan Ford dealership Ford.

Speaker 1: Yeah, speaking of dealerships Lesley, dogget, industries, dogget Automotive Group They used to be on 45. Three dealerships from Craig Kinsel and Joe Bob Kinsel of Kinsel Motors and the Kinsel family. They're a family. in a transaction this month The Houston Auto Group acquired Kinsel Toyota, Kinsel Ford Lincoln and Kinsel Mazda. The dealerships were renamed Dogget Toyota of Beaumont, Dogget Ford Lincoln of Beaumont and Dogget Mazda of Beaumont. Yeah, it's family owned for 60 something years A huge industrial machinery, earth movers and stuff up on 45 of the North Freeway.

Speaker 4: What do you got? And they. Their Ford store is where Landmark Chevrolet used to be.

Speaker 5: Well, what was the Ford store's name before that, before they moved? I can't remember that Before it was Dogget there was another Ford dealer up there?

Speaker 1: I can't remember.

Speaker 4: I don't remember. I was going to say Lone Star, but I don't think so. Was it Lone Star? No, it's not.

Speaker 1: The company in 2018, bought its first auto retail dealership, the former Lone Star Ford in Houston.

Speaker 5: There, you go.

Speaker 4: That's it, Previously owned by.

Speaker 1: Jeff, could see what you're thinking. Previously owned by Sonic Automotive, it also is a long time Toyota material handling dealer. The company said So Forklifts. Forklifts and front end loaders and stuff like that.

Speaker 4: Industrial commercial And they've got a monster operation up on 45 just north of the Shepherd Curve.

Speaker 2: Yes, is that the Shepherd?

Speaker 5: Curve. It's on the corner, yeah.

Speaker 1: Yeah, the Shepherd Curve You know, The Canine.

Speaker 1: No, come on, you gotta do better than that. Average age of vehicles in the in use in the United States has continued to increase for a sixth straight year. Average age of cars and light trucks in the US is now 12 and a half years, more than three months over the 2022 average, according to an S&P Global Mobility Report released Monday. It is the largest yearly increase in the average age of the US fleet since 2008. For now, older vehicles on the road are boosting the US vehicle service industry. S&p Global Channel forecast estimates the revenues of the US light duty aftermarket grew by about 8.5% in 2022 and may grow by 5% or more in 2023. I believe it, yeah, so keeping the car running Gotta do it.

Speaker 4: Keep in the car. Can't afford to trade it in. Don't wanna buy an EV, yeah, so I'm gonna keep my old car, my gas burner.

Speaker 1: If you treat it right, there's no reason for it not to last. True, true.

Speaker 4: All the maintenance, keep it maintained Maintenance.

Speaker 1: Matter of fact, i think I'm going to get the Corvette brake fluid changed again, because you know I had it done a year and a half ago.

Speaker 4: Should be every two or three years, yeah.

Speaker 1: Because it's already turning black again. Yeah, and it's like what. I just had that change, so I think I'm gonna do that again. this year. A woman has been charged with felony embezzlement for allegedly stealing about a quarter of a million dollars from a Toyota dealership.

Speaker 4: Again.

Speaker 1: When it was in Louisville or Louisville, I'm not sure. Mississippi local radio station WTOK reported Louisville is in the Eastern Mississippi area northeast of Jackson. Leticia Jones Smith, 50., Was formerly the Comptroller for Docks Toyota. according to WTOK, She had been let go by Docks Toyota on January 5th for matters unrelated to the charges. according to the station, The store had been auditing its books in the intervening months. Smith is also facing additional charges of felony embezzlement in Neshoba County, Mississippi, where Docks Toyota is now located. She's accused of stealing about $71,000 there. Okay.

Speaker 4: Well, when all that money flows through the hands of one person and nobody's paying attention? No checks and balances. Yeah Well, lots of checks. No, just no balance No balance.

Speaker 1: No balances And, by the way you know, this past week the Toyota Tacoma the new, redesigned Toyota Tacoma, with the possible exception of the RAV4 compact crossover and no nameplate in Toyota's US lineup is more important to the brand than the Tacoma midsize pickup, not just because of sales, but also the way it continues to dominate the competition, albeit with less of a stranglehold than it had before. But the new, redesigned 2024 Tacoma fights off other midsize rivals with hybrids, new trims and technology.

Speaker 4: So go to Toyotacom and take a look at it. And is that going to be built in San Antonio as well?

Speaker 1: Yes, Yes, it is So by Texan, by Texan, yep. Hey, that's it for this hour of the In-Wheel Time Card Talk Show. We continue with hour number three right after this. Everyone at the Tailpipes and Tacos cruise in at the Lupi Tortilla Tex-Max in Katie. Thank you for participating in the best cruise in around and look forward to seeing you again. You'll hear about the next cruise in date right here on In-Wheel Time. Next time you're in the West Houston Energy Corridor area, be sure and stop in at the original Lupi Tortilla Tex-Max at I-10 and Highway 6 or the Katie location on the Grand Parkway at Kingsland Boulevard When passing through Beaumont or College Station. Stop in and have Lupi's award-winning beef fajitas and frozen margaritas. There's always a celebration at Lupi Tortilla. Lupi Tortilla founder Stan Hold and his wife Sheila are winning racers on the NHRA Drag Racing Circuit and have a collection of hot rods and classics that everyone appreciates. Look for them at the next Tailpipes and Tacos cruise in. The date will be announced soon and will once again be held at the Lupi Tortilla Tex-Max on 99 in Kingsland Boulevard, just south of I-10 and Katie. We'll give you all the details right here on the In-Wheel Time Card Talk Show and online Donations. Benefit God's Garage. We'll see you then.

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