Growing demands of just in time manufacturing schedules could be causing stress and damaging morale among suppliers, according to experts at IT consultant Cap Gemini.
Suppliers that juggle twice-daily, daily, twice-weekly and weekly orders for several customers are under the most pressure, said Colin Wilson, who is leading research into potential damage this pressure can cause component or subassembly suppliers to the vehicle industry.
‘These firms have no spare capacity and minimal work-in-progress,’ said Wilson. ‘If there is an unexpected raw material shortage, the component supplier has to pay for any track disruption. Many would like to see a closer working relationship with the vehicle builder and a more equal share of the risk.’
A logistics manager at a British components firm supplying nine car makers and three tractor manufacturers, said some customers demanded daily deliveries but did not have lean enough manufacturing systems to take the benefits.
‘Tractor manufacturers are asking for daily deliveries, but I don’t think their systems are strong enough yet,’ said Chris Hunter at Denso Marston of Bradford.
He welcomed the research into JIT-induced work pressure, saying: ‘We don’t have finished goods stock, which leads to more stress. It’s increasingly demanding and many talented people tend to walk away.’
Some experts believe there are more supply chain pressures in Britain than in Japan, where the JIT concept originated, because links between second and third tier suppliers are more flimsy.