What to Look for in an Automotive Consulting Firm

When an automotive manufacturer finally decides to hire a consulting firm, it’s usually too late. They have been operating in crisis management mode for too long, often maintaining false hope the situation will get better on its own (somehow?). As a result of inefficiency and failure to course-correct ongoing operational issues, the manufacturer suffers from higher costs, lower throughput, dissatisfied customers, lost business opportunities, and lower profitability. That’s when leadership realizes…

Something must change!

But where do we start? How do we determine what needs to be changed and how to do it? Will our supply chain be impacted by operational changes? Who needs to be involved in the process of planning, implementing, and monitoring improvement activities? How do we accurately measure the impact of operational changes and make sure that we continue to be successful? And just how much is it going to cost to fix this mess?

There are answers to these tough questions, especially if you find a knowledgeable and experienced team of manufacturing professionals to advise you

The leadership team at High Value Manufacturing was recently asked:

If you were an automotive OEM or supplier seeking guidance to improve operational performance, what would you look for in an automotive consulting firm?

Members of High Value Manufacturing’s leadership team represent more than 120 combined years of professional manufacturing experience across multiple industries with domestic and/or international operations. When asked this question, they put themselves in the shoes of their automotive manufacturing clients and agreed upon these essential characteristics for choosing a consulting firm:

  1. Experience, Experience, Experience. Over the last few decades, the United States has seen a decline in the number of manufacturing professionals with meaningful industry experience. This is because manufacturing operations began relocating to lower-cost international locations, and fewer young people have pursued technical/engineering fields of study due to fewer local manufacturing job opportunities. With fewer jobs and a smaller labor pool, industry experience and accompanying hands-on knowledge have become the most valuable assets for overcoming challenges and improving manufacturing performance. A consultant should be able to demonstrate a depth and breadth of long-term, direct experience in manufacturing as a qualification to offer guidance on complex operational issues.
  2. Hands-on Engagement. Consultants exist in every industry and vary greatly in skill sets, services, and client impact. Particularly in the automotive industry, consulting firms in manufacturing must work closely with clients throughout the entire process improvement effort. In many cases, the automotive manufacturer does not have the labor, time, training, or resources to execute a consultant’s plan of action to correct operational challenges. High Value Manufacturing not only develops a comprehensive plan of action for clients but also supplies the necessary resources, training, and oversight to execute the plan and ensure its success.According to Pat Smith, Lead of Aerospace & Defense and Supplier Quality Management Strategies at High Value Manufacturing, “You have to be a hands-on consultant. You cannot be someone who comes into a plant to advise without having boots on the ground. You need to be there from the beginning of planning through the execution and follow-through.”
  3. Job-based Fees. An automotive manufacturer may hesitate to reach out to a qualified consulting organization because of the cost of its consulting services. Many consultants structure their fees on a retainer basis, which requires regular payment regardless of whether services are provided. A manufacturer should look for an experienced firm that offers a job-based fee structure so that the cost of services is clearly defined upfront and directly associated with the services that are delivered. High Value Manufacturing includes specific delineated costs within the initial scope of services to a new client; there are no payments made without delivery of services per the mutually agreed upon contract.According to Bill May, President & CEO of High Value Manufacturing, “I often have to explain that you [our clients] don’t pay us unless we actually work in the plant. Because of the way we do business, we can really lower the cost operations, reduce out-of-pocket consulting fees from their budgets, and they can see the difference right away. Our proposals are black and white with regard to costs for the work. That gives us an advantage over a lot of other consulting firms.”
  4. Results-Driven, Customer Focus. To determine whether an automotive consulting organization is action-oriented and focused on their clients’ goals, do your research. Ask for referrals from their past clients you may know, look at their client testimonials or case studies, and have a conversation with members of their consulting team to determine their core values. High Value Manufacturing is committed to client success, delivering services with integrity to create value.According to Becky Ferrell, Lead of Supply Chain and Compliance Strategies Director, “There is also a major benefit to bringing in an independent consultant without ties to any larger corporate entity. Because High Value Manufacturing isn’t affiliated with any one major corporation, we can give a different and honest perspective. We don’t have anyone paying us for our input, and we don’t have any conflicts of interest. Sometimes our clients are pleasantly surprised by the uninhibited recommendations we give!”
  5. More than just consulting. Combining these first four characteristics of an ideal automotive manufacturing consulting firm defines an organization that is more than just a consultant. A group of manufacturing professionals with extensive experience and a results-driven, customer focus is invaluable. When this team is embedded in hands-on engagements with clients who only pay job-based fees, it creates value.According to Don Gauthier, Lead of Automotive and Manufacturing Strategies Director, “Personally, I don’t think of our company as a ‘consulting’ firm. High Value Manufacturing does more than consulting. We work in clients’ plants, supply highly skilled resources, provide training, help suppliers with compliance, assess readiness for new products and new plant launches, monitor performance on-site, and facilitate re-shoring operations. Given the experience of what we’ve seen during our careers, there is a huge range of capability among members of our team.”

High Value Manufacturing works with OEMs & Tier 1/2/3 suppliers in automotive, aerospace, and defense industries to increase productivity, cut costs, and generate cash to the bottom line. The highly experienced team at HVMC understands what it takes to be successful in today’s manufacturing environment. We rely on vast professional experience, best practices, and innovation to produce quick response solutions for clients.

If your manufacturing company is realizing that something needs to change, it may be time to seek an outside perspective from the experienced manufacturing professionals at High Value Manufacturing. Schedule a call or send us a note today.