With the help of Kinaxis, Ford adopted a global data standard (Photo: Ford Motor)

Automakers are in the midst of a digital transformation that is changing every aspect of their business. Revamping the supply chain to interconnect regional operations and providing more data transparency are just two of the many ways automotive companies can speed up decision making and improve efficiencies, two industry experts said during a webinar this week.

David Thomas, former director global capacity planning at Ford Motor, and Manik Sharma, vice president, global industry strategy & solutions at supply chain planning specialist Kinaxis, cited a wide range of new challenges that the auto industry must come to terms with.

“The disruption in the industry is real,” Sharma said during an automotiveIT International webinar sponsored by Kinaxis. (To see a recorded version of the event, please register at:

Thomas explained why Ford had opted for the Kinaxis RapidResponse platform, saying the carmaker needed a flexible system that can be used to deal with today’s as well as tomorrow’s changes to the business environment.

“Change is going to happen and the question then is: how are you going to respond?” he said. “The companies that are going to be successful are the ones that can respond to inevitable change quicker than others.”

Kinaxis VP Sharma said the RapidResponse platform is designed to be a digital hub that is positioned amid existing ERP and other corporate systems. It pulls together information from various sources, offers information management tools based on harmonized data, and can handle the new requirements of the auto industry.

The Kinaxis offering also provides an opportunity to adopt a global approach to managing data.

Thomas said the chance to achieve a global data standard across Ford’s worldwide operations was one of the attractions of the Kinaxis platform. “Most of the data within Ford had never been pulled together before,” he said.

The former Ford executive explained how the carmaker deployed local teams to implement the project across different, independent regional operations. Ford felt this would be more effective than relying on a central task force at headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

The regional project teams worked locally with business colleagues, often in their own language. Said Thomas: “Moving from regional structures to a global solution required regional leadership buy-in.”