06 September 2001 | David Arminas
Supplier relations have been crucial in the relaunch of the wholly outsourced Jensen luxury sports cars. The car maker's low-volume output of 330 vehicles in the first year and 600 or so annually from next year has created special problems for lining up suppliers.
"We would like to have a smaller number of suppliers, but we have around 200," said Keith Rauer, managing director of Jensen Motors and a former corporate procurement manager with truck maker Leyland DAF. "It's been a difficult process to manage at times, particularly if you have a number of suppliers in the initial selection and then find they are not up to the job.
"There have been four of five key suppliers, some of which we have had to change halfway through," he said.
Rauer added: "The only thing we do in-house is paint and assemble. We design the bits, sub-contract them out and purely assemble here."
Jensen's engineers, part of the 30-strong permanent workforce at the company's plant in Speke, Merseyside, take responsibility for a particular aspect of a vehicle, ranging from its concept to getting the parts delivered. They spend most of their time with suppliers, said Rauer, a purchaser who was himself once an engineer. Specialists join the permanent employees when needed.
"We have tried to modularise wherever we can," said Rauer. Ford supplies the engine, clutch and gearbox for the 160 mph S-V8, which allows the company to offer a full-drive-train warranty. The model has 2,000 components, the same number as cars made by high-volume producers.