Supply Chain Matters will at times focus on senior business or industry executives whom we believe really understand the essence of supply chain strategies and how the supply chain plays an important role in enabling desired corporate outcomes. In that vein, we continue to be impressed with Sergio Marchionne, Chairmen of Fiat and CEO of Chrysler Group. We have held this opinion since 2009. Not much has been written about this visionary, probably because of his no-nonsense style to shun away from the sometimes superstar status that some CEO’s savor.

A little over a year ago we posted a commentary, Chrysler-Fiat Continues its Journey Towards Synergistic Supply Chain and Manufacturing Strategy Execution. In that commentary, we summarized the positive aspects of Chrysler’s comeback from the depths of bankruptcy, and how the marriage of Fiat and Chrysler turned out to be positive in many respects. The unique leadership style of Mr. Marchionne, specifically his no-nonsense approach to management, his deep analytical abilities, and attention to the details of all aspects of the business, including manufacturing and value-chain continue to be recognized as being instrumental in this turnaround. Chrysler has performed well in 2012, both in sales and in execution.

At breakfast this morning, this author was listening to National Public Radio in the U.S., who in conjunction with this week’s Detroit Auto Show conducted an interview with the Chrysler CEO.  I was especially impressed with Mr. Marchionne’s description of his initial assessment of the company at the time of the takeover.  He describes an insular top level management structure that did not have sensitivity to conditions within manufacturing and the supply chain.  In spite of the financial crisis circling the company, it was essential to invest in the manufacturing processes and working environment to restore a quality oriented culture. He admits to ripping off major elements of the Toyota Production System which was renamed World Class Manufacturing System for Fiat, and instilling that philosophy in all production facilities.

We felt that our readers would enjoy listening to this NPR interview. (you will have to select the specific interview from the menu choices) Pay particular attention to Marchionne’s communication style, and picture yourself as a member of his management team.  He speaks to never falling into a state of complacency, in spite of the business successes at Chrysler, and instilling a commitment to quality and excellence.

Listeners should have little doubt, after listening to just this short snippet, about where the business priorities reside with this business leader. That is so very important in any organization.

Bob Ferrari