Paul Radkoski stepped in as Visteon Corp. vice president of materials management for North America in May, taking over the chief purchasing post for the region from Jonathan Maples, who had set the tone for the firm's supplier relations the past three years.
A former purchasing executive for Lear Corp., United Technologies Automotive and Honda of America Manufacturing Inc., Radkoski joined Visteon just as the Dearborn, Mich., supplier spun off from Ford Motor Co.
The transition was not easy, he admitted in an Aug. 5 interview during the auto industry's Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, but he said the business has firmed its structure and its core outlook.
Q: You're following Jon Maples, who was one of the most visible purchasing executives in the industry. Is there any extra pressure in that position?
Radkoski: No. I feel some relief. He started us down a great path, a path that I strongly believe in and that our team supports and believes in. Jon came in, actually, just as we were really getting things rolling. He helped confirm a lot of things, helped bring in a lot of new ideas that came from his Chrysler days.
Q: How has Visteon had to change its structure?
Radkoski: The philosophies that we were using [when I arrived] were very much the [original equipment manufacturer] type philosophy of: ``I have the business for sure to give'' mind-set. Not that I've got to win the business in order to be profitable. If I'm going to do that, I've got to have a supply chain that's going to support me and going to help me.
The people that were there had been part of Ford in the years when Ford was the most successful car company. So you have a hard time getting them to believe that the same things they were doing for Ford aren't going to make [Visteon] successful.
Q: And Visteon's size made every misstep visible?
Radkoski: It was somewhat of an anomaly, when you think of it. We went from not even having a sales force. Just think of the things like, when I first got there, simple things like [electronic data interchange] that had been in the industry for years and years. Well, we had been on Ford's computer system. We didn't send over a telephone wire what our inventories were because we were on the same computer as them. We went through learning curves that other suppliers had gone through five, 10 years earlier. It wasn't necessarily a fault of Visteon or a fault of Ford or the spinoff. It was a natural situation that would exist when somebody spun off and tried to market products to the rest of the world.
When Jon came in, he commissioned a study where we surveyed what the supply base thinks. It was a blind study, so they felt free to answer the questions freely. We compared ourselves to five or six of our biggest competitors.
That survey came back and it basically said, you're a bunch of dogs. It was not at all complimentary. It was the truth. Having been in the company for a year or two, these were things that we recognized.
Q: So what did Visteon do to improve those results?
Radkoski: We took the results to suppliers. We were very truthful about where we stood. We broke those questions down into four or five fundamental areas we had to get behind. There are things that were really of major importance to us. Items of trust, items of long-term partners. We did the survey again a year and a half later, and we were solidly in the middle of the pack [of suppliers].
Now there are folks who are seeing four, five, six, seven years of heavily booked business moving forward. Trust should not be an issue.
Q: So has the atmosphere stabilized?
Radkoski: The distance we've come over five years is quite remarkable. Everybody that's part of the materials team is quite proud of that.
Jon's ideas and direction got us going down the path. He didn't need to be here at this point to see us to the end, nor would I, nor would other players. People are starting to have the same set of core values and objectives that they didn't have before. It's no longer an individual's direction, it's the core group's direction.
Q: Where does Visteon's supply base fit into its future plans?
Radkoski: The supply chain that we have has to be able to bring in the best in class along with the traditional quality and cost. Technology is a huge part of our strategy we're trying to build. We're trying to sell to the entire OEM base. We need those [breakthrough products] and if we don't have them, our competitors will. We're trying to pick the right partners that have that same mind-set. We're trying to show them that those things are very highly valued and they're going to be very highly rewarded.