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Parts Tracking Database Introduced for Automotive Supply Chain

A federal border patrol initiative sparked by 9/11 terrorism may lead to an automotive industry breakthrough in mapping its complex supply chain. The Automotive Industry Action Group of suburban Detroit is launching a new Web-based database for identifying the physical movement of finished goods, parts and materials through the automotive supply chain.

The initial phase of the program, Supply Safe-Supplier Security Assessment, will map shipments via the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism certification program. 

The voluntary C-TPAT program was launched under the George W. Bush administration shortly after 9/11 to document and expedite processing of cargo through customs. Participants receive fewer physical inspections and quicker processing. 

“The first casualty of globalization has been transparency,” said J. Scot Sharland, executive director of AIAG. “By using a government reporting requirement bolted on, we’re able to get this complex database off the ground.”

The database, which has been in development since mid-2012, will be filled with supplier information, provided to automakers through the system, such as plant locations, entry points of shipments to the United States and final destinations of those shipments. 

The participants, including automakers and Tier 1 suppliers, will ask each of their suppliers to complete the information, and it will cascade throughout the entire automotive supply chain, Sharland said. Each supplier will maintain its own profile and authorize which customers can view information, he said. 

“It’s arguably the worst-kept secret in Detroit, but nevertheless, companies view their supplier list as proprietary, so we knew that the command and control of the system had to be in the hands of the suppliers,” Sharland said. “We also know the scope of tracking the entire supply chain is enormous. You can’t really get there in one step. This is how we landed on the opportunity we’re launching right now.” 

Sharland said the database will launch no later than March and will initially be used by General Motors, Chrysler Group, Toyota Motor Corp., Magna International Inc. and Johnson Controls Inc.

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