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Never mind those plants where automakers keep only a few hours' worth of parts on hand. Many of the components that feed the AutoEuropa facility outside Lisbon aren't even manufactured until the vehicle starts down the assembly line.
What makes such tight scheduling possible is the existence of a 900,000-square-meter industrial park right next door to the plant, in the fields of Palmela. Frans Maas is the park's manager, a job that requires it to reach well beyond its roots as a freight forwarder, warehouser and trucker.
In fact, "freight forwarder" doesn't begin to describe what the vendor does for AutoEuropa, a 50-50 joint venture of Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen. Frans Maas picks and sequences the movement of parts from 10 suppliers inside the park, as well as six others within a 25-kilometer radius. And while that number represents a small portion of the 365 companies from 17 European countries that supply the plant with nearly 7,000 parts, it covers many of the most critical components, including seats, doors, paint, axles, tires and instrument panels. Together, suppliers in Palmela account for nearly 40 percent of the value of all parts that go into AutoEuropa's vehicles.
The project represented a brave new world for both vendor and manufacturer. The AutoEuropa plant was inaugurated in April 1995, less than five years after the partners fixed on Portugal as a place to build minivans for the European market. And Frans Maas hadn't previously managed the flow of parts for a major auto plant, according to Joao Pereira De Almeida, general manager of the entity known as Frans Maas Logistica Palmela Lda.
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and scanned at the customer service counters in Kmart stores, and the goods are dispatched at designated intervals to the assigned returns center.
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