#127: The EV Boom and Building the Supply Chain for it

Steven Merkt is the President, Transportation Solutions of TE Connectivity.

As leader of the Transportation Solutions segment – one of the world’s largest suppliers of connectivity and sensor solutions to the automotive and commercial vehicle marketplaces – Steven is responsible for all aspects of sales, development, and operations for the segment worldwide.

Steven joined TE in 1989 and has held leadership positions in general management, operations, engineering, marketing, supply chain, and new product launches. He was appointed to his current position in August 2012, after serving as President of TE’s Automotive business.

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Steven Merkt: LinkedIn

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • Steven’s journey with TE Connectivity – from being an engineer to executive management roles
  • The 4 phases of the Electric Vehicle market 
  • Preparing EV Supply Chains for the Boom
  • Global OEMs building their EV Infrastructures
  • How important is proximity to clients to TE Connectivity
  • Being bold and putting customers first

Show notes:

  • [01:18] How did you end up in TE Connectivity? Are there any inflection points in your career? And what brought you to where you are today?
  • [02:35] Could you walk us through where the EV market was, how it evolved, and where it is today?
  • [06:09] There are four steps for EV. Step one is technology. Step two is for governments to bridge the gap. Step three is where we are currently, where we are seeing an inflection point adoption, where things really take off. And step four is probably one of the bigger challenges in all of this, and that is building out a global supply chain to support the growth of the automotive industry.
  • [07:44] How are you and how is TE Connectivity preparing your supply chains for this?
  • [08:48] For us, it’s really important to anticipate what our customer’s needs are going to be. And then make sure that we build both the capability and the capacity to do that. And that looks quite different for different OEMs.
  • [10:39] A big challenge, as we see some of the global OEMs building out their EV infrastructures on a global basis, they want to make sure that we’re close enough to be able to deal with so many of the disruptions that are happening in the space.
  • [11:41] Are there certain principles or certain things that you just tried to keep in mind in order for you to be able to expand and manage this global complexity with all your clients in different markets?
  • [12:30] By having that portfolio of market-based solutions, it allows us to be able to build out that application engineering and that manufacturing capability and capacity next to our customers. And for us, that’s a really important concept for us, which is, that we’re not chasing the lowest cost labor that we have anywhere in the world, our goal is to be as close to our customers as we possibly can.
  • [13:28] As we think about some of the disruptions that have occurred, having a shorter supply chain that is closer to our customers eliminates a lot of the complexity. The closer we can be to our customers and the more we can anticipate their needs, the better we can serve them. 
  • [14:37] Would you say that you would make a good focus in terms of trying and working within evolving Chinese OEMs? Would you say that the growth is you know, across the board, not necessarily for one particular marketing?
  • [15:21] The Chinese OEMs have gone from technology followers to folks who are making meaningful investments and building out their own innovation and their own technology portfolio. And I think that’s one of the bigger changes that we’ve seen.
  • [18:14] Are there certain things that you do in terms of helping some of your clients mitigate or better run through these types of semiconductor shortages?
  • [20:25] What I would say is the part of the supply chain that really struggled is the raw material part of the supply chain. We saw that the raw material supply chains were not as robust as they need to be to deal with the kind of disruptions that we’re seeing. And it’s changed the way we think about the certainty of supply and how important it is for us to partner and build different kinds of relationships with our suppliers.
  • [22:16] Are there certain ways in which you ensure or perhaps maximize your chances of keeping up with developing the right skills and talent or attracting the right people to sustain the growth?
  • [23:13] Step one is making sure that the purpose is real, that the people understand it, they feel it, and impacts them. The second thing is making sure we have a culture that encourages people to grow.
  • [24:26] Looking back on your career, what would you say were one or two principles that you followed or learned along the way that helped you?
  • [25:21] Being bold and challenging yourself to get into uncomfortable spaces provides a tremendous growth opportunity and remember that whatever industry you’re in if you drift too far from the customer, you will lose your Northstar.

Related Episodes:

#124: FMCG vs Pharma, Omnichannel and Central Planning

#125: Heineken SCM, IoT and 3D Printing

#126: Golden Skills, Changing Industries and Networking

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