For international supply chain projects, cultural sensitivity, mutual respect, and clear communication can be as important as technology and engineering. Andrew Ledesma, Timex Corp.'s director of distribution engineering, knows that well: They were all factors in Timex's successful consolidation of manufacturing and distribution operations in Cebu, the Philippines.
The project involved building a highly automated distribution center and upgrading an adjacent manufacturing plant. The design consultant and systems integrator were from the United States; the material handling equipment came from Germany; and the installers, electrical contractors, and end users were from the Philippines.
Strong relationships made this multinational group successful. Project managers and technicians moved to Cebu for up to nine months, says Dan Hanrahan of systems integrator The Numina Group. Timex also sent staff to the United States for months of software and equipment training. And because their hosts worked six days a week, the project team did, too.
Ledesma's presence was key: As a Filipino who has worked for Timex for 30 years, he helped to bridge cultural differences. For example, the Filipinos preferred to make group decisions, but the Americans and Germans were used to a single decision maker. The solution: send one project manager to daily meetings, gathering larger groups only as needed.
Team members developed a sense of unity that contributed to the project's success. "Timex treated us as part of their family," Hanrahan says. "That built a bonding relationship so that everyone went above and beyond to make the customer successful."