Guenther Apfalter became president of Magna Europe in 2010 after the departure of then co-CEO Sigfried Wolf
puts logistics among his
top priorities for Magna
in Europe, and believes that it can make a real difference to the supplier's bottom line.
"Logistics is certainly in our top five at Magna
It is one of the main ingredients of our daily operations," he
"This is a big cost portion on one side but also a big opportunity for improvement."
is busy enough to not be involved in the day-to-day operations of procuring logistics or managing material flow.
He is one of Magna's top executives, working with the heads of the company's multiple divisions in the region, and a network of more than 120 plants and around 30 engineering and development centres.
Apfalter is also president of Magna Steyr (a role he's held since 2007), a group that builds vehicles in Graz, Austria and runs its own global supply chain for vehicle assembly and in areas such as roof, battery and fuel systems.
Despite these responsibilities, logistics is clearly a priority for Apfalter
, as he
takes time to meet Automotive Logistics during a special visit to the Magna
Logistics Days, an event held during mid-October in Leibnitz, Austria for internal logistics managers at Magna in Europe as well as for logistics providers.
maintains that logistics at Magna
is not just about moving material between suppliers and plants, but is crucial to the company's organisational structure.
Like other large tier one suppliers, Magna
has been a product of numerous acquisitions, mergers and restructurings over the years.
The company, with its several divisions and more than 310 global plants, has a very decentralised management approach.
So much so that Apfalter's job as president for Magna Europe
is actually parallel in many ways to his
position as president of Magna Steyr
Logistics is part of what brings together many of the disparate parts of the organisation.
"Our decentralised culture has meant that logistics is playing more and more of a role at Magna
"Our European team is doing a great job in optimising the value stream between our partners, suppliers, customers and our plants."
says that logistics helps Magna to act more like "a fleet of speed boats rather than a tanker" when it comes to adjusting its production or supporting customers, for example.
stresses that, with the supply chain so interconnected globally, logistics has even less room for failure, particularly during vehicle launches.
"[As president] you don't watch logistics all the time, but if you have problems then it comes to the surface very quickly.
If you're missing parts during a launch, and you have to fly parts from Mexico to Japan, the costs just explode," he
For Apfalter, logistics' future role in this localisation will also become more significant.
believes that lowering CO2 emissions and providing customers with more visibility about supply chain origins will become both a regulatory and operational requirement in the automotive supply chain.
"Logistics is going to be more and more of a differentiator, especially as we talk more and more about CO2 emissions from ships, planes and trucks," he
"If I were a politician, I would award those companies that have excellent logistics and supply chains rather than hauling equipment from one side of the globe to the other."
even foresees the day when car parts will have stickers showing supply location and emission generated in their delivery, similar to fruit labels in some countries today.
"That will happen in automotive, too.
Some progressive groups, such as BMW, are already looking in their supply chain for who is localised and who has the most optimised logistics and supply chain," he says.
Strength in the European supply base
Despite the need to localise in growing markets, Apfalter
is nevertheless adamant that Magna's European production and supply base will remain strong, particularly in Germany and Austria, where it has 49 and 17 plants, respectively.
expects that western European markets will remain saturated, the company's production and supply chain here will continue as important centres of volume, value and innovation, even as Magna
invests further in markets like Russia, where the company now has five plants.
financial results both in Europe and globally have demonstrated this duality to some extent.
According to the company's half year financial report, core manufacturing regions in Central
Klaus Iffland (left) and Guenther Apfalter (right) speak to editor Christopher Ludwig during the Magna Logistics Days in Austria
Despite the relative strength in Europe for the company, Apfalter
does not deny that more growth will come from the east, both for Europe and globally.
Magna's global sales split is currently around 50% for North America, 40% for Europe and 10% for Asia.
"However, the Asian car market will continue to grow over the course of the next years, and of course Magna
will adjust itself," he