Ian Harnett of Jaguar Land Rover - purchasing for new powertrains and plants

JLR’s purchasing chief could be viewed as being caught in a perfect storm of challenges - the rapid rise of electrification in the OEM’s fleet, the move from diesel engines to more petrol-powered vehicles, and the upcoming launch of the new Defender but he sees it all as more of a series of exciting opportunities, as he tells Simon Duval Smith 

There are increasing and manifold challenges to JLR's purchasing and supply chain due to the rapidly accelerating developments in electric and hybrid vehicle models and this is certain to have profound effects on the carmaker’s purchasing and supply chain as Ian Harnett, Executive Director Human Resourcesand Global Purchasing confirms: “You’re right, the changing technology is bringing a new challenge to the choice of supplier base and the supply chain with the onset of electrification. However, we have the advantage that we have been in the game longer due to the introduction of the World Car of the Year Jaguar I-PACE.” He also agrees that the cost of new technology is high at present and can only be alleviated by intelligent purchasing and choice and production location. “Our CEO has said that currently the cost of a battery electric drivetrain is three to four times higher than a performance-comparable internal combustion engine. Affordability for the consumer will only be achieved if we create the next generation of batteries and produce them close to vehicle production.” Harnett says that the new technologies involved will be challenging but can also bring opportunities for suppliers. “In addition to the battery itself, there are a myriad of other new parts required to complete a battery pack that are complicated in their own right and bring new challenges to what is in effect current technologies and commodities - I’m thinking aluminium and plastics. The battery cradles, busbars and plastic housings all offer new opportunities to our existing supplier base, but also to some new entrants. By the same token we are introducing a range of new commodities that are needed alongside the batteries themselves to enable us to complete the system: inverters, converters etc. Most of the main recognised Industry players are all entering this field so there are choices to be had.”

Ian Harnett

Ian Harnett

“The main challenge is picking the right technology at the right time, and then developing it. You have to make a call at a point in time, and then work with the provider to optimise the key elements of the package.”

Charging and chemistry

One finds that range anxiety is increasingly only found amongst people who do not have an EV and Harnett says that charging time will take over as the main concern for EV users: “On electrification, I think we have the range sorted… it’s now all about charging capability. Range anxiety was a real issue, but once you have lived with the car and found that it’s ok to go places, the anxiety fades… what then becomes the priority is the charging time. Ideally charging overnight is the best option, but not everyone has the luxury of their own space, so then it’s where and when can you charge. At work is the next best thing, so at Gaydon we have installed the largest single collection of charging points in the UK to remove the anxiety for our own employees.

I ask him what the general feeling is in JLR about EV battery cell sourcing versus making in-house, and battery pack assembly insource/outsource. “Going forwards we have set out our position on battery pack assembly and have announced that we will do in-house assembly of battery packs. We won’t manufacture our own batteries as, to do that, you need a deep knowledge of how the composition and the chemistry of the materials come together prior to the manufacturing process.”

Contract manufacturing - roles and responsibilities

Working with Magna Steyr has been Jaguar Land Rover’s first ever foray into the world of third party contract manufacturing; the Austrian contract manufacturer builds the E-PACE and I-PACE and I ask Harnett about the special challenges on the supply side when working with a contract manufacturer, especially when making something as novel as the I-PACE. He says that the two companies have history, “We already had a comprehensive and long-standing relationship with the Magna Corporation through a variety of different component supply agreements. Over the last 30 years I had tried on a couple of occasions to develop an outsourced project, but on both occasions the projects failed on the financial tests, so back to the drawing board. This time, with E-PACE and I-PACE it passed the tests. 

“From the outset we worked very closely on the terms, so long before we rushed off to develop and build the cars we sat down and went through how we would work together, the terms and conditions, the roles and responsibilities. It was well worth investing the time up front so once we got going everyone could focus on their key role in the delivery of the project. I would recommend this to everyone – it may seem like a slow start but it definitely pays dividends later.

We have had some challenges along the way, but this isn’t the first time Magna has built a car, and think it’s true to say we have learned a lot from each other.

“Communications is key to success, and we have regular reviews, with the senior team from Magna, along with myself and the functional heads of Product Engineering, Manufacturing and Quality, on site in Graz. Face-to-face is still the best way to reinforce and test each other’s understanding.”

Innovation and awards

Vehicle makers often boast of nurturing and encouraging innovation from the supply base but of course this has to be tempered with the concerns of quality, delivery and cost. JLR recently rewarded its suppliers at its annual Supplier Excellence Awards and I ask Harnett if he can quote examples of innovation coming through from the supplier base that have really impressed recently. He says that the awards were judged by more than just the purchasing teams: “At this year’s Supplier Excellence Awards we worked with our colleagues in Product Engineering to recognise innovation within our supplier base. This year’s winner was Batz, specifically for developing active aero vane technology. These clever vanes help both engine cooling and aerodynamics across our current and future range of vehicles. So whilst electrification is a hot topic, so is the fuel efficiency of our combustion engine models.”

Software challenges

I wondered if he predicts more innovation in the electronics and software spheres; he says it is strong in all areas of the vehicle, “Innovation continues apace on all aspects of the car, and the human machine interface gets even stronger. All cars are becoming more and more complicated: just to compare with an aeroplane, usually on a conventional jet there are about 10,000,000 lines of code - on a typical Jaguar Land Rover vehicle we are looking at ten times that!”

Connecting to the customer with Software Over The Air (SOTA)

With vehicles becoming increasingly connected and able to report their running condition and problems that need addressing and over-the-air updates etc, I ask Harnett how he sees the role of the service parts organisation changing and how will this manifest itself. “This is going to be a game changer in the years to come,” he says, pointing out that: “No-one thinks twice about the updates over the air for their mobile devices - things happen and most of the time you are unaware. This has got to be a major improvement to everyone’s lives. From a customer service perspective it means you can get updates and upgrades without any inconvenience. From a retailer perspective it means that the focus can be on hardware repairs and service rather than consuming time and space with software updates - so generally a win-win all round.”

The next big challenge - building the new Defender in a new plant

Asking any carmaker executive what his next big challenge is usually results in some indistinct answers but for Harnett the issue is clear: the new Defender is a crucial vehicle launch. As the first vehicle from Land Rover, in 1948, the new model holds a special place in the company’s heart, as he says, “Our next significant challenge is going to be launching the all new Defender in Slovakia later this year. Any new vehicle is always a test, but this is a brand new generation of our iconic Defender. When you see it, you will know exactly what it is. Unfortunately you can’t see it just yet, but I am sure it won’t disappoint. So we are adapting to our new manufacturing environment and have successfully transferred production of the Discovery down to Nitra earlier this year. By putting an existing vehicle into a new factory, our new workforce could manufacture and build that vehicle to a known standard. This means we have a capable factory and workforce that can tackle the launch of a new vehicle.” 

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