Auto Exec Shares Lessons Learned, Keys to Succeed

Paul V. Arnold, Noria Corporation

Attendees of Noria's RELIABLE PLANT 2009 conference, held earlier this month in Columbus, Ohio, received expert analysis on the state of manufacturing, the health of the auto industry and the future of uber-role model Toyota during a keynote address and interactive session presented by Mike DaPrile.

DaPrile, a 47-year auto industry veteran, recently retired from his role as vice president of manufacturing and operations support at Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America. Prior to his 22 years as an executive with Toyota, he spent 25 years as a manager and senior manager at General Motors. In "retirement", DaPrile will retain his role as chief operating officer and executive vice president at Shiroki-North America, a position he has held for several years as part of Toyota's supplier executive exchange program. He is also considering an offer from the University of North Florida to serve as an educator and consultant for its manufacturing programs.


At RELIABLE PLANT 2009, DaPrile shared his views and opinions on a host of topics.

On the most important career lesson he's learned: "At Toyota, I learned that I had to leave my ego at the door. I made a lot of mistakes initially by thinking that I knew it all. One of the biggest blockages or barriers is people's egos. They think they know more than the people doing the job. What I learned to do was learn from the team members."

On the role of plant-floor employees: "I really care for the team member. As a matter of fact, that has been a point that many people have brought up throughout my career. They thought that maybe I was too overly focused on the team member and not focused enough on the management side."

On how upper management can either enable or derail success: "General Motors has been good to my family - my dad worked there 40 years, I worked there 25, my brother worked there 20. But one of the problems GM has had is upper management and its inability to give team members the responsibility to do what needs to be done. I think GM's middle management is some of the strongest I've ever been associated with. They have the heart to do what needs to be done. They knew what needed to be done, but their backing was not quite there."


On the auto industry's plight: "I think it will be 2013 before the auto industry gets back to where it should. I think GM will come back stronger, but smaller. I think size has been one of their biggest problems. They were working so many plants at half capacity instead of working fewer plants at full capacity. They couldn't build a car and a truck back to back in the same plant. Until they can learn how to do that, they are going to have problems."

On Toyota's future: "The biggest strength is to know your weakness. Toyota has discovered its weaknesses through this ordeal over the past year-plus. The old weaknesses will now become the company's strengths. One thing about Toyota is that they learn."

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