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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 March 2007, 23:21 GMT
Global car industry: Ken West
AUTO OUTSOURCING
Ken West
Name:Ken West
Age: 47
Lives: Cologne, Germany
Works: Managing director

As an engineer in the auto supply industry since 1982, I've witnessed at first hand the huge changes in the industry's fortunes.

At the moment, the industry is pretty crazy. Everything is so globalised, it really reflects how the world is shrinking.

One day I will be flying out to South Africa for a three-hour meeting, on another day I may be in China. It's hectic but I do enjoy it.

I'm the managing director for an automotive supplier in Cologne, Germany.

Our company is based in Dubai because it sits neatly between Asia and Europe - about seven hours from both continents.

I've worked in many different roles in my career, from research to projects to proposals. I've also worked in the US as well as the UK and Germany.

In 1985 I went over to America, to Detroit. I had been working in the UK in the research and development department. When that closed down, the American division decided they wanted it and the staff involved.

I've enjoyed living in different places and flying out to countries all over the world

Basically they shipped over the furniture and I happened to be sitting on the right chair!

Detroit has always been a boom-and-bust place. Now they are going through what the Americans call a "mega-downer".

Of course, one reason for their problems is the competition. And the big competition is coming from Toyota.

Toyota just seem to producing higher-quality products. One major reason for this is their "no-blame" culture, which extends to their suppliers.

This means no-one hides problems. In fact, they are viewed as opportunities to improve. To say the US companies operate at the opposite end of the spectrum is an understatement.

Globalisation can be difficult for some people. And in this industry, you have to adapt and become a global player to survive.

But I've seen the positive side of it too. I'm not the sort of person who enjoys sitting in a small, parochial office with one or two people.

I've enjoyed living in different places and flying out to countries all over the world. Variety is the spice of life.

I like living in Germany - after all, the beer is cheap! And I could see myself living in China if the right job came up.

The big cities there, like Shanghai, aren't that different from Western conurbations after all. Whether that is such a good thing is another matter.





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