1. Name and role at Wrightspeed?
Erin Sawyer, Vice President of Supply Chain
2. What were you doing before joining Wrightspeed?
I’m originally from Detroit, the Motor City, which was formative in shaping my professional background and interests. My first foray in the automotive sector was in my hometown working in the automatic transmission design center at Ford. I also worked at Cummins, where I designed and tested the company’s mid-range diesel engines. These early experiences in the automotive sector laid the foundation for the rest of my professional career: finding ways to reduce costs in automotive design and manufacturing. I continued my work in the sector with Honeywell, where I managed the sourcing of new turbochargers that we sold to GM & Ford, and, eventually, moved to Tesla to help launch the Model X and improve the supply chain for the Model S.
3. What are the lessons learned from your experiences with large manufacturers that you’ve brought to Wrightspeed?
From companies like Honeywell & Cummins, I learned the foundational building blocks of new product development, which has been useful here at Wrightspeed. Starting with the basics and getting them right early on reduces the complexity down the road, and we’ve been starting with those principles at Wrightspeed.
In my past experience, I’ve seen when you cut corners in the design and sourcing process early on, to compress lead-times and help expedite manufacturing, you end up having to go back and correct segments of the process that don’t scale. I’ve internalized those lessons, and am now establishing these fundamentals at Wrightspeed in order to eliminate problems down the line and to more quickly achieve sustainable, scalable growth.
These experiences are core to my role at Wrightspeed and help inform our critical tenant of asking the right questions. Building on these experiences, I’m focused on questioning our processes to continually improve operations.
4. What is your current role at Wrightspeed?
I’m leading the purchasing, planning, and inventory teams. I work closely with our design engineers and the production team, and I’m responsible for coordinating between the two teams to develop a sourcing strategy, negotiate with suppliers, and bring in the powertrain components on time, with the highest quality and most competitive cost. From there, when I have all the parts here, the production side takes over.
5. What have you enjoyed most since joining Wrightspeed?
New Product Introduction (NPI) has always been my favorite part of the product life cycle, moving from early design and prototype stages to production stage. I like translating the design into high volume production for the very first time. It’s a very exciting journey during, and I’m always striving for a flawless NPI launch.
6. What projects do you work on?
Most recently, I’ve been focused on working with AxleTech, who’s one of our suppliers. We’re partnering with them to do some key assemblies in our Geared Traction Drive (GTD). For that, I’ve been negotiating a long term agreement and executing on that outsourcing.
As a longer-term project, I’m implementing our ERP system to streamline and standardize all of our purchasing. That’s been a significant undertaking.