“We’re addressing some of the specific challenges that have arisen from the need to manage vehicle flows in different directions to what we’ve seen historically.”

As Senior Director of Logistics, Chris Styles is responsible for all Logistics operations for Nissan North America, Inc., across Canada, the United States and Mexico. The scope comprises everything from Finished Vehicle Logistics to Inbound Parts Logistics, International Logistics, Logistics Strategy and Implementation, as well as Logistics Packaging and Engineering. 

 In North America, Nissan’s production rose more than 22 per cent in 2013, with the company’s factories in Canton, Mississippi and Smyrna, Tennessee, producing nearly 800,000 vehicles. This year, the company is projected to export more than 100,000 U.S.-made Nissan vehicles, an increase of more than 37 per cent. 

In May, officials from Nissan announced the company’s decision to add 500 new jobs at its vehicle assembly plant in Canton to support the production of the 2015 Nissan Murano crossover. This will bring employment at the Canton plant to more than 6,000. The 2015 Murano will be the first of its kind produced in the U.S., making the Canton plant the global source for Murano production and creating export opportunities to more than 100 markets.

Nissan North America is one of several auto manufacturers currently in the process of growing its production capability in the region. According to Styles, these recent moves by multiple OEMs indicate a general need for additional logistics capacity in North America.

“We’re addressing some of the specific challenges that have arisen from the need to manage vehicle flows in different directions to what we’ve seen historically,” he explains. “For example, the ability of the ports to adapt to staging vehicles awaiting incoming vessels may create challenges for space utilisation and other needs.”

For Nissan, current logistics priorities focus on how to manage the significant growth that is projected to take place on the North American market. The number of finished vehicles that Nissan North America will manage in 2016 will represent a 38 per cent increase compared with the equivalent number for 2013.

“This will require greater focus on strategy for improved productivity, as well as closer interaction and planning with our logistics providers,” comments Styles.

He adds that there appears to be a current trend in the US auto industry for increased collaboration between OEMs on how to improve the overall logistics network. 

“Since we all share the same infrastructure network, including railroads, rail cars, vehicle delivery trucks and so on, we can see many OEMs and service providers working together to find better ways to improve productivity and cost,” he says.

According to Styles, the overall growth in the market, along with Nissan’s specific growth, have resulted in a greater need to ensure that both plant and port facilities are adequate to handle the increasing volumes. The same applies for infrastructure – especially with regard to railroads and rail car availability, which need to keep up with growing demand in the region. 

“All the OEMs experienced limitations last winter, due to significant weather events,” continues Styles. “This raised the question further about the network’s ability to handle spikes in volumes without creating gridlock situations at certain points in the supply chain.”

With greater production volumes coming out of Mexico, Styles emphasises the need to maintain flexibility, in terms of both transport modes and routing options.

“As trucking does not offer a viable alternative for the high-volume transportation of vehicles across the border, the rail and ocean infrastructures will continue to play a key part,” he concludes.