CommentaryOct 11th, 2022

Reimagining The Parts Return Process, an Interview with Jennifer Jones, Global Lifetime Warranty Manager at Ford Motor Company


The Career Journey:

Jennifer was encouraged by her high school science teacher to pursue her love of math and science with a career in engineering. When it came to applying to colleges, Jennifer was set on Michigan State, "it was the only school I applied to; I knew I wanted to go there."

The MAPConnected Vehicle Service and Warranty Lifecycle Summit 2022 is approaching. A collaborative conversation, led by some of the most brilliant minds in the industry, will be hosted by the Westin Southfield Detroit on the 25th - 26th of October. We had the opportunity to sit with Jennifer Jones, Global Lifetime Warranty Manager at Ford Motor Company.

After completing her undergraduate studies and an unappealing automotive coop, Jennifer chose to return to school to become a professor in engineering. Jennifer had enjoyed tutoring during her time as an undergrad, and it seemed a natural fit, coming from a family of teachers. 

Jennifer's journey, however, would reintroduce her to the automotive industry:

After completing her Master's thesis, Jennifer began working on four-wheel drive systems at Chrysler but would soon join Ford Motor Company in the Glass Division. "It was interesting, and it gave me great experience. I did rotations in different manufacturing areas, with my last rotation as a Production Supervisor at the Dearborn Glass Plant." Jennifer shared Ford has "a real focus on including everyone," noting DEI was an area Ford invested in even early in her career. She went on to work in four-wheel drive systems and engine mounts in product development for trucks. After being promoted to Supervisor of her team within Powertrain, Jennifer and her team launched hydromounts in Ford truck applications, which at the time was not commonplace. Working with new technology was "fascinating and challenging," says Jennifer. 

After a downturn in the market, Jennifer took on a role in Engine Service, a position that she wouldn't necessarily have considered before but a role that ended up opening her career to a new trajectory. Jennifer was the primary liaison between engine product development and the Customer Service Division, focusing on understanding engine issues and working on how to service them. "We also were working on future vehicle service, how to plan for service, and engine repairs."

"After being in that role for about four years, I had a manager that had moved to Quality, and he suggested that I apply to a new position there," Jennifer shares how she began her work in her current department. At the time, the department was called Warranty Spend, and Jennifer was experienced in powertrain warranty spend from her time in Engine Service. "My experience in Product Development made me a perfect fit for that role, and subsequently, I was promoted to manager and then Global Lead." 

Global Responsibility: the importance of adapting the lens through which you view the objectives

Jennifer is still responsible for the metrics of warranty spend and cost as well as the global tools and processes for their delivery. One of the pillars within Ford Motor Company is to treat customers like family. "I had thought about that and realized that the name of the Department needed to reflect that value," Jennifer says. "We should be working on improving warranty for our customers," and after a few iterations, "Warranty Spend" was replaced with "Lifetime Warranty." The exciting part about this name change and how it reflects what Jennifer and her team are building, is that the primary focus is on improving the warranty experience. Jennifer stated, "Within that, there are certain aspects of controlling costs because that impacts the customer too. But, if we focus on improving quality instead of controlling warranty, we will have happier customers and lower costs."

Inspiring your team to make the right decisions

"One of the things I love about being part of Ford is that there is a large focus on integrity, which is experienced through company culture and leadership," says Jennifer. In addition, it's about being a part of a team that is highly dedicated to what they do "within a Company that cares about its people." Jennifer shares that a long time ago, before remote work was a point of discussion, her Manager at Ford offered for her to work from home after her maternity leave. Jennifer's daughter will be attending college this year and will be following in Jennifer's footsteps, becoming an Engineer with plans to go into the Automotive Industry. 

How Technology is Impacting and Driving Change

"It's such an exciting time to be in the automotive industry," says Jennifer, "as technology progresses, our ability to take care of our customers increases." For example, a few years ago, customers could use USBs for updates. This progressed to updating your vehicle through connecting to WIFI and has now progressed to over-the-air updates. 

"As an industry, we have the opportunity to reorient ourselves"

Product development no longer ends when the vehicle is launched. "With developments in software, your vehicle can get better over time instead of worse, and it's a real mind-shift." 

The Parts Return Process

"The real purpose of parts return is to help us solve quality issues," Jennifer shares as she explains what she is most excited to talk about at the upcoming Vehicle Warranty Lifecycle Summit. "The ideas I want to talk about relate to how we can receive information from the dealers to solve problems faster." Integrating new technologies, such as video and virtual reality, allows for an integrated, real-time communication channel between the dealer and the OEM. To improve quality, how can the parts return process leverage technology and, more importantly, "leverage the relationship with the dealer to help us solve problems more efficiently." 

Jennifer shares that a significant focus is also "how do we make the part return process easier and more consistent for the dealer?" She is interested to hear from dealers and other OEMs in terms of best practices. As with the name change to "Lifetime Warranty," Jennifer is keen to solve problems for all stakeholders faster. 

Jennifer will discuss "Reimagining The Parts Return Process" MAPConnected Vehicle Service and Warranty Lifecycle Summit at the Westin Southfield Detroit on October 25th and 26th.

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