Supply Chain Now Episode 499

“I think we can really play a leading role in the evolution of, of not only the auto industry, but society in general, you think about some of the next gen technologies around autonomous and connected vehicles that are at play.”

– Brandon Mason, lead analyst for Eaton’s Global Market Intelligence group


Brandon Mason, the lead analyst for Eaton’s Global Market Intelligence group, is one of the speakers scheduled for the upcoming 2020 AIAG Supply Chain Summit, taking place virtually this November. Born and raised in Michigan, Brandon has a lifelong passion for the automotive industry and is excited to be part of the transformation currently underway that promises to offer smarter, cleaner, safer and more affordable transportation to the world.

In this episode, Brandon shares his insights into automotive industry trends with Supply Chain Now Host Scott Luton:

· The changes in trends he has seen in 2020, including a move away from emerging technologies and towards new consumer preferences

· The economic conditions he expects to see in the coming months

· How we can learn to embrace complexity – even to the point of boosting confidence

Intro/Outro (00:05):

It’s time for supply chain. Now broadcasting live from the supply chain capital of the country. Atlanta, Georgia heard around the world supply chain. Now spotlights the best in all things, supply chain, the people, the technologies, the best practices and the critical issues of the day. And now here are your hosts.

Brandon Mason (00:28):

Hey, good morning, Scott Lou, uh, with you here on supply chain now, welcome to today’s show. So on this episode, we’re continuing our programming in partnership with the AIAG organization, the automotive industry action group, uh, and in particular with AIG’s 2020 supply chain summit. So, uh, stay tuned as we’re going to be working really hard to raise and increase your supply chain leadership, uh, acute, uh, more to come on that in just a moment, but quick programming before we get started. If you enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to check us out and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from search for supply chain now, and make sure you subscribe still miss conversations, just like this one here. All right. So further ado let’s bring in our featured guests here. Uh, we’re going to be talking with Brandon Mason lead analyst, global market intelligence with Eaton Brandon.

Brandon Mason (01:22):

Good morning. Hey, good morning to you, Scott. Thanks for having me. You bet. Uh, enjoyed our little, uh, pre-show conversation, a little bit of baseball sprinkled in. I know you’re a big, uh, Detroit tigers fan, but tell us where are you from? And, and, and, you know, give us, um, give us a Eureka moment that you may have experienced as you were working up through your formative years. Sure, well, uh, born and raised in Michigan, um, I was actually born in Flint and grew up around the, the Flint area, uh, during my adolescent years. And, uh, you know, I’ve been around the auto industry, my whole life, obviously, you know, Flint, the birthplace of, of general motors. Uh, my dad worked at GM for 40 years. His dad worked at GM. So, you know, the industry was sort of all around me growing up. So there was really, no, I won’t say it as much discussion, you know, I haven’t struggled too much with trying to figure out what I wanted to do, uh, in my professional career.

Brandon Mason (02:17):

Um, it just, it just felt right. So, you know, very passionate about the, about the auto industry. And so, you know, you know, growing up around the Flint area, um, you know, there were a lot of pros and cons, right? You got to see the most of the auto industry. You got to see the impact that it had on the communities, in which it’s, uh, it’s involved. But honestly there were some dark times too. I mean, I remember, you know, my dad was laid off several times for, for long periods of time and, you know, the city really struggled and continues to struggle, um, when they’re over reliant on one industry. And so I wouldn’t say that was necessarily a Eureka moment, but just kind of solidified that, uh, I’m passionate about it. I want to be part of the solution in the industry. And, uh, and as we move forward, sort of start to transform around who we are.

Brandon Mason (03:01):

I think we can really play a leading role in the evolution of, of not only the auto industry, but society in general, you think about some of the next gen technologies around autonomous and connected vehicles that are at play. Um, you know, in terms of a Eureka moment, I guess maybe in my professional career for those that have been in the industry more than 10 years, you know, the dark days of the last global recession, the great recession of 2009. And, uh, I remember sitting, you know, a few nights on my couch, just wondering, you know, is there going to be in auto industry? And, uh, and, uh, the industry has come a long way since then obviously, uh, the innovation aspect has, has grown in multiples. And so, uh, to me, the Eureka moment is, you know, if, if we’re gonna survive, we need to continue to adapt and change and lead the way. Uh, so, so to me, that’s kind of, what’s driving me for, as we think about the trends that are going to shape our industry for the years and decades to come.

Scott Luton (03:57):

We’ll put a, in two things stick out, kind of, as you were sharing that first off, when your last point, there is a ton of reinvention going on in the automotive industry and a ton of innovation. You know, I think one of the, one of the many good news stories in this challenging year 2020 is how you’re seeing automotive manufacturers make huge shifts to be able to produce ventilators, right, and, and, and fight, uh, you know, serve the mission. Those are great stories. Um, and secondly, going back to your, your, your father, your experience, your father’s experience, his father’s experience, just Salta there, their people in that, our own, these plant floors that have some of the toughest jobs, toughest problems to solve, uh, in a production framework, I mean, salt of there, of people that make up the automotive industry.

Brandon Mason (04:43):

Yeah, absolutely. And I spent a few summers in college work on the assembly lines as well. So I’ve got a really good appreciation of what those jobs entail and work ethic that has to go into it. And you’re right. There’s a lot of prideful people in this industry that, uh, you know, want to make good, good quality products. And, uh, you know, w we need to make sure that we, uh, we focus on that and continue to take care of those folks as well. Cause they’re the backbone of this industry.

Scott Luton (05:06):

I’m with you. All right. Well said, let’s move right along. Let’s talk. I know Eaton’s a very large organization. We’ve got some, some sites down here we’re in our neck of the woods in Georgia, but if you could tell us what the company does at a high level, and let’s talk about where you spend your time.

Brandon Mason (05:23):

Sure. And, you know, I think it’s, it’s sort of, uh, interesting my, my career, you know, I’ve been in the industry again my whole life. Um, I’ve only been at Eaton for about seven months. And so if you do the math there, I started, uh, early March, right. When all of the pandemic stuff was really starting to hit. So certainly, um, interesting time to start a new, a new position. Um, and in my role as our market intelligence leader, um, you know, trying to figure out what’s going on in the industry, what are the main drivers, what’s our path recovery look like? Um, certainly an interesting, uh, time in one’s career, but, um, I’ll get to that in minute, uh, to start off. So Eaton, as you said, yes, that big company I’ve been around for a very long time, you know, in essence, Eaton is a power management company.

Brandon Mason (06:07):

So we’re an aerospace, we’re an electrical, we’re an industrial. And then obviously within the vehicle group, we manufacturer a number of different components and systems. Uh, we produce, uh, vehicle clutches, transmissions about spelled actuators, torque control products, boosting products, um, and whole host of other things. And then I would say, you know, the last few years we’ve really started to build up our mobility practice. So power management, power, conversion, um, electronics tools to, to really fit that growing industry. Again, we talked a little bit earlier about how our industry is changing. Uh, we’re trying to adapt, uh, and help lead the way in that change as well, because, you know, electric vehicles and, and that type of thing, both in the light vehicle and commercial space, they’re going to continue to grow. And so we want to make sure that we’re adjusting our portfolio accordingly.

Brandon Mason (06:55):

Um, in terms of my role, as I said, I lead our market intelligence team. So it’s a, my job is to, and, and, and the job of my team is to monitor the industry, understand what are the big trends that are shaping our industry and our specific businesses, um, and try and advise leadership, you know, and, and that’ll help, uh, drive our strategy in terms of what we want to do in terms of the products that we offer, the companies that we want to partner with, um, potential acquisitions, uh, it all plays into that. And so, uh, as you can imagine, uh, my team and I have been quite busy over the last several months as we’ve worked our way through this, uh, this global pandemic and, and downturn,

Scott Luton (07:33):

You know, I, I love as you describe your role, uh, and, and the role you play within an organization gathering the critical signals, not all the noise, but the critical signals that provides your leadership, the ability to, to take advantage of opportunities, to move faster and make better decisions, which is, is really become table stakes here in the information age. So really neat. There we’ll have to have you back because I’m sure that we could talk for hours about some of the fascinating aspects of, of what your team seeing, but for the sake of this interview here, let’s pick one thing, you know, when you look at global supply chain global business in a historically challenging year, like 2020 is, and we’re all fighting through it, what’s one thing that really sticks out. You’ve been tracking more than others.

Brandon Mason (08:16):

Yeah. And, and to be fair you’re right. I mean, we could talk for plenty of time about all of those things. So maybe I’ll just list a couple of quick nominations or, you know, uh, honorable mentions. And then we can kind of get to one of the, one of the things that, uh, we’re focused on most. So I like Brandon, I like your style. Thanks, Scott. Um, you know, the things that we’re kind of broadly tracking, you know, it’s funny before the pandemic hit, you know, we were talking a lot about, um, emerging technologies and we often use the case acronym, right. Connected, autonomous shared, and electric vehicles. Um, those have kind of taken a back seat to some degree. And so, um, I think that the question going will be, what is the focus on those now? I think some will accelerate some, I think we’ll have pause, um, just because of some of the investment requirements and then, um, you know, customer preferences to share vehicles and things like that have changed now.

Brandon Mason (09:09):

Um, all right. So I’m not going to talk too much about that. Um, other things that, uh, that we’ve talked about, you know, fourth industrial revolution, I think that’s something that will be accelerated, uh, as we go forward, we’ve often talked about it, but I think things about like augmented reality, free ranging robots. And again, some of the things that the pandemic has brought up in terms of safety concerns and remote working and things like that, uh, those types of things I think will certainly be accelerated, but if I had to focus on, um, one thing, um, you know, I think it’s just around the uncertainty and how we plan for uncertainty. And we’ve always had uncertainty in an industry. That’s, that’s not the question, but just, if you layer on top of the, the monumental change that our industry is going through right now, um, you know, we were ready to just make this fundamental shift towards new technology, new business models, et cetera.

Brandon Mason (09:59):

We have a once in a hundred year pandemic and then a pretty significant recession on top of it. And so, you know, the uncertainty, I think is what’s grasping folks, uh, most notable. And I think a lot of us want to be cautiously optimistic about some of the news that we’ve, we’ve seen, um, certainly here in the U S you know, sales and in production continue to trend upwards. So I think to a lot of people’s pleasant surprise, but we still have a long way to go. And so trying to understand the different models that are gonna play out over the next three, six, nine months, whatever it might be is really difficult. And so that creates a lot of uncertainty in the supply chain and the industry as a whole around, you know, what’s that gonna look like? It’s hard to plan for something that’s never happened before, let alone layering on all sorts of other things. Right. Um, we were talking this morning with our European team around the impacts of Brexit, for example, right? Number Brexit, like, you know, maybe six, seven months ago, that was a huge deal. That’s all, everybody was, anybody was talking about it, right.

Scott Luton (10:57):

It feels like six or seven years ago at this point. Exactly.

Brandon Mason (11:00):

And, and now, you know, it took a back seat, I think for most folks. And now it’s kind of come up again about, wow, like, what’s the impact of that. Wouldn’t be on top of everything else that’s going on. So I think embracing the uncertainty to some extent is, is probably the best advice, understanding that nobody’s got a high level of confidence right now about, you know, what the next six to 12 months are going to look at, look like w we hopefully have a good, a better idea on the, let’s got the medium term, uh, picture. But, uh, I think the advice there is that folks have to build out scenarios and just have a hyper focus on those different indicators and then make your plans. According to that, it’s hard to kind of put anything in an ink right now, unlike before, because before it dries, you know, something has changed. So to me, the uncertainty, I think, is the biggest thing that, uh, we’ve been focusing on

Scott Luton (11:50):

The good news there. It seems like there’s been, there’s never been a greater thrust to identify these, these leadership blind spots and get them out, get them above surface level so that we can, you know, um, put contingency plans just in scenario planning and, you know, mitigate the risk that is, is alive and well, unfortunately in so many different forms. So appreciate what the good work you and your team do there at Eaton. Um, let’s talk, let’s shift gears. As we starting to wind this, this brief video podcast down, let’s talk about AIG. We’re, you know, look, we’re pretty blatant about it. We’re big fans here at supply chain now of the great work that AIG does. And we talked about your role, Brandon, and what you and your team do, you know, tracking down information and best practices and those critical signals. And you’ve got great associations and groups like AIG that helped make that easier for everybody that may not have internal expert analyst team. So speak a little bit to your involvement with AIAG and where you see value.

Brandon Mason (12:51):

You know, we were talking before we started the show here that, uh, you know, I’ve been working with AIG and I lost track. I guess when you, when you get to a certain age, you start to lose track. Number started to get a little fuzzy about how long you’ve been involved in something. But I would say close to 10 years, um, have been working with the AIG team and, uh, presented at a number of their, their conferences. And, and, you know, we’ll be speaking at the, uh, event virtually next month. And, uh, my hope is that, uh, sooner, rather than later, we can get back to some, some in-person, uh, communication. Uh, but I will tell you, you know, as I said, I’m, I’m very passionate about where I’m from. I’m very passionate about the industry. And so with the sort of the, this is the team at AIG, and, uh, every time I go to an event, you know, I’ll sit around and I’ll, I’ll listen to the speakers before me and after me.

Brandon Mason (13:37):

And, uh, it’s, it’s really impressive to see the passion that that team has and the advocacy and the education to try and show folks. I think those of us in the industry, we understand right, the unique challenges of our industry, but we also appreciate, um, the contributions that our industry makes, uh, across the spectrum. And I think, uh, a lot of folks don’t realize that, and AIG has done a good job along with other advocacy groups of, of showcasing the value and the expertise and the technology, uh, that the auto industry brings to, to the world. And so to me, I always find it very insightful to listen to folks from a broad spectrum of, of, uh, backgrounds and expertise at these events. And then of course, you know, the networking, always a good turnout at the events that I’ve attended. So it was good to kind of talk shop with, with some folks. So to me, those are the big value adds to it. And of course they let me get up and talk about whatever I want for, you know, um, I don’t, I don’t always have a time limit, which is nice. So, uh, they let me get up and passionately speak about a lot of different topics related to auto. So I’m certainly grateful for that.

Scott Luton (14:40):

Wow, love it. Love the community that AIG has been building for years service, you know, serving a critical industry, uh, for not just the American economy, but global economy. So, so much great thought leadership right here and great relationships. It’s part of the AIG community. So, all right. So Brandon, uh, we’ll make sure our listeners know how to connect with you, uh, and your organization after this interview. So what, what, what’s the best way to do that?

Brandon Mason (15:07):

Sure. So, I mean, if you want to know more about Eaton, it’s easy, you can just go to our website, it’s Um, for specific topics. If you’ve got a, you know, a question I want to discuss something, I’m again, always happy to have that conversation with folks. So feel free to connect with me directly on LinkedIn,

Scott Luton (15:24):

Enjoyed our, our brief time here with you here on supply chain. Now, Brandon, uh, best of luck as the Detroit tigers gets new leadership and get things turned around. I’m sure their next world series appearance is just around the corner, but we need to really appreciate what you do. Thanks for joining us. And thanks for being part of the AIG community and to our listeners. We’ve been chatting with Brandon Mason, lead analyst, global market intelligence with Eaton. Hopefully you enjoyed this conversation as much as we have. Hey, if you enjoy it, check out a splotch net, wherever you podcast from subscribe. So you don’t miss rate conversations like this here today. Hey, one challenge. You’d like to challenge our team each and every day. Do good. Give forward, be the change that’s needed. And on that note, we’ll see you next time.

Would you rather watch the show in action?  Watch as Scott welcomes Brandon Mason to Supply Chain Now through our YouTube channel.

Brandon Mason serves as the lead analyst for Eaton’s Global Market Intelligence group, where he oversees a team of industry experts that closely monitor automotive developments and technology-driven trends. Brandon is also responsible for helping to develop and implement Eaton’s market outlook and business strategy. As an active industry analyst and spokesperson, Brandon has spoken at numerous high-profile events and has been interviewed by publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Automotive News, Automotive Logistics, Car and Driver, ABC News and The Los Angeles Times. He has also authored several thought leadership pieces focused on smart cities, congestion and the changing automotive value chain. Prior to joining Eaton, Brandon spent nearly 15 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) where he held a variety of roles and most recently served as the firm’s US Mobility leader. He was Chief of staff and Chief Strategist for PwC’s US and Global automotive practice, where he had oversight of the sector’s day-to-day business and strategic priorities. He also previously led PwC’s Autofacts industry analyst team. Born and raised in Michigan, Brandon has a lifelong passion for the automotive industry and is excited to be part of the transformation currently underway that promises to offer smarter, cleaner, safer and more affordable transportation to the world.

Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here:


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