And it works well for parts such as bolts and fasteners because many companies make them and there are backups at the ready if the main source is knocked out.
Other trends are magnifying the risk of the just-in-time approach. Parts supply companies downsized significantly during the recession, and the remaining firms don't have the money or staff to stock up on raw materials in case of a disruption. The industry also shrank because carmakers needed increasingly specialized parts to meet government safety and fuel economy standards. Suppliers without those products went out of business.
In the U.S. alone, at least 57 parts makers have closed, were bought out or went into bankruptcy since 2008, according to the Original Equipment Suppliers Association.
"That has condensed the number of players in some instances," says Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS Automotive Consulting.
Robinet warns that there are many potential shortages throughout the industry beyond PA-12. There are relatively few suppliers of specialty metals such as boron, which is added to steel to make it stronger and lighter.
"There's not a lot of extra capacity," he says.
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