When Tonya Vanover attended her first AIAG event several years ago, she never imagined she would one day work for the organization. As AIAG’s new program manager for sustainable supply chain logistics, Vanover brings a unique perspective to the role because she has worked as an OEM and on the supplier side. Prior to accepting this position with AIAG, Vanover was senior buyer — global purchasing and supply chain for General Motors.
“I remember leaving that AIAG conference feeling inspired,” says Vanover. “All these different people were coming together and collaborating. I didn’t know this kind of work was going on in the industry — but it just made so much sense — all these people sharing ideas, talking to each other, from all sides of the auto industry. I was always under the impression that Ford dealt with its own problems and GM dealt with theirs. I didn’t know there was something like AIAG. I left the conference feeling refreshed.”
Vanover is an experienced logistics manager who has worked in the import and export industry, and is skilled in supply chain optimization, freight, ocean transportation, and reverse logistics. When the opportunity came to join AIAG, she was ready. The role offers the opportunity to work on projects related to the supply chain and import/export of vehicle materials. “The focus is to bring these two areas together because they share a lot of common goals, issues, and even the same crises when those happen,” she says.
Vanover will also be working with AIAG member volunteers to “take a really big look” at carbon emissions as well as the logistics aspect of the parts and materials shortage and challenges related to the transport of finished vehicles. “When vehicles come into the U.S., they have to be transported, and that incorporates rail and trucks,” she says. “With parts and materials, it’s the same. The items are different, but the logistical process is very similar, and I think there are ways we can improve both together.”
Vanover says there are good solutions from both finished vehicles and materials that she wants to make sure get shared across both industry sectors. “There are good things that can come from both if we can get them together as opposed to separate,” she notes.
Not only will Vanover be working on logistics projects and initiatives, but also, she will work on training and programming to help AIAG members learn and collaborate. “New projects often lead to new training,” she says, “and sometimes, new projects come out of current training. I’m excited to get started with my AIAG colleagues and the members to work on these ideas.”
In particular, Vanover says she is excited to work on sustainability initiatives for automotive. “Reducing the carbon footprint is such a big, important initiative,” she says.
As the backbone of AIAG is collaboration — often bringing together competitors, customers, and suppliers to work side-by-side on industry challenges — Vanover is confident that her experience as an OEM and supplier will help bridge the conversations.
“Obviously, being on the OEM side is very different from working for a supplier as a logistics manager and analyst,” she says. “Understanding the OEM perspective can be a little bit elusive, so if I can bring in some of that thinking pattern of an OEM, I think it's going to be really helpful. I’m at this point in my experience where I can see things from an OEM perspective and a supplier perspective and switch back and forth between the two. I've got this multi-sector bubble of knowledge that I can pull from both sides in material and finished vehicles. I’ve worked in domestic, and I’ve worked in international, and there are some awesome ideas that I hope can really provide some perspective.”
Vanover wants AIAG members to know that she is “extremely excited” about this opportunity. “I think collaborating and developing best practices is so important, and I encourage AIAG members to reach out if they have information or ideas that they want to share or questions that I can help with in any way. I'm really looking forward to working with everybody and building those relationships, sharing some insights, and really making some progress.”