About a year ago, the Original Equipment Suppliers Association established the OESA Tooling Forum to provide a platform to discuss industry issues and best practices in automotive vendor tooling that are critical to the entire value chain: the OEMs, Tier Ones and toolmakers. Now more than ever, with current business levels and their projected upward trend, we need to address the most critical challenges, and this Tooling Forum has begun to do just that. I was invited to attend its September meeting in Michigan—strictly to listen and learn—and it was very enlightening.
At the meeting, Carol Jean Milner and James Mastronardi, two purchasing managers from Nissan, presented the automaker’s global tooling strategy. The managers discussed Nissan’s approach to the tooling function in the U.S. and Mexico for which they are responsible. They expressed interest in more direct communication in the interest of forming collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships with tool shops in the region to support the company’s global product expansion and growth.
A member roundtable discussion followed, which focused on exposing current “pain points” experienced by today’s automotive tooling vendors. By far, the top two issues were getting paid and doing business in Mexico—both of which were tagged for further discussion during future meetings.
Other noted pain points include dealing with the shift from an older labor force to a younger one while addressing work-ethic challenges, managing new and existing work, maintaining a steady workflow, backsliding in customer relationships, and online bidding for jobs.
OESA and Harbour Results Inc. also shed some light on a vendor tooling study they conducted to engage the entire supply chain on best practices that eliminate waste within product development, purchasing and manufacturing. This study was based on data collected this year through interviews with all major OEMs, 25 Tier One suppliers and more than 40 tooling vendors. Results will be presented October 30 at the Sheraton Detroit Novi Hotel. You can register at OESA.org/Events.
Overall, feedback on the effectiveness of the group and about this latest meeting in particular was very positive. “It proved to be very informative and an excellent platform for many of the key players in the value chain to express themselves and ultimately work toward a more efficient automotive industry,” said Mark S. Kunitz, director of program engineering for Roush Global Tooling, who was attending his first OESA Tooling Forum. Another first-time attendee, Dave Cecchin of Omega Tool Corp., gave me his impression: “It was a professional gathering of like players in the industry with common goals and issues without the distraction of suppliers, customers, lenders, and other professional people. This setting promotes more candid conversation across all tool, die and mold makers.”
However, the true value of this Tooling Forum lies with having more tool, die and mold makers commit to becoming members. Membership is open to independent companies that manufacture molds, stamping dies and/or gages and fixtures in North America. Members do not have to also be members of OESA. Visit oesa.org/Councils-Committees/Tooling-Forum for more details.