Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc. is pursuing a number of creative approaches to boost its purchases from minority suppliers.
In April it awarded the business for blow-molded instrument panel ductwork on the 2002 Camry to a new minority-owned venture, Du-Plast LLC of Detroit.
Du-Plast, a subsidiary of Detroit Technologies Inc. and owned by former Detroit Pistons basketball star Joe Dumars, is a newcomer to the industry. Toyota handed Du-Plast the business at the same time it provided the startup with production experts to design and build a factory that would be necessary for the Toyota ductwork business. The new 63,000-square-foot plant is being built according to Toyota Production System philosophies.
Toyota has spent years encouraging U.S. parts makers to consider adopting its production methods, which call for limited line-side inventories, minimal warehousing and kanban-style production, which has work-in-progress pulled forward only when the next station is ready for it.
In the case of an untested supplier such as Du-Plast, the Toyota-designed factory serves as a form of hand-holding. Toyota creates a new U.S. supplier to fill a new kind of need, while the supplier remains under Toyota's gaze, with its factory lines performing to Toyota specifications.
But that effort will only net Toyota about $3 million a year toward its 5 percent minority purchasing goal. Toyota also is helping Dumars to spin off Du-Plast as a joint venture, partnered with a major supplier chosen by Toyota.
In the meantime, other Toyota business is coming Dumars' way. Dumars has joined a venture with Garden State Tanning Inc. of King of Prussia, Pa., to cut leather seat cover sets for Toyota.
'We will be one of Toyota's largest minority suppliers,' forecasts Bill Vaughn, vice president of sales and marketing for parent company Detroit Technologies. 'And we're still an embryonic company.'