Seeking a larger stage for its powder metal technologies, GKN Sinter Metals is eschewing the lights of Cobo Center for the light towers of Comerica Park during the SAE World Congress.
GKN Sinter Metals has become one of the world's largest powder and metals producers for automotive and commercial industries.
It hopes to score with potential customers during the SAE convention by converting its space at the baseball stadium into a technical center with seminars on powder metal technology.
Paying homage to its baseball setting the automotive supplier has arranged for Mickey Lolich, Gates Brown, Willie Horton and Jim Northrup - members of the world champion 1968 Detroit Tigers - to make an appearance.
Departing from tradition, GKN opted to use its communication dollars to stand out from the crowd at the SAE exposition and get more personal time with attendees.
'We felt that a more exclusive presentation venue would better suit our marketing goals,' says Don Spence, senior vice president for sales and marketing at GKN Sinter Metals. 'With the current downturn in the auto industry here in North America, it's become even more important for us to make sure that these dollars work harder for us. 'We realize engineering customers and purchasing people are critical and felt we were not getting the amount of face time with customers we needed at the show.'
Spence understands the mood of big-name suppliers pulling out of this year's SAE World Congress. 'We're all under severe cost and profit pressures, especially with a slow start to the year,' he said. 'Everyone's looking at how to maximize cost and what value they can get out of the SAE show.'
Acquisitions fuel growth
GKN Sinter Metals' growth has been fueled by acquisitions, acquiring 13 smaller powder metal companies since parent company GKN plc purchased Cleveland-based Sinter Metals in 1997, merging into its GKN Bound Brook division to form GKN Sinter Metals.
'For the first time, the more than 70-year-old power metal industry has a true industry leader. Historically, it's been a highly fragmented and little-known business sector,' Spence said.
GKN Sinter Metals sales total about $850 million, or 15 percent, of the $5.5 billion global powder metal parts producing market, four times the size of the next largest competitor. Through acquisitions it has grown to more than 100 engineers, metallurgists and technicians and the industry's largest r&d team, dedicating $20 million annually to r&d. The goal is to expand r&d to 5 percent of revenues in the next two years, Spence says.
Long guest list
GKN has invited more than 900 engineers and buyers from its customer organizations, and 4,500 engineering and purchasing representatives.
With its strength in numbers - 4,000 North American employees, 7,000 global - GKN Sinter Metals was able to tool and sample nearly 700 new products in 2000, with new-generation offerings in automatic transmission, engine, and body and chassis components and parts, using recently developed best-in-class processes.
Company engineers and technical experts will present many of these products at the Comerica show.
GKN turns out more than 10,000 parts and components, such as pulleys, bearings and connecting rods, and supplies them to major automakers and increasingly to Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers.
GKN uses manufacturing processes that result in reduced scrap, producing net or near net-shape components that require little or no secondary machining.
The parts are also easily recycled. The result is durable, lightweight and cost-efficient components, engineers say.
Rob Hilliard, GKN Sinter Metals' marketing communications director, says the company coordinated the Comerica event in concert with SAE leaders and got their blessing.
Whose idea was it?
According to Hilliard, GKN was scouring the downtown area, looking at hotels, casinos, restaurants and just about every large-capacity venue.
The Comerica name surfaced in talks with its ad agency. Hilliard, a New Jersey transplant and a baseball fan, thought, 'Why not?'
Spence says, 'We didn't want to get lost at SAE, as a world leader in powder metals, and it was a chance to try something different.