TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. wants to help tool makers - and itself - by creating ties to select companies.
The North American carmaking unit of Japan's Honda Motor Co. has created a "co-management" system for tool and die shops that is designed to establish long-term relationships providing a stable level of business for those companies.
Makers of plastic molds will have the sales base needed to help finance capital improvements, while Honda will have long-term suppliers that can build on the expertise learned from one vehicle launch to smooth the launch of the next vehicle, says Timothy Myers, senior manager for the North American purchasing technical center at Honda of America.
Honda has four tool shops already in co-management programs, two die makers for steel stampings and two plastic injection mold makers - Rapid Die & Engineering Inc., of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Unique Tool & Gauge Inc., of Windsor, Ontario.
And it is looking for more, Myers said this month during an interview at the auto industry's Management Briefing Seminars here. Honda hopes to have as many as eight North American tooling businesses signed on as long-term partners.
The co-management prospect grew as Honda expanded its manufacturing in North America and also altered its view on tooling, Myers said.
"We saw, historically, tooling as a commodity," he said. "In today's environment, we're starting to see tooling as moving from a commodity to value added."
During a recent vehicle launch, Honda bought 41 percent of its dies and tools from North America, 41 percent from Japanese tooling companies and the rest from low-cost countries.
Honda's concern for healthy tool makers focused on the cyclical nature of the industry, in which sales climb and fall widely from year to year.
"They want you to survive, and they want you to be there down the road," says Rapid Die President Chris Jones.
Rapid Die has worked with Honda on contracts for more than 10 years. The new program takes the relationship even further. Honda provides the same lean manufacturing and production expertise to tool shops that it has provided for key molders in the past.
The automaker has helped Rapid Die track equipment use to ensure it is using machines to their full capacity, Jones says.
Honda also has helped Unique Tool improve its processing throughout its plant - not just on Honda programs, says Vice President Darcy King.
Says King: "It really sparks invention."
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