DETROIT -- The owner of a small tooling supplier in suburban Detroit wants to play a big role in the auto industry's high-stakes shift from steel to aluminum. He just needs time.
Gary Gonzalez, owner of Gonzalez Production Systems Inc., is trying to perfect an ultrasonic welder that would use vibrations to fuse together aluminum sheets.
The technology -- originally developed in Ford Motor Co.'s labs -- would eliminate the need for rivets, saving considerable money and weight.
Three years ago, Ford asked Gonzalez to transform its lab invention into a reliable production tool. The project is part of Ford's patent-sharing program dubbed the Joint Technology Framework. The program, launched in 2008, helps minority-owned companies to compete with mainstream rivals.
But Gonzalez, like other tooling suppliers, is struggling to keep pace with his customers' product launches. "It's been put on the back burner, with the number of launches we've got," he said in an interview. "But I still believe this can be sorted out and brought to the goal line."
As if on cue, Gonzalez reaches for his ringing phone. It's a call from a purchasing executive at Ford.
Can he come to Ford headquarters in Dearborn -- as soon as possible -- to discuss his bid on a new project? No problem, Gonzalez assures the executive. He agrees to meet that afternoon.