Curbell Plastics says it has captured a three-year, sole-supplier contract to provide nonproduction plastic sheet, rod and tube to all General Motors Corp.'s plants in North America. Value of the total contract can range from $3 million to $10 million, said Mark D. Casey, Curbell Plastics' general manager. Before this contract, Curbell handled $700,000 in GM business a year.
Curbell Plastics, a division of Curbell Inc. in Orchard Park, N.Y., will supply the automaker with more than 800 types of parts and materials in a contract Curbell said is designed to keep all 153 GM facilities on the continent running.
These items range from nylon bushings in robots to tetrafluoroethylene sheeting, custom extrusions and fabricated parts. Curbell will supply raw plastic sheet, rod or tube, as well as parts that both it and other outside suppliers fabricate from those materials.
Timothy Merk, 34, promoted to Curbell's General Motors account manager, summed up the contract: ``Production is only as good as the maintenance of the production.''
Curbell Plastics is one of two divisions of the private Curbell Inc., founded in 1942 by the Leone family in Buffalo, N.Y., as Curbell Machine and Tool.
Curbell's other division manufactures electronic bed controls, nurse call buttons and cabling for the hospital industry.
Casey said Curbell's operations amounted to primarily a machine shop through the early 1970s, machining thermosets and thermoplastics.
Later that decade, Tom Leone, son of the founder, became president and redirected Curbell Plastics' focus toward distribution, Casey said.
Curbell Plastics had revenues of $2.5 million in 1978. Casey said the company had revenues of more than $60 million in 1994, making it the nation's fourth-largest distributor and fabricator of plastic sheet, rod, tube and adhesives. The only companies larger are Commercial Plastics & Supply Corp. in Miami; Cadillac Plastic & Chemical Co., a Troy, Mich.-based division of Cleveland's M.A. Hanna Co.; and Laird Plastics Inc. of West Palm Beach, Fla., Casey said.
He said nine companies bid on GM's indirect plastics business.
Casey said the latest contract was bid out by GM after the automaker grouped plastics into one commodity, through its industrial supply group, then offered to give the entire business in that area to one vendor.
``It's the first time they have gone to a one-house stock,'' Casey said.
Dennis Freeman, Corbell's Midwest regional manager, did the lion's share of Corbell's work to secure the contract, he said.
GM's North American Operations contracts are divided into several categories, Casey said, adding: ``We have the industrial [plastics] contract now.''
Until recently, GM offered its business to thousands of contractors at a time, which Casey said costs the automobile giant $20,000 in administrative expense per supplier.
John Shea, a spokesman for GM North American Operations in Warren, Mich., said company policy generally prohibits discussion of individual contracts.
``All the pieces to our future product plans could be pieced together if we did,'' Shea said.
He did say, however, that Curbell's statements about General Motors' purchasing practices were ``generally correct.''
``It is consistent with our general direction. We are trying to reduce waste wherever possible. We would like to work with a smaller number of suppliers, though I can't say how much smaller,'' Shea said.
For GM, this means a change from its old regional distribution system, merging 1,200 local supply ``blankets'' into one, according to Casey.
It means access to a guaranteed stock level of items it needs quickly. It means a reduction in the number of vendors with which it will do business at any given time and will help reduce redundancy in paperwork - not the kinds of things ``you can sit down every month and tangibly measure,'' said Merk.
``We're given the responsibility to see the proper mix is supplied for a wide variety of products,'' Casey said. ``We're going out to look for better materials to use, to identify all the other items not on that contract'' as a means of further improving service to General Motors, he said.