The photographs that accompany the ``People Watch'' column in Plastics News are, as in many business publications, mostly those of middle-aged white men. In our case, most of the photos are of newly appointed or promoted executives at North American plastics processing companies. The industry is populated with plenty of capable executives who do not belong to that demographic group - including company owners, presidents and chief executives who are women.
As correspondent Clare Goldsberry recently reported, some women who lead these companies frequently run into outsiders who assume that they made it to the top only because they were born or married into the positions.
This stereotype is difficult to shake - it is also a burden to men who succeed their fathers in business. But the underlying attitude that spawns this thinking, that women are out-of-place, unfit, or unneeded in positions of authority in the plastics industry, is worth combatting.
Ford, GM need to target custom market carefully
Units of Ford and General Motors fancy themselves custom plastics processors, and each one says it wants to do more work for other automakers. The news could mean interesting times ahead for automotive plastic component suppliers.
GM's Delphi Automotive Systems group, which includes Delphi Interior & Lighting Systems, has an ambitious goal: to draw 50 percent of its sales from companies outside GM's North American operations by the year 2002, double the rate last year.
Delphi Interior & Lighting, with its 10 injection molding plants filled with nearly 600 presses, already makes parts for Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Chrysler, Jaguar, Lotus, Fiat - a real who's who in the car industry, according to Paul Tosch, the unit's general manager and a GM vice president.
Delphi Interior & Lighting's non-GM sales are now about 8 percent, and Tosch said he wants that to increase to 30 percent within five years.
Ford's Automotive Components Division also has targeted other automobile makers as customers, including Japanese transplants.
ACD is preparing major moves into areas including gas-assist injection molding, coinjection, in-mold decorating and low-pressure molding, according to Frank Macher, vice president and general manager of the parts division.
Captive molding operations like Ford's and GM's will have to choose their target markets carefully. They can draw on the huge resources of the mother company for global expansion, research and development, and plenty of purchasing clout with their suppliers. But they also will have to hold down costs to be competitive with the hundreds of custom processors that don't have the same bulky overhead of a major automaker.