General Motors Corp. got another lesson in the danger of supplier consolidation this month, when AutoStyle Plastics Inc. went belly-up and, by one account, nearly took GM's luxury-car assembly operations along for the ride. AutoStyle, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., was sole-source supplier for some parts on all the vehicles built at GM's Cadillac/Luxury Car Division plants in Hamtramck and Flint, Mich.
When it appeared last month that AutoStyle was in danger of closing, GM had to scramble to find new suppliers. According to AutoStyle, GM was facing ``wholesale disruption'' of its luxury-car assembly plants.
Even under the best circumstances, most suppliers don't expect a cakewalk when they're faced with pulling a tool from a molder. But a situation like this, where the existing molder is a sole-source supplier going bust, is a potential nightmare.
The problem apparently was resolved June 6, when the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Grand Rapids approved an emergency takeover of AutoStyle by Venture Industries Corp. of Fraser, Mich.
Perhaps GM thought it could keep AutoStyle afloat by depending on the firm for so much work. Or maybe the automaker did not realize until it was too late how sick AutoStyle was, and how dependent GM was on AutoStyle's production.
The whole affair offers a keen lesson for original equipment manufacturers of all types that are on the ``supplier consolidation'' and ``just-in-time production'' bandwagon.
Is anyone listening?
GREENPEACE MISSES MARK WITH PVC FIGHT
Smoke kills. Firefighters are well aware of that fact. Carbon monoxide and other byproducts of oxidation are deadly agents, whether the smoke is from burning wood, paper, rubber or vinyl.
Greenpeace is, once again, choosing a poor target in its crusade against chlorine by calling for a ban of PVC in all public buildings as a result of the April 11 fire at the Dusseldorf Airport in Germany.
By most accounts, the PVC electrical insulation in the airport had little to do with the 16 deaths caused by the fire. The building was not equipped with smoke detectors, nor with other fire-safety devices. The maintenance workers who accidentally started the blaze, as well as airport managers, did not call firefighters for more than 30 minutes after detecting the fire, according to some reports.
But as a result of dioxin traces found in the building after the fire, Greenpeace now blames PVC for the tragedy. But the city, which is investigating the fire, has not fingered PVC for the deaths.
Trying to hijack this issue certainly is a convenient way to grab headlines - a skill that the environmental group has honed from years of experience.
PVC wire insulation saves many lives every day, so Greenpeace's complaints raise an interesting question: What alternative material would Greenpeace approve in insulation products?