BRYAN, OHIO - As automotive suppliers scramble to go global, bulking up with consolidations, acquisitions and partnerships, Bryan Custom Plastics also has made key moves this year that will allow it to follow its customers into markets outside North America. But the custom molder, which has been based in Bryan since 1950, also is attempting something of a balancing act. It plans to maintain its small-company, small-town character in northwest Ohio, where some 650 of its employees, known in the company as associates, work and live.
Betty Siders, vice president of Local 7141 of the United Paperworkers, said BCP is ``really outstanding'' and has an excellent relationship with her union.
In an open letter last month to the 8,800 people of Bryan, Vice President and General Manager Tim Kline said the molder's expansion into new global markets was a job security policy.
``As Bryan Custom Plastics increases its business, the work that is done at our Bryan plant becomes even more important and jobs here become more secure than ever,'' he said.
Bryan, a unit of closely held United Screw and Bolt Corp. of North Olmsted, Ohio, purchased a 10 percent stake earlier this year in IB Autotrim of Hopkinsville, Ky., and plans to expand its ownership to 40 percent in the next two years. IB Autotrim, Bryan said, is part of Irausa Holland, a unit of Group Antolin of Spain.
In June, Bryan formed a partnership with molder Lodigiani y Leali SAIC of Villa Madero, Argentina, to supply parts for the 19981/2 Ranger pickup truck that Ford Motor Co. plans to build in Pacheco, Argentina.
And Bryan already has had discussions with potential partners in Brazil.
There may be more to come. United Screw and Bolt has the capacity to make more acquisitions and finance expansions. The company, with profit of $7.2 million on sales of $118.6 million last year, has very little long-term debt. Bryan, with three molding plants, accounts for about 80 percent of its parent's sales.
Bryan specializes in injection molding larger plastic parts for automotive interiors. The company molds inner trim panels for the Ford Explorer on one of its two 5,000-ton Ube presses.
Bryan's largest customer is Ford, which gave the molder its Total Quality Excellence Award last year, the automaker's highest quality status for suppliers. Bryan was the first, and so far only, interior trim supplier to gain TQE status at Ford.
Bryan also supplies General Motors Corp. and, from its plant in Kenton, Tenn., many of the transplant automakers in the United States. It also supplies the heavy truck, golf cart, toy, television and trash can markets.
In an expansion of its molding capacity in the smaller-tonnage range, Bryan acquired MBS Polymet Inc. of Wauseon, Ohio, in September 1995. Polymet, which employs more than 150, operates 21 presses with clamping forces of 65-720 tons.
Custom suppliers of products, particularly plastics, need to develop a flexible response to customers' needs, said sales manager Gene Schubert.
``It's no secret in this world,'' he said in an interview at the Bryan facility. ``If you give customers what they need, you'll get what you need.''
Karen Bates, purchasing agent for Freightliner Corp. in Portland, Ore., described BCP as a forward-thinking molder and praised its program management. That sentiment was echoed by engineer Craig DeDamos at Steelcase Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich., who called the company proactive and said BCP offers consistency and good support.
Bryan developed a detailed pro-gram management system that involves shepherding a new product through development and coordinating the activities of Bryan, its customers and suppliers.
For a new customer, a heavy truck manufacturer, Bryan pulled together a team from various departments and put them in a separate office. The strategy is a major commitment of resources for the molder. But Bryan is betting that the focused management of the customer's programs - some 30 different parts molded on nine presses - will help smooth the process.
Schubert also is convinced that the systems put in place to satisfy very demanding automotive customers are positioning Bryan to compete more effectively in nonautomotive markets. He said Bryan's customers outside of the automotive industry are looking for full-service supplier support.