Sam Hogg came to the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars with one message for auto suppliers: Stop making so many auto parts.
There are business opportunities in emerging energy markets that require the same manufacturing skills as do auto parts.
But how do you transition to that type of business? said Hogg, market specialist for NextEnergy Center, a Detroit-based non-profit firm focusing on accelerating investments in wind, solar, battery and other new energy markets.
It is a different way of doing business, the making of a small number of complex parts vs. the high-volume production of the auto industry. Carmakers and their suppliers are talking today about alternative energy, hybrid powertrains and plug-in electric vehicles, but there is also business in non-transportation markets, Hogg said Aug. 4 at the seminar, which ran Aug. 4-7 in Traverse City.
Take wind energy: General Electric Co. has developed a new wind-power unit that uses highly balanced and precision parts such as fiberglass for wind blades and the housing that holds the generator, said Stephen Johnson, manufacturing program manager for GE Energy.
Molded Fiber Glass Cos. of Ashtabula, Ohio, which makes structural composite parts for the auto industry it made the first Corvette fiberglass bodies is one of GE's wind turbine suppliers.
GE designs its own wind turbines, but relies on its suppliers to make most of the parts, Johnson said. Although the industry is in its infancy in North America, a growing focus on renewable energy sources rather than oil and coal could call for a huge increase in production, with as much as 20 percent of U.S. energy needs supplied by wind, solar and other green power programs.
GE expects the largest growth in U.S. wind turbine production wil be in Texas, California, Michigan and Ohio. So the company is building a $100 million wind energy research and development center in Van Buren Township, Mich., near Detroit.
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