|Nearly 170 leaders from major automotive manufacturers, their suppliers and North American government officials, as well as exhibitors and students met recently at Oakland University to explore ways to boost advanced manufacturing processes and accelerate environmental innovation in the North American automotive supply chain.
The Summit on Accelerating Innovation to Drive Sustainable Automotive Manufacturing Growth Across North America was co-hosted by Suppliers Partnership for the Environment, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), and Oakland University.
Dave O’Ryan, President of Advanced Technology & Marketing Group and Co-Chair of the Summit, said the goal of this Summit was to bring organizations together to discuss manufacturing sustainability issues in a setting that fostered innovation and education.
“This is the first time that SP has reached out to a university in co-hosting an event,” O’Ryan said. “Oakland University offered both the academic and geographic settings for a true summit on these issues.”
Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Oakland University, Dr. Louay Chamra, said Oakland University was proud to host North America’s leading companies at the Summit on Accelerating Innovation.
“The ability to expose the university to a revolutionary way of extinguishing the barriers associated with the move to sustainability increases the credibility of the institution.”
Participants and exhibitors who attended the event were given the opportunity to explore topics including Enabling Innovation, Improving the Business Climate and Securing the Talent Pipeline, then collaboratively brainstorm solutions through participation in breakout sessions.
Haley & Aldrich, Inc., an engineering and environmental consulting company, led the facilitation of the Summit breakout sessions through the application of Lean principles.
Jim Little, Senior Vice President at Haley & Aldrich, Inc. explained that “Lean principles focus on increasing value and reducing waste. So one can see how this aligns closely with sustainability, where value can include societal improvements and waste reduction. Waste reduction can include energy savings, water management and much more.”
“We use Lean principles to facilitate an exploration of customers, values, problems and ideas through engaging collaboration of participants. Our role at the summit was not as experts in innovation, but rather to draw the innovative ideas out of the participating industry experts,” Little said.
OU INC served an innovative and supporting role in the Summit breakout sessions: compiling information as it was generated and enabling real time synthesizing of the results. Data was assembled and presented in real time for the facilitators and organizations for the final wrap up session.
The technology teams consisted of graduate and doctoral students from the university.
Led by OU INC Executive Director, Amy Butler, the student technology teams kept in constant contact with home base, the Integrated Resource Center at OU INC, through the use of the ThinkTank™ software. Key data was synthesized into a detailed report for the conclusion of the event. This will provide a platform for companies involved to move forward and develop action plans for implementation of ideas and solutions.
“Having the opportunity to integrate our students, facility, and technology into the Summit was exciting for both Suppliers Partnership members and the university,” said OU INC Executive Director Amy Butler. “The Summit gave our students the opportunity to interact with companies, as well as explore innovation in real-life scenarios.”
Michael A. Miller, a Program Manager at Chrysler Group LLC, attended the Summit as a participant with hopes to learn more about sustainability, innovation, and the environment.
“[The breakout session regarding customers and value drivers] really made me think about how there are so many different customers within the supply chain. From the value standard you look at what is important to the customers, which causes you to think outside the box,” Miller said.
Russell Brynolf, CEO of FTS Technologies and Vice Chair of SP, credited much of the Summit’s success to the unique collaboration of SP members, CEC, and OU.
“SP is based on members coming together and having discussions about the issues of the day. The great thing about it is there are no job titles,” Brynolf said. “You can have Vice Presidents from GM or Ford and you can have senior management and sales engineers from other companies all in one room together, all showing immense respect for each other, having some fun, as well as being serious about the issues at hand. All the barriers go away. It is very unique and I have never been a part of something like this before.”
A total of 22 Suppliers Partnership member companies displayed examples of innovative technology and process improvements aimed at improving sustainability in the North American auto manufacturing supply chain during the Summit in the Clean Energy Research Center at OU INC.
MPS Group, a company specializing in innovative management techniques, participated in the Summit as an exhibitor.
"The value of being a member of the Suppliers Partnership is two-fold: we are able to maintain and build upon existing relationships with existing customers that are Suppliers Partnership members. Also, it is a forum by which we can advertise our value proposition, and share best practices with other organizations that we are currently not working with,” MPS Group Director of Sales and Marketing, Bart Kocik, said.
Ford Motor Company was among the OEMs to display its sustainable innovations during the event. “We are very interested in greening our vehicles and the best way to do that is through the supply chain,” said Ellen Lee, Technical Specialist in the Materials Science Department at the Ford Research Laboratory.
The Summit agenda included comments from distinguished participants including OU Board of Trustee Mark Schlussel; Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) Executive Director Irasema Coronado; Luis Felipe Acevedo Portilla of the Mexican Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat); US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Senior Policy Counsel Matt Bogoshian; and, Jay Williams, Executive Director of the Office of Recovery for Automotive Communities & Workers.
For more information about the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment, log on to www.supplierspartnership.org.