From a niche market automotive supplier, a full-service, high-volume automotive components company has grown. By Eric C. Peterson
Previously known as Motor Panels, the company had established a solid track record as a producer of truck cabs, steel and aluminum stampings and components. That changed in 1991 when it was acquired by the U.K.-based Mayflower Corporation plc.
In 1993, acquisitions of International Automotive Design and Shadyside Stamping, and the 1996 purchase of South Charles-ton Stamping moved the now-renamed Mayflower Vehicle Systems beyond its niche markets.
Today Mayflower has more than 2,200 employees with headquarters in Hurricane, West Va. Its South Charleston facility has more than one million square feet of stamping and assembly under one roof in West Virginia. Other facilities include an assembly plant in Norwalk, Ohio; the Shadyside stamping plant in southern Ohio; a truck assembly facility in Kings Mountain, N.C.; a sales and engineering office and technical services group in Farmington Hills, Mich. According to Mayflower vice president Greg Boese, its inventory includes a dozen assembly lines, 12 major press lines and two E-coat facilities, and much more.
Perhaps the signature event for Mayflower came in 1997 when Mercedes launched its wildly successful M-Class line of sport utility vehicles (SUV’s). The M-Class was named North American truck of the year by Automotive News and car of the year by Motor Trend, and Mayflower had plenty to do with that. The former provider of stampings and BIW assemblies for niche and specialty vehicles like the Plymouth Prowler, MGF, Rover, Rolls Royce, Mack, Freightliner, Sterling, Paccar and DAF had officially evolved into a full service, high volume stamping and assembly provider.
Mayflower’s work with Mercedes clearly demonstrates its capabilities: Pro-duction levels at Mercedes’ Vance, Ala., facility are in the 100,000 vehicles-per-year range. Mayflower engineers were co-located in Germany for 18 months for simultaneous engineering, according to Boese. Altogether, 15 full-time employees were assigned to the project, which took 200,000 square feet of dedicated assembly area in South Charleston formally known as SCSM. Capitalized cost topped the $19 million mark.
Once the assembly line was fired up, the robotic assembly operations en-compassed more than 180 individual component parts, 16 major assemblies and two minor assemblies, operating on a just-in-time basis to deliver the assemblies exactly when the customer needs them.
Still More Growth
And Mayflower has finished expanding its Norwalk, Ohio plant for the launch of Freightliner’s new Sterling truck program in March of 1998. Mayflower provided design engineering support for this new vocational truck, managing the original $45 million HN80 tooling program. Expansion of the Norwalk plant cost $5.4 million and entailed 75,000 square feet of building area.
For the new line, Mayflower has “cradle to grave” responsibility for body-in-white cab production, including stampings, SKD sub-assemblies, sealing and electrostatic paint. Indeed, Mayflower assembly operations have adopted cutting-edge “no adjust build” technology, according to Boese, to ensure complete customer satisfaction. The technology includes triple-action hydraulic presses, robotic assembly and sophisticated laser cutting technology.
Mr. Boese is quick to point out that expansion activity is becoming a way of life at Mayflower. “We have just recently completed a major expansion of our Shadyside stamping facility in southern Ohio and ground breaking ceremonies are scheduled for August of 1999 to add 56,000 square feet of manufacturing space to our Kings Mountain assembly plant location approximately 45 minutes from Charlotte, NC,” he says.
Besides Mercedes, Freightliner, and some of the niche vehicles mentioned, Mayflower has put together a client list that includes Chrysler and Daimler-Benz (now combined as Daimler Chrysler), Jaguar, Rover, Land Rover, Leyland Trucks, General Motors, Saturn, Mack, Paccar, Caterpillar, Western Star, and others. In terms of production and product development suppliers, the list includes everyone from Alcoa, Alcan and Fuji to IBM (PDM/CAD/CAM) and GE Plastics.
The process of reshaping itself has put Mayflower decidedly in the right place at the right time. The current increase in sales of sports cars, SUVs and multi-purpose vehicles shows that to satisfy the customer, manufacturers are now assessing new market sectors from the same basic vehicle platforms, says Boese.
“The consumer-driven proliferation of these products is expected to intensify in the future,” he adds.To get the job done for its high-profile clients, Mayflower uses all of the latest technology—things like computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) and computer aided engineering (CAE), plus networked PC applications. The approach includes such strategies as virtual prototyping, which uses a digital mock-up process enabling simultaneous functional operation and assembly analysis.
The Quality Connection
Indeed, Mayflower’s commitment to quality has been demonstrated by the company’s ISO 14001 accreditation. The company complies with the latest worldwide standards and “is continually looking for processes and product solutions that are environmentally sensitive,” says Boese. Globally, Mayflower’s product mix is diverse. While its core business involves SUVs, truck cabs, buses and sports cars, you’ll also find Mayflower technology in compact cars and sedans, and in a variety of specialty vehicles.
For Mayflower, product development begins with project management. “We work closely with the client to apply their product definition criteria and objectives, and we are able to establish shared goals and key deliverables,” says Boese. The process typically proceeds from a basic concept (product definition), through feasibility and engineering, and into the manufacturing process.
Besides high quality finished products, the process also results in unusually close working relationships between Mayflower and its clients. “We interface with our clients directly,” explains Boese, “coordinating the products’ logistical requirements from the management of second- and third-tier suppliers through to the manufacture of products, to agreed production schedules, to final gate release, and to the dealer networks if required.”