BBI Enterprises manufacturers thermal and acoustic materials for interior, under-the-hood and trunk-related automobile components as well as interior trim for North American OEMs. David Soyka reports on a company that insulates against everything but success.
BBi Enterprises is an automotive insider, a leading supplier to North American car OEMs of thermal and acoustic insulation components that keep out noise and heat. These temperature- and sound-dampening components include under-hood insulators and composite heat shield assemblies. BBi also makes interior trim products such as package tray, full-floor carpet assemblies, and front-of-dash insulators.
These days, the automotive industry is facing some significant challenges. Nevertheless, Steve Brown, president and CEO of the Detroit suburb Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-headquartered company, remains bullish about business prospects. “GM, in particular, has faced a lot of issues, and Chrysler is in the midst of trying to decide how it will restructure. I think that ultimately it is going to result in an industry that will rediscover its strengths.”
He adds, “BBi has spent a lot of time studying consumer trends and requirements. Ultimately if we see past our customers and on to the consumer we will be developing the right things.”
Key to that attitude is what Brown terms a “total vehicle concept.” BBi competes against three much larger companies, as well as various individual smaller players within niches of BBi’s overall product line. “Broadly speaking, we address three market segments, ” Brown explains. “Engine compartment insulation, interior trim and acoustics, and cargo compartments. ”
He also notes, “What sets us apart is that we’re not just an order taker, a parts supplier. We look to design auto components using the latest technology that integrates into both the aesthetics and functionalities of the vehicle as a whole. We have an internal design team that keeps on top of emerging trends, particularly in Asia and Europe, so that we are always ahead-of-the-curve in taking our products to the next level.”
But it’s more than just looking good. BBi products employ the latest technologies to protect vehicle occupants from excessive noise and heat. The company utilizes multiple technologies integrating features for ease of assembly, superior acoustics, light weight materials and when ever possible 100 percent recyclablity. These attributes are used in carpet systems, interior dash insulators, trunk trim and engine compartment silencers.
“Thermoly” is a BBi technology originally developed for the military that has a unique blend of high carbon content and polyester fibers to ensure structural stability both in standalone and composite applications as well as light weight. It is used in the manufacture of flat die cut or molded components for under-the-carpet, trim, trunk and under-the-hood applications.
Brown says that products are developed in various ways. “Sometimes an OEM asks us to build to specs they’ve already established, sometimes it could be a case of our designers working jointly with theirs to come up with a concept, other times the OEM may present us with a ‘black box’ and say come up with some ideas. At the same time, our designers are tracking trends and looking at new technologies and materials, and we may present to the OEMs that, hey, here’s something we think would work well with your vehicles. And, in any of these cases, it could be for a new vehicle or a retrofit. Whatever is driving the process, our objective is always to provide the highest quality products using the most innovative technologies produced by efficient manufacturing process that reduce costs.”
Indeed, BBi has been the recipient of numerous quality awards from its customers, including the Chrysler Gold Pentastar and GM supplier of the year. BBi was also among the first companies in North America and the first in the automotive industry to achieve QS-9000 and ISO 9001 registration, which was in 1995.
Centers of Excellence
Brown points out that while BBi competes primarily on high quality and innovation, price is never not a consideration. “The product has to be price-competitive, and the way you hold prices down, particularly in light of the high cost of raw materials, is to gain efficiencies in your own operations. We’ve implemented lean manufacturing and best practices and are constantly looking to improve our processes. One of our goals is to win the Shingo Prize for Manufacturing Excellence, which is more rigorous than the requirements for the Malcolm Baldrige Award.”
Indeed, while BBi initially expanded with two acquisitions in 2001 and 2002, it expects future growth to be entirely organic, predicting revenues in the range of $250 to $270 million. “There’s definitely going to be a shakeout among automotive suppliers, and change is always going to be a constant,” Brown says. “Another huge advantage we have is the cohesive team, everyone on our management team has extensive senior-level executive experience with multinational companies. In addition to world-class executive leadership, we have a partnership with Faurecia, a Paris-based maker of interior systems, one of the world leaders in our field and a global supplier to the automotive industry. As a result of this partnership, we’ve pretty much got every potential market in the world covered.”