The world’s top auto makers trust Oxford Automotive, a supplier of custom metal forming for door modules, body assemblies and suspension components. Barbara Kram keeps up with the company’s rapid growth.
It can’t be easy to plan the menu for the Oxford Automotive company picnic. It has to satisfy the culinary tastes of a senior management team representing the United States, England, Romania, South Africa, France and other nations. But it’s the company’s global flavor that has lead to its incredible growth; Oxford Automotive is a worldwide enterprise of 7,000 people at more than 40 facilities in nine countries. In fact, since its inception in October 1995, Oxford Automotive, known as BMG North America until January 1997, has topped $1 billion in annual sales. Now that’s a lot of lettuce.How does a privately held company grow that big that fast? In addition to multinational leadership, Oxford Automotive has excelled at customer-focused acquisitions. These purchases have given the company unparalleled expertise, innovation and capabilities in producing systems and platforms for General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Renault, Peugeot, Saturn, BMW, Volkswagen, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, SAAB, Opel and Audi.
“We are excited and confident about the synergy and strategic growth opportunities,” says Steven Abelman, president and chief executive officer, speaking of the company’s acquisitions. Abelman notes that Oxford Automotive’s expansion has resulted in “exceptional quality standards to meet and beat our customers’ expectations.”
Headquartered in Troy, Mich., Oxford Automotive has stateside operations in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, as well as its tool and engineering operation in Chicago. The company’s products can be found on the body, chassis and frames of cars and light trucks – everything from the Ford Escort to Mercedes Benz models. Its principal systems include body sheet-metal modules (doors, full truck cabs, body sides, tail gates, roofs including sunroof openings, cargo doors and hoods); structural modules (front engine compartments, floor plan assemblies, rear compartments, rear floor members, pillars, impact beams and front and rear rail assemblies, to name a few); mechanisms (door locks and latches); and suspension systems (including forged components such as rear suspension modules, springs, control arm subassemblies, cross members, tow hooks and many others).
Oxford Automotive prides itself on innovative research and development, custom design and engineering, leading-edge manufacturing, full-service testing and global project planning and management. As a result of its targeted growth in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, France, Germany, Italy and Turkey, Oxford Automotive has the unique ability to provide complete metal-forming system production. Its metal components, assemblies and modules include exterior structures manufactured in steel and aluminum. Its door modules are a perfect illustration of the international integration that allows the company to provide total project solutions to customers. “If you think about a complete door, it’s really a door module, including the outside, inside and hinge mechanisms,” says Marc Simon, global director of strategy planning.
To provide complete door systems and other assemblies ready for vehicle installation, Oxford Automotive has made several strategic European acquisitions. In Europe, Oxford Automotive has acquired Aries Mechanisms of France, a top automotive supplier of door hinges, sliding door mechanisms, hood and deck-lid hinges, latches, stampings, fine blanking and welded assemblies. From Italy, the Gessaroli Group adds locking mechanisms and other components. Oxford Automotive has also welcomed a key German automotive supplier, Wackenhut GmbH, which brings further stamping and equipment expertise.
Also enhancing its door-systems line, Oxford Automotive has formulated a joint agreement with Johnson Controls. While Oxford Automotive optimizes the sheet-metal door structure, adding strength and reducing weight, Johnson Controls, a worldwide supplier of automotive interior systems, provides trim and hardware. “These relationships combine complementary skill sets, design, engineering and manufacturing experience,” says Abelman.
In addition to acquisitions, the company’s manufacturing operations are expanding, and in the last year it launched the first “Go Fast” production program. Oxford Automotive has opened a new plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, which produces complete class A closure assemblies, complex underbody assemblies, wheelhouses, rear compartments and front floor assemblies. The state-of-the-art facility was up and running at full production in less than 18 months, and had first hits off new presses in just 11 months. It is approximately 370,000 square feet, and plans call for it to expand to 400,000 square feet to accommodate additional projects. The plant will employ a work force of about 700 people, and its technology arsenal includes more than 30 presses, some of which are fully automated, ranging from 150 to 1,500 tons.
A Full R&D Package
“After our acquisitions and growth, we have basically the majority of regions, products and processes,” says Simon. “We also have the majority of different customers on two main continents, Europe and North America.” Its worldwide growth allows Oxford Automotive to offer total expertise in design, engineering, prototyping, tooling, blanking, stamping, forging and assembly of custom integrated modules and exterior structures.
The company’s research and development efforts are dedicated to balancing evolutionary and revolutionary development, whether it involves products, processes or manufacturing. Oxford Automotive’s R&D pros create solutions that reduce costs and waste, while increasing customer efficiency and speeding time to market.
The company customizes its superior product design to each manufacturer’s needs. Its computer-aided engineering capabilities include an online satellite CAD/CAM system. Its engineers provide black-box solutions, designs optimized for strength and fatigue considerations, working agreements with software suppliers and integrators, reduced and integrated product development cycles, design-manufacturing feedback loops, virtual product and process analysis, direct customer data exchange, worldwide data communications and other advantages of its advanced architecture and interface.
Oxford Automotive’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities throughout North America, South America and Europe include more than 500 presses, world-class tandem lines, roll forming, flexible manufacturing cells, just-in-time (JIT) facilities, automated materials handling, automated assembly lines, sequencing facilities, robotics and other operations. The company’s product-testing capabilities provide full-service support including fatigue testing, suspension structure, noise/vibrations/harshness (NVH), weld testing, strain gauging, static load and rate, metallurgical lab, salt spray capability and even crash test simulation.
Ultimately, Oxford Automotive’s global comprehensive program management sets the company apart because it moves like the company’s global network of electronic communications: at real-time speed. The world’s largest auto makers trust Oxford Automotive with everything from international program coordination to supply chain management. Oxford Automotive also assists with process development to minimize investments in tooling, floor space and capital. The company’s integrated databases ensure accurate and concurrent processes, and its experience shines in effectively managing and launching global programs in welding techniques, stamping, assembly and material use. Its agile manufacturing processes are optimized for volume flexibility, multiple products and supplier integration.
All on one plate, Oxford Automotive provides a full course of solutions for consumption by a global customer base. In the automotive supply business, that’s a recipe for success.