General Motors: supporting supplier diversity since 1968
"Others have programs but GM's is the best I've seen!" says Steven Phillips, who heads up Detroit Technologies Inc, interior systems provider and GM mentee
The broad appeal of cars from General Motors (GM, Detroit, MI) has always crossed age, racial and ethnic divides and inspired more than a few teenagers to become engineers. In 1968 GM started a program to provide capital to minority companies and create jobs in local communities. In the 1990s the initiative changed to focus on GM's diverse automotive suppliers.
"We began mentoring businesses and helping to establish programs in the community," says Linda Ware, GM supplier diversity manager. "In the 1990s we instituted a formal mentoring program, and we're currently mentoring twenty-six diverse suppliers."
The company has its own supplier diversity council, with six diverse suppliers and thirteen GM purchasing execs on the board, including the VP of global purchasing and supply chain and his executive directors. Of course, Ware adds, GM also supports the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, NMSDC, WBENC, the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Asian-Pacific American Chamber of Commerce and the National Veteran-Owned Business Association.
Plenty of programs
Ware notes with pride that GM was the first automotive OEM to establish a supplier diversity program, also in 1968. Over the forty-two years the program has been in existence GM has spent $70 billion with diverse businesses.
"Our focus is to develop and grow a competitive diverse supply base that will work with GM to design, build and sell the world's best vehicles. Last year 5 percent of our total spend went to diverse suppliers and our target for 2010 is 6.6 percent," Ware says.
GM has activities planned that will generate new opportunities and relationships for its diverse supply base. The idea is to make connections between the diverse suppliers and majority suppliers that could lead to tier 2 business or partnership opportunities for the diverse companies. "We had a networking event in May to initiate relationships between our twenty-six mentored suppliers and our tier 1 suppliers," Ware discloses.
"We're also having a supplier connections business-to-business event later this year for all our diverse suppliers to explore partnership and tier 2 possibilities with fifty of our top tier 1 suppliers."
Nurturing 400+ suppliers
Ware's group produces a supplier diversity newsletter for internal and external readers, develops brochures and will be launching a new website. The company works to ensure that diverse suppliers are trained in GM processes. Right now GM has more than 400 minority- and women-owned suppliers.
The company locates likely M/WBEs through trade fairs, NMSDC and WBENC events and those of other minority organizations. It requires NMSDC or WBENC certification of its diverse suppliers.
In the mentoring program, GM mentors are assigned to work directly with the mentee businesses, giving advice, going over their business plans and helping to resolve issues. The twenty-six diverse businesses in the program must align their plans and objectives with GM's to "deliver value and demonstrate potential for growth," Ware explains.
DTI supplies the Big Three
Detroit Technologies Inc (DTI, Bingham Farms, MI) is an interior systems provider. It supplies molded trunk assemblies, carpeted floor systems, acoustical systems, cargo management and the like to most of the major automakers.
DTI is a GM mentee. Steven Phillips, its president and CEO, grew up in Detroit; his whole career has been in the auto industry. He worked for GM until 1988 and then with a number of automotive component suppliers in design and engineering program management and operations.
In high school Phillips co-opped with GM, part of a diversity initiative. He went on to get an associate's degree in automotive design from Macomb Community College (Warren, MI) and a BS in general science from Sienna Heights University (Adrian, MI).
DTI was founded in 1996 by Detroit Pistons basketball star Joe Dumars, and GM gave the company its first business. In 2000 Phillips joined DTI as director of design, and in 2003 he moved up to engineering VP. He bought the business from Dumars in 2006.
Over the years GM has given a lot of help to DTI, providing mentoring and guidance and supporting DTI in several joint ventures and strategic alliances. Last year DTI had revenues of $60 million. It supplies all the big three, plus Toyota and BMW, but GM remains its largest customer.
"GM is the best"
"No other mentoring program matches GM's," Phillips says. "The access to executives is huge. Others have programs, but GM's is the best I've seen!"
The relationship is proving rewarding to both parties. DTI has won a GM Supplier of the Year award three years in a row.
"We've been very pleased with their performance," says Ware. "They are competitive, and have excellent quality and delivery."
Ware wants it known that if companies come to GM with products or services, the company is always willing to take a look. "It's the number one reason our program has been so successful," Ware states. WBENC- or NMSDC-certified suppliers interested in pursuing business opportunities with General Motors can visit its supplier diversity website at www.gm.com/supplierdiversity.