Quest for Excellence: DuPont Automotive
“We look at three things: design, processing and materials. You really need the expertise in all three areas to bring the real value to the customer.”
— Jim Weigand, Dupont Automotive
It’s all about value at DuPont Automotive. “We try to keep everyone focused on bringing quality and value to the customer,” Jim Weigand, vice president of marketing, tells Automotive Industries. Six Sigma driven for four years and spending more than $1 billion each year as a corporation on research and development, DuPont’s goal in the automotive sector is to achieve 25-30 percent of sales on new products each year.
Value is driven by innovation and quality. Weigand says the average product life cycle is only three or four years. “So we are always looking at how we can keep renewing and rejuvenating our product to keep bringing that value to the customer,” he says. “On the coating side you can’t just provide the normal colors. You need to have the look and the effects the consumer and therefore the OEMs are looking for.
“So you constantly look at new metal flakes, new pearl essence, new innovative ways to bring scratch and mar resistant clear coats. On the resin side, even with a staple like nylon, there are continuing demands for higher temperature nylons and tougher nylons.” DuPont’s automotive business is evenly balanced between the Big 3, the Asian transplants and the European transplants. Where it used to be 60 percent versus 40 percent, U.S. versus outside the U.S., today it is about 50-50. It co-locates with OEMs and has service teams in assembly plants around the world.
“Whether it is coatings or resins,” explains Weigand, “what we look at is three things: design, processing and materials. We have to bring our expertise to all three areas. It’s kind of an innovation triangle. You really need the expertise in all three areas to bring the real value to the customer.”
Differences in approach between the domestics and the transplants appear to be lessening. There has been much more focus recently by the domestics on involving the supplier earlier in the game to eliminate expensive troubleshooting downstream.
Culturally, the transplants tend to involve the supplier earlier in the design process but they are also extremely rigorous in their demands. The engineering changes, however, tend to be fewer. And the programs thus come together smoother, and faster, believes Weigand.
“As the whole value chain works together earlier on you get a better quality product,” says Weigand. “With early collaboration in design and on the concepts you actually cut the cycle time to commercialization. “From our standpoint whether it’s coating or resins or whatever we’re supplying, we keep that value triangle in mind and produce the value that’s required. We back that with high quality and the right service and that’s what we drive to deliver the best value to the OEMs.”