“We haven’t taken an approach that takes investments in R&D out in response to increasingly frequent demands from customers for lower costs or lower prices.”
First impressions in the new car showroom are where PPG earns its stars. The glass and the coatings form the envelope of vehicle aesthetics that the consumer first views. PPG excels in both of these important areas. But maybe it’s lasting impressions that keep the business and earn more.
“First and foremost of the strengths we bring to the automotive market are technology and innovation,” notes Charles E. “Chuck” Bunch, president and CEO. “We are technology leaders in the businesses we participate in. We have been innovative over the years, not just in one year or the other. “We provide innovative solutions consistently and I also think we have an excellent reputation in the manufacturing area for productivity and cost effective operation.”
One secret to success, feels Bunch, is maintaining research and development investments year after year. “Even when we’ve had down cycles in the automotive industry, we’re tried to say, ‘hey, we’re going to remain committed to the development of our technology and new products.’ We haven’t taken an approach that takes investments in R&D out of this in response to increasingly frequent demands from automakers customers for lower costs or lower prices.”
Consistent investment in R&D is backed by programs to improve performance, productivity and efficiency. PPG uses its own version of Six Sigma called Sigma Logic and lean manufacturing techniques. It applies a program called Business Process Improvement to drive improvements in non-manufacturing areas, administrative processes, billing cycles, product development cycles and supply chain management.
Paint shops are often bottle necks in auto plants. “Usually we say the paint shop is the largest capital investment in an automotive assembly plant. It is a critical part not only of the investment,” says Bunch, “but also of how well that whole line runs or functions. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve had such a commitment to the technical service side of the business to keep those plants running efficiently. We have provided significant opportunity for automotive customers to improve performance and appearance of their coatings and also do it in a much more efficient application environment at lower costs.”
PPG sets aggressive goals for product development. PPG would like 35 percent of its product sales from products that are four years old or less, turning over one third of the product portfolio within that time. Says Bunch, “we recognize that you have to continually innovate and introduce new improved products. This goal is just a little more aggressive than what we’ve traditionally had in the business.”
And that’s the nature of the competitive automotive business. Someone is always raising the ante.