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40 years on: JVs, product development help ABC expand in global auto sector

Starting out at a single facility in 1974, family-owned ABC Group (Toronto, ON) is now one of North America's top tier one automotive parts suppliers, employing over 5,000 employees and operating 27 manufacturing facilities in Canada (Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia), the United States (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee), Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Poland and China. Technical sales offices are located in Japan, Germany and the United States. And the road from minor to major has taken many routes.

Starting out at a single facility in 1974, family-owned ABC Group (Toronto, ON) is now one of North America's top tier one automotive parts suppliers, employing over 5,000 employees and operating 27 manufacturing facilities in Canada (Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia), the United States (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee), Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Poland and China. Technical sales offices are located in Japan, Germany and the United States. And the road from minor to major has taken many routes.

ABC's Schmidt: All OEMs, regardless of whether they are North American or Japanese, have unique cost reduction requirements.
ABC Group has expanded its global manufacturing footprint in order to respond to its customers. "When the OEMs [including Japanese automakers] started focusing on globalization of programs, we responded," says Helga Schmidt, CEO and Chairman of ABC Group. "Over the past three years we have been strategically focused on global growth, with the implementation of new plants in Mexico and China, and facility expansions in Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Ontario." The company also established an engineering and sales office in Japan as global programs are still developed there, and many key decisions are still made there. 

"All OEMs, regardless of whether they are North American or Japanese, have unique cost reduction requirements, and we deal with them on a customer-by-customer basis," says Schmidt. "Japanese OEMs encourage cost cutting through value analysis, value engineering, and continuous improvement, and they do provide assistance when requested."

Part of the company's growth over the past few years has been through alliances and joint ventures. "Strategic joint ventures are an excellent way to maximize technology, footprint and synergies with a like-minded partner in order to diversify our product offering and increase our global platform coverage," says Mary Anne Bueschkens, President and General Counsel of ABC Group.

ABC Group formed a joint venture with INOAC Corporation (Nagoya, Japan) focusing primarily on spoilers for the North American market. ABC Group also has a joint venture in China with Ningbo Huaxiang Electronic and INOAC, with manufacturing facilities in Shenyang and Ningbo for interior, exterior and engine support products. Further, in 2014 ABC Group formed joint venture AbCOR Filters Inc. in Ontario with Italian company Cornaglia (Beinasco) to design, develop and manufacture filters for air induction systems.

Indeed, ABC Group is engaged in a variety of areas that might seem quite different in terms of processing expertise and requirements. Explains Schmidt, "In a competitive environment, it is important to diversify product and processing capabilities as customer requirements and market trends dictate."

 "ABC Group is not just investing in bricks and mortar in order to increase its global footprint. We believe the key to our continued competitive success on global platforms is through advanced product development, continuous improvement in our facilities and the training and development of our employees," says Bueschkens.  The company's Advanced Product Development team, for example is focused on introducing new products and processes that address the cost and weight saving requirements of automakers.

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