Interior component giant SA Automotive leverages innovation and a dedication to sustainability to glide past supply chain disruptions
When it comes to automotive interior load floor technology, cargo management systems, and headliners, SA Automotive (SAA) is setting trends and trailblazing a more sustainable future. An up-and-coming OEM favorite, the full-service supplier leverages continual innovation to wow customers while reducing their environmental footprint.
The Michigan-based global enterprise also manufactures door panel components, acoustic underbody shields and fender liners, acoustic engine encapsulations, and lightweight acoustic absorbers for engine compartments. From conceptualization and technology development to prototype and production tool development, SAA does it all.
As Chief Procurement Officer, Sammy Beydoun oversees the entire global supply chain division of SAA. He and his team are tasked with aligning the supply chain cycle across all of SAA’s facilities around the world. Not only is that synchrony essential to sustaining a smooth and seamless end-to-end cycle that delivers a consistent supply of production material to meet the continuously shifting demands of their customers, it feeds the organization’s appetite for innovation and continuous improvement.
We recently spoke with Beydoun about the advantages of synchronicity and planning in building and maintaining robust supply chains in a rapidly changing world. During the dramatic disruptions of the pandemic, the procurement organization faced situations that no degree of proactivity could have anticipated.
“Unprecedented inflation, supply and demand, chip shortages, customs backlogs, and natural disasters played a significant role in the downfall of supply chain maneuverability,” he explained. Regardless of their industries, the global companies that successfully navigated the perfect storm of calamity displayed a very strong foundation and support team specifically designed for these types of events.
Relationships, proper support planning, and supply chain preparation designed to aid in catastrophic situations were the key elements that kept SAA ahead of the misfortune. “SAA has always understood the value of implementing fluid change and adaptability when faced with problematic or unforeseen challenges,” Beydoun added. “This provided our procurement organization with the support we needed to ensure that we kept a continuous flow of product into the facility’s operations center.”
Managing risk across such a global procurement organization amid the chaos at the height of the pandemic required identifying and truly understanding where bottlenecks were and the degree to which their supply chain cycle was susceptible to risk. “Visibility through that entire cycle determines your room for opportunity and experience allows you to proactively redirect that life cycle to strategically align your supply chain cycle to the overall needs of the organization,” he noted.
Shortages across the globe and poor planning in various sectors caused multiple force majeure situations and shortages within the supply chain cycle. Frequent demand pullbacks forced releases to change and created labor imbalances. For example, payment delays impacted the ability to hire and keep the production workers needed to keep products flowing into their markets.
Prior preparation, mock disaster planning, and strong AI technology resources allowed SAA to remain resilient throughout the crisis, as did the commitment of their workforce. That dedication inspired the team to push beyond the envelope and deliver. The pandemic also revealed the resilience of the supplier network.
“All of that prepping, all of the mitigation loss that we put into perspective, and the technology that we started to adopt well before COVID kept us ahead of the curve,” he noted. In 2019, Beydoun joined the SAA organization and put in place a system to centralize every step within the supply chain cycle, identifying weak spots and problem areas. This enabled them to reinvent how that life cycle flows through modern supply chain practices. “We call it moving from purchasing 3.0 to purchasing 4.0,” Beydoun said.
SAA hopes that other companies will follow and move out of the decades-old practice of managing supply chain via spreadsheets and manual records.
The pandemic demonstrated the need for procurement organizations to find ways to improvise, adapt, and overcome. “The new normal is still emerging, so I think that our immediate focus should be to tackle the complex problems that have emerged from the pandemic by highlighting resilience, recovery, and restructuring – the new three Rs.”
The future-forward enterprise had been working to become carbon neutral prior to the pandemic, and that meant taking fresh approaches to product materials. As they explored the role of technology in that process, they realized that a nationwide and worldwide shortage of some commodities and basic commodity components would force the need for new sourcing approaches. That opened the sustainability door much wider.
“Take fiberglass, for example,” said Beydoun. “It's used in many different sectors and is a longstanding commodity that we buy. I started integrating natural fibers that were more sustainable as well as readily available at a better cost point as well. That allowed us to implement that into our load floors.” SAA is a demonstrated industry leader in the load floor space, manufacturing 65% of those used in Ford vehicles.
Load floors, the flat panels in the trunk of your car that support cargo, have long been the subject of debate when it comes to ways to develop lighter, stronger, sustainable, and versatile iterations. “We aimed to change that back in 2015 with the release of our reversible load floor platform. It gave consumers their first glimpse of boards with purpose, that were fit with higher function than covering space,” he said.
Since then, many other manufacturers have followed suit. “However, we still remain at the cutting edge of our technology, focused on the future, and developing lineup options that will shape the load floor space for the next 20 years to come,” he stressed. That focus gives them the adaptability to refine load floor technology as innovations in manufacturing and materials progress.
Beydoun, a self-described “energy freedom fighter,” endeavors to find sustainable materials that produce lighter, more rigid boards while meeting customer expectations. “We have identified many materials that can work in place of fiberglass and at a much nicer price point too,” he said.
Manufacturing IATF-certified products gives SAA new ways to continually innovate. Smart manufacturing equipment use historical data and AI technology to integrate with their production cycle, identifying bad parts. This eliminates the hassle of sweeping manufacturing change requests, and products are made with 100% accuracy.
As you’d expect, SAA is heavily committed to its customers and works closely with other tier networks to guarantee that customers' interests and expectations are exceeded. As Beydoun put it, “This allows us to integrate their milestones and objectives within our process, ensuring we meet the criteria required to deliver successfully.”
A major tenet at SAA is innovating through integration. Said Beydoun, “We achieve that status by integrating ourselves unilaterally to provide our originators an A-Z life cycle that reduces countless steps within the supply chain cycle, all while providing a completely controlled product with a longer life span and reduced carbon footprint.”
While SAA stands apart when it comes to sustainability, they don’t believe in maverick spending. Maverick buying typically reflects a company’s lack of organization, poor process management, and runaway budgets. “We maximize our purchasing power with suppliers to make sure that they can give us global coverage at all times,” he said. “That way we’re building on the resources and on the idea that both SAA and our suppliers can continue to have exponential growth in the future.”
SA Automotive Ltd. is a Tier I supplier of a wide range of interior components to the automotive industry. With over 200 employees at our various facilities world-wide, SA Automotive is a highly qualified Tier I supplier serving diverse Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).
Our facilities are registered to ISO/TS 16949:2009, ISO 14001:04 as well as Q1 with Ford Motor Company.
With over 30 years of experience in the automotive industry, SA Automotive’s team of experts will partner with you to provide the most practical and technical solution possible. Being a full-service supplier, we manage every step of the design and development which include but not limited to conceptualization, FEA analysis, technology development, testing validation, prototype and production tool development to meet our customers' expectations.
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