A Hammond-based auto parts maker has been adding jobs after Ford Motor Co. named it a preferred supplier.
Contract Services Group made Ford's list of preferred suppliers, and that will mean a huge increase in business opportunities that could result in as many as 40 more jobs, president Mirko Marich said. The company will be able to perform inspections and quality control for Ford suppliers, including in greater Chicagoland, southeastern Michigan and Mexico.
Basically, the company will work to prevent any defective parts from being installed in Ford vehicles, Marich said. If defects are found, Contract Services Group will help the suppliers figure out what went wrong so it gets fixed and doesn't happen again.
"As a small local company, we're proud to have a Ford 100 company recognize the work that we do," he said.
Contract Service Group had done inspection and quality control work for Ford and its suppliers more than a decade ago, but got cut out when the Detroit automaker formalized the process for selecting its supplier network. The firm has been trying to regain Ford's business ever since then, Marich said.
"They changed how they did business, and as a result it was a long tough road trying to get back to preferred status," he said. "We've had relationships with their first-tier suppliers, but it's been a matter of getting the recognition."
Ford currently has about 100 preferred suppliers worldwide, and Contract Services Group made the cut last month. Marich credits the company's ISO certification, which has been described as a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for the manufacturing industry, and the United Autoworkers Membership of its employees.
The company has had to hire 14 inspectors to handle the increased workload. Employees at the 165th Street plant in Hammond have been inspecting parts shipped from Mexico and bound for the Chicago Assembly Plant in the Hegewisch neighborhood.
Contract Services Group makes seating sub-assemblies that end up in the Ford Explorers and other vehicles produced at the Chicago plant, in addition to doing inspection and quality control work for auto suppliers such as Lear Corp., Johnson Controls, and Leggett & Platt.
The company employs about 210 full- and part-time workers at its 40,000-square-foot plant on 165th Street, and at another 60,000-square-foot warehouse it leases when it gets busy.
New business with Ford and its suppliers potentially could create the need for another 10 to 40 more jobs in Hammond, Marich said. Contract Services Group will have to send inspectors into the Chicago Assembly Plant whenever there's a concern or issue with the quality of the parts.
Projects can range in length from a day to six months, since Contract Services Group will help some suppliers refine their manufacturing processes to weed out the possibility of mistakes.
The inspectors will pinpoint the defect in a wide range of components, including headlamps and steering wheels. They will then gather data such as the serial numbers of the defective parts and the dates when they were made.
"Defects happen when you're dealing with such a large number of different parts from different suppliers," he said. "No supplier wants to send defective parts, but unfortunately there's human error."