Big name buyers and speakers sign up for sell out NEAA Expo

First Meet the Buyer event offers huge opportunities for automotive suppliers.

French-owned global car parts giant Faurecia, which has a plant in Washington, has signed up to attend the first North East Automotive Expo Meet the Buyer event on September 24, organised by industry-led cluster group North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA).

Faurecia will be joined by buyers from some of the world’s biggest automotive parts manufacturers at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, including Nissan, Komatsu UK and Jaguar Land Rover, which is sending representatives from its Coventry head office to the Expo, to offer over 150 one-to-one meet the buyer meetings.

With more than 250 delegates expected to be present on the day, the event is proving to be a major attraction and provides a great opportunity to network, explore business opportunities and learn about the North East’s automotive industry, which is responsible for £7 billion in annual sales and directly employs 26,000 people.

Paul Butler, chief executive of NEAA said: “It’s great to see the Expo generating so much interest, its testament to the power of the network and the importance of the automotive sector to the region’s economy. The event is selling out fast and we urge companies to move quickly if you want to secure one of the few stands left, or pre-register to meet buyers and attend the free workshops.

“We are really looking forward to welcoming everyone on the day and are sure that companies will see a real benefit from attending.”

Faurecia, which makes interior, exterior, seating and exhaust systems for car manufacturers worldwide, will be using the event to find out which supply companies are working in the region and to build up contacts for the future.

UK interior systems serial purchasing manager, Jonathan Armishaw, said: “It’s about getting to know some of the hidden supply chain in the North East and surrounding area that we’re not aware of.

“The type of things I’ll be looking for are NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) lightweight and innovative materials. I’ve supported the SMMT meet the buyer events since 2011, because if you don’t participate you don’t get anything out of them, so it would be good to focus specifically on the North East.

“We meet the right people and two, three, four, five years down the line when we have a specific requirement, we know exactly who to approach with requests for quotes.”

The event is aimed at suppliers of all sizes, including companies which do not currently service the automotive industry but are interested in doing so. Buyers are looking to engage with suppliers who can offer products and services ranging from machining, special processes and advanced technologies, to sheet metal, profiling and pressings, through to injection moulders, hydraulic hoses and rubber gaskets.

DS Smith, which formerly supplied packaging for white goods and TVs from its Spennymoor plant, will be explaining how it made the move into the automotive supply chain. The factory now manufactures 100 per cent automotive components.

Sales and marketing director, John Cant, will be speaking at the event. He said: “When we opened at Spennymoor in 1996, we supplied packaging for Electrolux cookers and fridges, Samsung, and Philips TVs. When they moved production out of the country we looked at moving into the automotive sector.”

The same machines that made polystyrene for packaging are now producing expanded polypropylene, which is used to make safety components such as side impact bars and bumpers for cars. DS Smith’s first automotive contract in 2002 was to produce a side impact bar for BMW and was worth £1 million. In the 13 years since the company moved into automotive supply, the Spennymoor site’s annual turnover has grown from £4 million to £13 million.

John Cant said: “We have gone from low value packaging to high quality, safety critical parts with a much higher value. There has been a huge cultural change on the shop floor.

“We visited exhibitions and we networked to find out who was buying the products. It’s a huge learning curve, you need to put in the effort, but the rewards are there. If you get in at the start of a programme, you know you have longevity of supply and you can plan your business.”

Delegates will also hear from Mike Matthews, managing director of Nifco UK, vice chair of the NEAA and newly appointed president of NECC. He will discuss the turn round of Nifco and the strength of the automotive sector in the North East. He said: “For Nifco, business success starts with people. Employing and developing the right people, and engaging with organisations to build strong and mutually beneficial relationships, play a key part in the long term future of this business.

This year, Nifco secured a multi-million pound contract with Ford, bringing more work into what is a strong and vibrant sector in the North East and this came as a result of, not only our great products, but also the relationships that Nifco has built with Ford over many years.

“The NEAA Expo will give other suppliers, whatever their size, the opportunity to meet and network with buyers and learn from other suppliers who are contributing to the growth of the hugely important automotive industry.”

NEAA Meet the Buyer is being organised by the NEAA in conjunction with Make it Sunderland, Tees Valley Unlimited and ZeroLight.