The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
QUALITY PRE-CHECK BEFORE A CAR IS BUILT
Vehicle assemblers can’t put together a top-notch vehicle if the parts aren’t right, and at Honda Canada’s Plant 1 Assembly in Alliston, Ont., Terry Grasby works in the specifications group to make sure that happens.
“My area is the interior group and how the parts fit in the car. We review parts in a [computer-aided design] program, compare the parts, and then do fitting trials from there. If a part doesn’t fit, it’s my job to figure out if it’s a spec issue or a parts quality issue, or if it might involve design changes.
“We also do 3D printing to aid the assembly department. We’re not manufacturing parts but it could be a fixture or jig that helps an associate make the process easier.”
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Grasby contacted a local hospital to see how he could help. The plant was closed, and Grasby approached Honda for the company to use the 3D printers to make face-shield headbands for medical staff.
Grasby specialized in computer-aided design and plastic mold design at George Brown College in Toronto, and he worked at Husky Injection Molding in the city. He then joined a molding company where his job morphed into parts design, until a restructuring left him out.
“I heard about Honda from a fellow I played hockey with. I started on a contract for six years, and then got my permanent position on the line. I tried to transfer into a position where I could use my skills, and it led me to the spec department.”
Communication is everything in quality, he said. “People like to be listened to, and if you can engage them, this makes for respect.”
THE LINK THAT’S NEEDED TO GET A PROJECT DONE
Two years ago, when Kia Canada decided to streamline how its departments manage projects, the company needed someone with organizational and people skills.
The automaker found those traits in Spencer Watson, who heads up a team as procurement manager.
“Any time any department is looking for a service or product, the procurement team helps with everything from initially engaging with vendors, to helping facilitate the [request for proposal], and then helping with the evaluation and selection of the ideal vendor.
“It could be a new product introduction, as when the Telluride came out and we wanted a press drive, or when the sales side does incentive trips and is looking for vendors who can organize that, or when the HR team looked for a new employee-benefits provider, and I switched them.”
While studying for his business degree, Watson, 37, worked at a store that sold barbecues. He got to know the suppliers and when he left university, he worked for Broil King in Waterloo, Ont. “I was in demand planning, forecasting consumer demand in the seasons. I then moved into project management, and helped open a new production plant in the United States.”
He worked in procurement at Nestle, and then got into insurance and opened his own office, “but I didn’t like it. I met my wife, who works at Mercedes-Benz Financial, and I was interested in what she did because it revolved around vehicles and that’s one of my passions. Kia was looking to open a procurement department and I had experience with that.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS WHEN DETAILING A CAR
When automakers need their cars to look good for events and photo shoots, they usually leave it to the professionals. That includes Andy Ross, president of Car Care Extraordinaire in Mississauga, Ont., who counts FCA and Subaru among his current clients, and over the years has worked with others.
“We do shows and displays, auto shows, fleet shows, mall shows, any kind of show where a manufacturer puts in a car. We fly all over North America doing vehicle launches, where we prep the cars, gas them and clean them. We manage a national fleet for corporate accounts.
“We also do commercial photo shoots for production companies. We have a mobile unit and I’m there to prep whatever cars are in the shot to make sure they’re photo-ready all the time.”
With an interest in advertising and marketing, Ross, 58, studied it at Sheridan College. “But I came out in a recession ... and wound up working the night shift at Canada Post as a mail sorter. I knew [then] my next job would be working for myself.”
His brother ran a cleanup shop and Ross worked there part-time while doing his postal job. He bought out that company in 1988 and today serves private and commercial customers. The business is seasonal, and at peak times he’ll have seven fulland parttime employees.
When public auto-related events came to a halt with COVID-19, Ross was recommended to Peel Regional Police; each day, he and his staff disinfected a long line of police vehicles.
“That kept us going, because normally people get their cars done in the spring, and it was nothing like it should have been. We’re very thorough, and that’s how we provide this service.”