Case Western Reserve University Researchers Will Soon Begin Important New Study of the Nation’s Auto Supply Chain

Economics professor at Weatherhead School of Management leads study of suppliers surviving in hard-hit industry

News Release: Monday, January 24, 2011

CLEVELAND - Researchers at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management will soon survey thousands of suppliers to the auto industry. Their goal is to understand how best to strengthen the industry in the United States in the face of ongoing global competition and the recent recession.

Findings of the study will be disseminated to policymakers in government and to decision-makers at the nation’s original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs. Anyone who completes the survey will receive free access to the study's findings, which will include a wide array of benchmarks.

"We hope to understand the challenges confronting this vital industry after its near collapse,” said Susan Helper, lead researcher on the study. Helper is AT&T Professor of Economics and department chair for economics at Weatherhead.

“The study will provide the first in-depth look at all levels of the supply chain in the U.S. since the recent economic crisis and enable us to make informed policy recommendations,” Helper said. “We are surveying the full spectrum of companies of every size all across the country. They supply everything from fasteners to complete seat assemblies."

The study is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and is endorsed by a variety of industry organizations: the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA), the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA), the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET), the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC), and Polymer Ohio. The National Institute of Standards and Technology's Manufacturing Extension Program (NIST MEP) is also participating. The data collection process will be conducted by DataStat, Inc., an independent survey research organization.

"From our discussions with suppliers, we know that people in surviving firms are busier than ever, so we designed the survey to be really easy to answer," says Brian Peshek, project manager/technical consultant. "Investing only 15 minutes to confidentially answer a few questions will certainly yield returns to individual firms and to the industry as a whole."

Companies that supply goods or services used in the manufacture of new cars and light trucks are eligible. The researchers invite the participation of firms at all levels of the supply chain, including those who do not supply automakers directly, and those who provide tooling or engineering services. To arrange to participate, Peshek can be contacted by e-mail at or by telephone at (216) 368-5791. Peshek said that the team at Case Western Reserve is extremely sensitive to concerns about confidentiality.

"We will only release aggregate data to the public, so it will be impossible to identify a firm or a person within a firm. And people need not worry about ending up on any mailing lists," Peshek said.

Professor Helper has studied the auto industry for over two decades. She frequently appears as an industry expert in media, such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and National Public Radio. She is also a judge for the Automotive News PACE Award for supplier innovation.

Posted by: Marvin Kropko, January 24, 2011 06:54 PM | News Topics: Official Release