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The old leather maker that wouldn't give up

December 16, 2019


JOE WILSSENS 'We want to be the go-to leather guys because of our knowledge of leather,' CEO Randy Johnson said of GST AutoLeather, which is increasing its r&d investment.

If you unwrap a gift box this holiday season and find a pair of fashionable leather shoes inside, think of Randy Johnson.

The CEO of GST AutoLeather in Rochester Hills, Mich., has nothing whatsoever to do with leather shoes.

But fine shoes, as well as chichi leather designer jackets and cushy leather sofas, have something to do with him: The companies behind those good-smelling consumer goods are crowding in on him as he works to turn around the iconic automotive leather supplier.

"Many competitors that traditionally have not bothered to pursue the automotive sector, because it's a tough space to be in, are making an effort to enter it," said Johnson, a 57-year-old engineer who has spent much of his career trying to make companies and factories operate better. "So we have to make ourselves more competitive."

Johnson, who hails from South Dakota's Black Hills mining country, started his career as a proving-ground test engineer for Chrysler cars, specifically because he wanted to work for Lee Iacocca. After years of covering the spectrum of auto industry jobs ' at Chrysler and various suppliers, in sales and marketing, product development, factory management ' Johnson stepped into GST when the company crashed. Overstretched and mired in debt, it appeared to be the end of the story for a company that had been supplying the auto industry since 1922 and formerly operated in the U.S. as Garden State Tanning.

"It's still fresh," he said of GST's 2017 Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the efforts to work its way off the industry's watchlists of troubled suppliers.

But two years later, in a story worthy of an uplifting holiday movie, GST is back ' winning new vehicle programs, proposing new approaches to create leather auto interiors and transforming itself into a lean global competitor.


Reboot

"We're rebooting the company," Johnson told Automotive News. "We didn't just bring in different people. We came in with a different leadership approach. The people who ran GST in the past were good people. But I believe the way it was run before wasn't the right way. So we're taking a new approach."

The company's leather surfaces adorn the new Kia Telluride and the vehicles being built by Ford Motor Co.'s joint venture with Jiangling Motors in China. GST leather also rides on the new-generation Mercedes-Benz GLE and the Lexus RX crossover.

Putting GST back in business ' by supplying the material for interiors in nameplates ranging from the full-size Ram pickup to the Mercedes-Benz S class ' has been a two-pronged campaign.


The company embraced the Toyota Production System management approach, known throughout the industry as TPS or lean production, in an effort to standardize every aspect of its operations. Johnson, a longtime devotee of the Toyota philosophy, introduced 30 to 40 new "metrics of performance" this year, covering how GST operates its global factories, accounting departments, finance, sales and marketing, and human resources.

At the same time, GST is repositioning itself away from leather as a vehicle commodity. The company said this year that it is "no longer a supplier of flat hide leather." That essentially means that GST's products will move up a notch in the automotive supply chain.

The company is committing about $5 million to new r&d offices in suburban Detroit where researchers will delve into how leather surfaces can be applied in a new era of vehicle trends, making them lighter in weight, perfecting how they adhere to seats made from new materials and developing new features such as quilting and perforations.


"In the past, we didn't invest in r&d to the degree we should have," Johnson said. "But we're making a significant commitment now. We want to be the ones to tell our customers what kind of leather to put on their seats. We want to be the go-to leather guys because of our knowledge of leather. We want the industry to call us for advice on materials or lamination."

The collapse

The company's troubles in 2015-17 were partly the result of rapid growth. GST had been expanding overseas through the 1990s to establish the leather processing operations needed to keep pace with its customers. In 2011, it acquired its well-established European competitor Seton, an older auto supplier that added a posh book of luxury customers to its client base.

GST later expanded into China, and it was there that price haggling with a third-party Chinese supplier of retanning and finishing services began to generate millions of dollars in cost overruns. The disputes resulted in approximately $24 million in unprojected cash outlays, according to U.S. District Court bankruptcy case documents in 2017.

Separately, GST made the decision to put itself up for sale. Black Diamond Capital Management LLC, a Connecticut private equity firm, pursued a plan to buy GST and retained Johnson to consult and help, based on his experience running factories and implementing TPS.

But as the year progressed, more problems emerged at GST, and potential buyers backed away from the deal.

When GST collapsed in October 2017, Black Diamond Capital stepped in to acquire it, bringing in Johnson, who had been overseeing plants for competitor Eagle-Ottawa, to run it.

Court documents indicate that GST itself was not entirely sure why the business was in trouble, beyond its pricing spats in China.

In one instance, the documents improbably blamed the advent of ride-hailing services such as Uber for causing a decline in global customer orders. In another, the documents spoke of falling world vehicle production in 2017, which was a time the global auto industry was booming. The company also blamed financial fallout from one unspecified European automaker changing its product acceptance standards and rejecting GST's deliveries.

"That's not what went wrong here before," Johnson asserted. "It wasn't product. It wasn't sales. Our product is outstanding. It was purely this: This was an organization that didn't give enough attention to eliminating waste and standardizing process."

As abstract as they may sound, "eliminating waste" and "standardization" are the unmistakable bywords of TPS, a somewhat ephemeral method copied by automotive companies around the world, including the Detroit 3. TPS proponents claim that pursuing those two goals, among other measures, will bring down factory costs, improve product quality, reduce workplace injuries and lead to various other benefits.

Johnson believes TPS is absolutely the road to a brighter future at GST, and that is how he intends to fend off competition from newcomers to the auto-leather trade.

GST employees are being asked to identify and attack wasteful daily practices and establish standardized global procedures ' spelled out on paper for all to see ' for literally every aspect of the business, including the factory floor, accounting department, sales office and customer price-quoting procedures. The standards describe how material is unloaded from a carton in a factory and how tools are cleaned. They specify how contracts are written, how sales pitches are made and how employees are hired. Every department is asked to eliminate waste ' not merely the production floor.

"There may be some discomfort when you ask a sales executive or a finance person to eliminate waste and bring better value to the value stream," Johnson acknowledged. "But it's a major cornerstone of our strategy as we move forward."

Over the past year, GST reduced its break-even point by 25 percent, said Tim Brennan, the company's global vice president for sales, design and marketing.

"That helps us become best in class, best in cost," Brennan said. "If we can't get there, we can't grow this business."

Need for standards

Scott Upham, a consultant who tracks automotive interiors, believes GST can grow its business.

"The industry has entered an era where automakers are recognizing that there are some things that are better left up to the niche specialist ' like GST in genuine leather," said Upham, principal of Valient Market Research in Downington, Pa.

"Leather is just a complicated and difficult material. If GST can make themselves cost competitive and deliver top quality, then it should be a good decade ahead for them."

Along the way, GST has ample opportunity for product variations, shipping goofs, contract errors and missed sales opportunities. It supplies customers around the world with a natural material ' imperfect cowhides ' and relies on about 5,600 employees spread out in offices and plants in Europe, the U.S., Mexico and China. Johnson wants everybody singing from the same hymnbook, thus his push for global standardization.

"That has to be the starting point for a company that came through a difficult situation as we did," the CEO said.

Johnson declined to divulge many specifics about how GST is doing financially. Court documents at the time of the company's 2017 crash put GST's annual sales at $540 million. Today they are about half that, according to one outside estimate.

Industry issues

The automotive leather trade is not an entirely cheery sector for suppliers.

Industrywide, auto leather sales are forecast to be $3.2 billion this year, 29 percent less than five years ago. The rise of synthetics is growing as a leather substitute in vehicles at the same time.


Price competition in China and other Asian markets has pushed leather seats off the option list for many models. There also are burgeoning consumer trends for things such as "vegan interiors" that forswear the use of animal products in a car and "smart fabrics" that allow seat surfaces to monitor passengers and cabin conditions ' hardly an attribute for cowhide.

But there are promising trends. Most notably: Luxury continues to rise in the buying intentions of consumers around the world. And luxury and leather go hand in hand, Upham said.

And because of changes in global cattle supply and demand, unlike almost everything else in the auto business, the commodity price of cowhides has been falling in recent years. That creates momentum for more vehicle programs to entertain the possibility of leather seats.

But it's a double-edged sword. Lower hide prices mean suppliers are charging less money for their leather products than five years ago, which means lower revenue.

It also means lower revenues for suppliers of shoe leather and chair leather, which is one of the motivations for nonautomotive leather suppliers to try diversifying into the big-ticket auto industry.

As Johnson explains it, that's all the more reason to embrace the Toyota Production System, in hopes of bringing GST's operating costs down even more.

"After what we went through, there was a real openness here to try something new," he said.

"We're a different company now. We're humble. We have humility about where we came from, and we know where we want to go.

"Companies overthink this. Becoming lean is about bringing order and standard practices. We can make that transformation. The people here want to succeed at it."


Source URL: https://www.autonews.com/suppliers/old-leather-maker-wouldnt-give

GST Commemorates the Opening of Jiaxing, China Finishing Facility

April 25, 2019


ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich., Apr. 18, 2019/ -- GST Autoleather celebrated the grand opening of its new state-of-art leather finishing facility in Jiaxing, China on Tuesday, April 9. Production commenced at the facility in the fourth quarter of 2018 and is now supplying finished hides for customers in China, Japan, Korea and Russia through its two cutting operations in Shenyang and Zhongshan. Dignitaries attending the historic ceremony included 63 customers, 68 suppliers, 18 government and media personnel and executives from GST's Global Headquarters.

The 185,000-sq. ft. facility employs 110 team members, with an investment outlay of $30 million USD. The facility focuses on production hide finishing, regional customer R&D activity as well as a fully-equipped laboratory to meet the stringent customer specifications.


'So today we celebrate the opening of this fantastic facility as a strong vote of confidence from our shareholders and to our customers. GST is here in China to stay,' said Randy Johnson, CEO of GST Autoleather. 'Long term relationships always matter in the success of a company. We are here for the long view and are building strong industry and community relationships.' In addition to Johnson's remarks, Mr. Kato, Shanghai Branch President of Toyota Motor Technical Center-China and Mr. Jiang, Deputy Director, Management Committee of Jiaxing Development Zone, spoke during the ceremony.

In a bid to develop a high-quality foreign investment cluster, Jiaxing has shaped its industrial policies in line with foreign capital needs. As China's largest leather production and trading base, the city houses abundant talent from the leather industry, supporting GST's focus on Lean Manufacturing.

Boasting a time-honored history of more than 80 years supporting the automotive industry, powered by its global network of 14 locations, GST provides innovative and competitively priced automotive leather interiors to global OEM and Tier customers worldwide. Specializing in the latest techniques of leather finishing and surface effects, Jiaxing is vital to GST's future development in China and Southeast Asia.

 

About GST Autoleather Co. Ltd.

GST AutoLeather Co. Ltd. is the trusted global leader in expertly crafted leather for the automotive sector. Our forward-thinking artisans scour the world developing the latest technology. Straightforward, exemplary service allows us to provide optimal results for our customers.

Further information about GST is available at gstautoleather.com or follow us on Twitter @GSTAutoleather1, where innovation and insight collide.

For further information: Jillian Nathan, GST Autoleather, jillian.nathan@gstautoleather.com

Automotive Leader to Drive Research & Development at GST Autoleather

March 19, 2019

SOUTHFIELD, Mar. 18, 2019 -- GST Autoleather has named Tony Kmeid to the position of Vice President of Product Research and Development, effective March 18th.

Kmeid currently serves as Vice President, North American Design and Manufacturing Engineering for Larsen and Toubro, an engineering services firm.

In this newly created role, Kmeid will lead GST Autoleather and its employees in strengthening their leadership in automotive leather products and enrichments as well as building a new level of expertise in the application phase of trim cover, seat and interior component engineering. His extensive experience in seat engineering, leather quality, and concurrent engineering along with GST's strong leadership in leather development will bring a unique focus on leather and seating integration to our OEM and Tier customers.

'Kmeid has played key roles in the automotive seating market, transforming customer relationships with strong engineering leadership, and creating innovation in product development and customer service,' said GST Autoleather CEO Randy Johnson. 'He brings a passion for leather and seating, concurrent engineering tools, strong industry relationships, and an orientation towards continuous improvement, with this group, our execution of 'Seating Leather Mastery' begins.'

Tim Brennan, Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing, added that his role with the GST will move the company forward in its market driven growth plan. "Kmeid will play a critical role in advancing our commitment to providing unrivaled design and engineering support to OEM and Tier customers," he said.

Prior to joining GST Autoleather, Kmeid served as Vice President, North American Design and Manufacturing Engineering (USA and Mexico) at Faurecia, where he assembled a team of engineers to design and build the complete seats for such award winning vehicles as the luxury CT6 Cadillac Sedan, Chevy Colorado, Ford F250 and the recently released Nissan Altima Sedan. Kmeid also served a variety of roles at Johnson Controls in the U.S. and Germany, as Executive Director of Global Innovation, Quality and Complete Seat Engineering, where he led global teams to bring innovative products and processes to the North American, European and Asian Pacific markets.

Additionally, Kmeid previously served as Senior Manager (Interior and Seating Design Groups) at Honda R&D, where he implemented engineering lean development processes and developed the first "supplier evaluation system" and the first Acura MDX SUV for the global market.

 

About GST Autoleather Co. Ltd.

GST Autoleather Co. Ltd. strives to be the most trusted global leader in expertly crafted leather for the automotive seating sector. Straightforward, exemplary service makes us the easiest company to do business with.

Further information about GST is available at gstautoleather.com or follow us on Twitter @GSTAutoleather1, where innovation and insight collide.

For further information: Jillian Nathan, GST Autoleather, jillian.nathan@gstautoleather.com

Randy Johnson Named President and CEO

May 22, 2018

NEWS ARTICLE: GST AutoLeather Exits Bankruptcy Under New Ownership.

SOUTHFIELD, MI -- GST AutoLeather ('GST' or the 'Company'), the global leader in automotive leather components, and its subsidiaries have exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy effective, May 22nd 2018 under new ownership.

To lead the transition, GST has named Randy Johnson President and CEO. Along with its current strong leadership, GST is announcing the addition of one key leather industry expert, Bryn Kahrl as Vice President of Global Operations.

'We are committed to being the most competitive, innovative, and sought-after supplier to major OEMs worldwide, leveraging our strong customer service, a renewed focus on lean manufacturing and standardization, and care for our employees as we instill a customer and operationally focused leadership culture,' said Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Johnson replaces former CEO Dennis Hiller, who will stay on with the leather company as a board advisor to assist in the transition. Mr. Johnson most recently served as CEO of Romeo RIM, Inc. a Michigan-based composites manufacturer where he transformed that business and its brand through lean and innovation processes. Prior to that, Mr. Johnson served as Vice President of Global Operations at Eagle Ottawa for 12 years, leaving in 2014 before its sale to Lear Corporation. At Eagle Ottawa, Mr. Johnson was the architect of the operational transformation resulting in years of best-in-class competitive performance and a stable world class manufacturing team.

Post Chapter 11 exit, GST is majority owned by funds managed by Black Diamond Capital Management, L.L.C. ('BDCM'), which has a track record of assisting companies in growing value by focusing on operational and commercial improvements through a disciplined long-term approach. 'We are looking forward to supporting GST's future efforts to build upon its strong global market share with a keen focus on providing top customer service while enhancing its operations,' said Stephen H. Deckoff, Managing Principal of BDCM.

'GST has exited bankruptcy with a strong balance sheet and ample liquidity, talented leaders globally, and a reputation as a high-quality leather designer and manufacturer,' Johnson said, adding, 'GST is among a small group of leather suppliers that can be considered truly global in nature.'

ABOUT GST AUTOLEATHER

GST AutoLeather is the global leader in automotive leather components, with innovative design and engineering supporting the future vision of the OEM customers worldwide. The Company's talented team of employees, its global operations and its customer-centric leadership culture enables GST to continue to build strong relationships with customers based on trust and transparency.

Dongfeng Citron Cooperates with GST to Launch Meet My Future Vision - C6 Partners듒 Appreciation Salon'.

June 8, 2016

NEWS ARTICLE: Uncover the Secret of C6 Houndstooth NAPPA Leather in the French Premium Journey.

INTRODUCTION


C6 Imported NAPPA Leather
& Windsor Houndstooth-patterned Interior
For centuries, genuine leather has always been valued by people as the gift of nature, for each piece of leather is unique and cannot be replicated. In the industrial age, leather products even became the best medium for human beings to get close touch with the 'cold' machines. Featured with natural temperature and exquisite texture, genuine leather feels so soft and is the most similar to the human skin. This is the very reason why an increasing number of consumers, as time goes by, still have high demands to leather products.

When a series of 'Meet My Future Vision - C6 Partners Plan' experiencing events successfully came to an end in Webasto and Saint-Gobain, Dongfeng Citron kept on moving with Meet My Future Vision - C6 Partners듒 Appreciation Salon' on 8th June, 2016 and set off on a brand-new appreciation journey in GST, the global top leather enterprise, to feel the natural skin touch that Nappa leather brings.

As the most prestige and valuable leather brand in the industry, GST has more than 200 years' experience in leather making. Since 2005, GST has been offering high-quality genuine leather products to PSA. No exception this time! All the imported NAPPA leather in the brand-new Dongfeng Citron C6 is also supplied by GST. It touches comfortable, fine and smooth, perfectly integrating the essence of Citro'ns comfort, fashion and technology. Therefore, consumers can enjoy a much perfect and cozy driving and riding pleasure.

 



Thorsten Lahnstein, Sr. Director of GST in China & Korea,
Introducing the Advantages of NAPPA Leather to Guests



Greatest perfection in material selection, only 10% of leather available in the world satisfied.

Generally, NAPPA leather, featured with exquisite texture and feeling amazingly soft, is full-grain leather and an upgrading of traditional leather-making technique. However, NAPPA leather applied in C6 is completely the grade-A full-grain leather from bull calves from 3 to 5 years old. Surprisingly, only 10% leather sources can meet such strict requirement, which means among 100 pieces of leather, only 1 or 2 pieces of leather is available. For the leather with scar or defective leather, the selection rate is especially low. Such demanding requirement has brought the flawless leather to consumers.

Over 400 processes to build the premium skin touch

NAPPA leather can be found everywhere inside C6. From material selection to the finished product, it totally experiences more than 400 processes. Its fabulously exquisite and great technique finally makes consumers enjoy the ideal comfort. To keep the leather뒒s natural texture, no embossing and polishing are applied to cover flaws, but light coating is used. The coating, less than 30 micron, is far thinner than the common genuine leather, 50 micron, which means it breathes freely and manages to show the natural beauty of animal leather. Besides, the pores can also be clearly seen and with the soft leather, much greater skin touch can be amazingly felt. Quite different from NAPPA leather, other common leather, to improve it utilization, adopts embossing and polishing to hide the flaws. In result, they lacks the fine and smooth skin touch that NAPPA leather is featured.

Following the aesthetic ideas of Duke of Windsor, vividly displaying the nobility by houndstooth-patterned design.

When it comes to fashion, nothing can compare with houndstooth. Its refined shape looks like precious irregular chessboard, giving off a breath of elegance. Houndstooth, originated from glen plaid in 19 or 20 century, is called as glen check. Since it was worn by former Duke of Windsor 'who relinquished the throne for the woman', the tweed pattern has found its way in the fashion circle and is unfailing all the time. Also, it is favored by the European Nobles. NAPPA leather in C6 adopts the unique and irregular houndstooth pattern without any punching design, endowing the time-honored houndstooth a new life and visually creating a sense of hierarchicy. It not only follows the tradition, but contains the innovation to the future, leading to a new fashion for vehicles interiors with refined techniques and unique design.



Guests Experiencing the Cutting
Process of Genuine Leather


Executives from Dongfeng Citron and
GST Taking a Group Photo



















C6 Partners Plan will continue

Dongfeng Citro'n, initiating C6 Partners Plan, attended the appreciation event with 11 global top auto parts manufacturers and launched a series of ATL/BTL experiencing programs to deeply illustrate the car-making philosophy and deliver Citro'ns hundred-years-old car-making idea and the spirit of innovation for premium cars as well as thoroughly explain the technology highlights of C6, the brand-new premium sedan of Dongfeng Citro'n. In GST, all have deeply had a better understanding of NAPPA leather in C6 which strives to offer consumers a refined, comfortable and exquisite French life space.

In next three months, Dongfeng Citro'n will work with more C6 Partners듔 to hold salons. Definitely, videos and ATL interactions will be promoted at the same time. It is firmly believed that the joint experiencing event joined by car manufacturers, parts suppliers and media can influence consumers a lots, vividly display the comfort, fashion and technology of C6 rationally and perceptually and bring consumers all-new experience.

GST / Seton AutoLeather Receives Toyota South Africa Motors Supplier Award.

March 30, 2016

ANNOUNCEMENT: GST / Seton AutoLeather Receives Toyota South Africa Motors Supplier Award.

GST / Seton AutoLeather Managing Director Shalen Sewnandan received, on behalf of all its South Africa employees, Toyota South Africa Motors Supplier Award for Achievement in Value Analysis. The award was jointly presented at the 2016 Annual Business Meeting and Awards function by Dr. Johan Van Zyl, Managing Officer, Chief Executive Officer and President of Toyota Motor Europe and Africa, Chairman of Toyota RSA; Mr. Motohiro Iida, Executive VP Manufacturing and Manufacturing Support Group; and Mr. Yoshida, General Manager Body Parts Purchasing Division.

Mr. Sewnandan stated in a communication to the Seton SA employees that the Award is recognition for the company's continuous improvement efforts in cost reduction and value creation. Per Mr. Sewnandan, the company's joint efforts in finding ways to reduce costs through productivity, hide purchasing strategies, research and development initiatives, smart upgrading and finishing processes, using the latest machine technology across the tannery, along with jointly developing natural markings books, working with the customer on increasing utilization, reducing packaging and transport costs, coupled with Excellent Service, Delivery and Quality all contributed to this recognition. He extended his and the GST / Seton management team's congratulations and appreciation to the operations employees for their continuous improvement effort.

GST Receives Toyota Motor Corporation's Superior Quality Award

February 26th, 2016

ANNOUNCEMENT: GST Receives Toyota Motor Corporation's Superior Quality Award.

GST'Seton AutoLeather President and CEO Dennis Hiller received, on behalf of all its North American and China employees, Toyota Motor Corporation's 'Superior Quality Award'. This is the highest supplier quality honor the carmaker awards its global suppliers.

After the ceremony that closed the Toyota's Global Suppliers Convention in Nagoya, Japan, Mr. Hiller said: 'Friday, February 26th, will be one of the truly remarkable days that we will always remember in the history of our company. I had the honor of representing our company at the 2016 Global Supplier Convention in Nagoya Japan. We are one of only twelve companies globally to receive the award and the only non-Japanese company.'

The award was based on the quality performance of the GST-Seton China and Mexico facilities.

GST was not only recognized for its quality metrics, the impressive improvement during 2015, but also according to Toyota for 'Earning the Trust ' Mr. Hiller stated that the Trust recognition touched him deeply and all of the dedicated members of GST-Seton should take heart in this core value.

GST-Seton has been a proud supplier of automotive leather to Toyota for over 35 years and it shares in and endorses TMC's slogan of 'One Team: Suppliers and Toyota.'

Life Remodeled with General Motors

August 6, 2015

ANNOUNCEMENT: GST commercial sales team participates with GM in the "Life Remodeled" project.

On Thursday August 6th members from GST's commercial sales team (Jamey Mesaros, Antonio Camino, and Ana Monsivais) participated with General Motors in the 'Life Remodeled' project donating their time and working alongside their colleagues within the GM Purchasing organization that they deal with on a daily basis. As a Platinum level contributor to the Life Remodeled non-Profit organization, General Motors ( http://liferemodeled.com/sponsors/ ) is a prominent annual donor and places tremendous value on the impact it is having on the community while strengthening relationships with its key suppliers, like GST AutoLeather. For GST, the day included working at several different neighborhood sites within the Osborn School district.

The city of Detroit is making a comeback, but for the revitalization of the city to really take hold, its neighborhoods need to again become places of hope. By focusing each year on renovating a high school and hundreds of blocks around it, the non-profit Life Remodeled seeks to make a sustained difference (Life Remodeled website statement).

Steve Jeske, GST's Sr. VP of Sales, Marketing & Product Development commented on GST's participation at the event by saying 'GST places a tremendous amount of value on our customer relationships and involving the company in local charitable/non-profit community activities. The Life Remodeled event was a great way to showcase both - not only as a proud supplier to GM, but also to be part of the revitalization process of the Detroit neighborhoods.' Jamey Mesaros, GST's Sr. Director of Sales & Marketing commented on participating in the event by saying ''working alongside our customer at the Life Remodeled event was gratifying for our entire commercial team which included Antonio (Camino) and Ana (Monsivais). It was a true feeling of partnership and teamwork. At the end of the day, it made us all feel proud of our effort and results we achieved. We all look forward to participating again next year.'

About Life Remodeled (www.liferemodeled.com):

Life Remodeled is a non-profit organization that exists to remodel lives ' one neighborhood at a time. We use holistic strategies to make dramatic and immediate impact in communities and to establish foundations for long-term sustainable growth and development.

Our annual project includes remodeling a Detroit school each summer to help create academic and athletic improvements and to restore the school as a source of pride within the community. Additionally, we believe by partnering with local residents to remove blight in the surrounding area and create safe and inspirational pathways to the school, we will help build up and sustain a neighborhood that radiates hope to the rest of the city.

We continue to work in these neighborhoods for years to come to enhance the schools, revitalize housing, increase employment opportunities, and cultivate long-term relationships, all of which enable the development of healthy and thriving communities.

Life Remodeled Mission & Values - http://liferemodeled.com/about-us/

Update on JV Previously Announced with TATA International Limited

January 30, 2014

ANNOUNCEMENT: Joint Venture with TATA International Limited has been formalized.

We are pleased to announce that effective April 23rd 2014, our JV has been formalized. A tremendous amount of progress has been made already in developing automotive products for various global OEM companies, and now we are ready to take our products to the marketplace so that our customers can see the benefit of the TIL and GST partnership.

We are also pleased to announce that Ashish Sehgal has joined our company as HEAD ' TIGAL (TATA International GST AutoLeather Limited). He will be based in Dewas (India) and report to Chris Hansen. Ashish comes to us from BMD PVT. LTD. where he last served as Deputy General Manager. There his experience included OEM, Tier 1 and Tier 2 responsibilities, and marketing automotive fabric to India's customers. Ashish has a Master's in Business Management from Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University with B-Tech in Textile Technology from Technological Institute of Textiles and Sciences, Bhiwani. He comes with about 2 decades of experience in various reputed companies like BMD Pvt. Ltd., Decathlon-European, LNJ Bhilwara Group and Arvind Mills Ltd.

During the next couple of months, additional account executives will be hired.

As we begin to build a more substantial business in India and Southeast Asia, we want to thank everyone for your efforts to date and for your continued support of our India business.

TATA International Ltd and GST Autoleather Inc., Announce the Signing of a Letter of Intent and an Agreement to Form a Joint Venture in India

January 30, 2014

ANNOUNCEMENT: Announce the Signing of a Letter of Intent and an Agreement to Form a Joint Venture in India

Mumbai, India (January 30th, 2014) ' Tata International Limited, a leading manufacturer and exporter of leather and leather products based in India and a supplier to the Automotive Industry, and GST Autoleather Inc. announced today that they have entered into an agreement to form a JV Automotive Leather Company headquartered in Mumbai, India with operations in Dewas, India in order to supply automotive leather products to the expanding Indian Original Equipment market and other export markets.

In making the announcement, Noel. N. Tata, Managing Director, Tata International Ltd and Dennis Hiller, President and CEO, GST AutoLeather, Inc. said ' At closing, this Joint Venture brings together two great companies with a long heritage in the leather business. TIL with its deep experience in producing leather for the Indian market and GST's Global Automotive experience brings together two companies that share common values and a relentless pursuit of excellence. We look forward to establishing the trust and confidence of our customers and to beginning the process of building a premier automotive leather company in India'.

The new company will be known as TATA International GST Auto Leather Limited. The formation of the Company is expected to occur within the next 60 days.

About TATA International Ltd:

Tata International Limited [TIL], is the global trading and distribution company of the Tata group. Established in 1962, TIL's key business lines are leather and leather products, metals trading, minerals trading, distribution (auto and allied) and agri trading with a presence in manufacturing and supply chain integration in select businesses. The company operates through its network of offices and subsidiaries across 38 countries, spanning Africa, Europe, Middle East, Latin America and Asia and has spearheaded forays into new geographies for the group. Besides, TIL has been a forerunner of the Indian industry in Africa.

Over the years, TIL has formed strong strategic alliances and partnerships that have reinforced its role in international trade and business. With a turnover of USD 1.2 billion (2012-13), the company is supported by about 6500+ strong employee base.

The company is deeply committed to being a proactive and responsible member of the community and the environment in which it operates. Stringent goals for the reduction of our carbon footprint and greenhouse gases in the leather plant and other facilities, coupled with initiatives for empowering local communities in equal measure, drives the company's long term sustainability agenda. Winner of several prestigious national awards and International certifications for Environment and Quality, it is also a signatory to the UN Global Compact.

About GST AutoLeather.

GST AutoLeather Inc. (www.gstautoleather.com) is headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, and is a proud supplier of some of the world's finest automotive leather interior trim. GST AutoLeather has operations and strategic alliances in the United States, Mexico, Japan, China, Korea, Germany, Hungary, South Africa, Dominican Republic, and South America. Many of the industry's most prestigious automobile companies turn to GST AutoLeather for its innovation, customer service, quality and dependability. GST AutoLeather's engineers and technical experts work hand-in-hand with many of the world's Original Equipment and Tier I Manufacturers to conceive, design and develop new generations of leather for the global automotive market. In support of its expansion plans and global growth strategy, GST manages sales operations in various global markets.

Seton AutoLeather South Africa receives Toyota Supplier Award

March 20, 2013

ANNOUNCEMENT: Seton AutoLeather South Africa receives Toyota Supplier Award

On March 20, 2013, the Seton AutoLeather plant in Nigel, South Africa was awarded Toyota Motors, SA's 2012 Value Analysis and Value Engineering Achievement Award. Seton AutoLeather was one of only four automotive suppliers that received this award which takes into consideration the suppliers' performance in the categories of quality, efficiency, cost management and all-around customer service.

The Supplier Award event was held at the Durban International Conference Center with the supplier awards being granted by Dr. Johan Van Zyl, President and CEO Toyota South Africa, and Mr. Shoji Nishihara, General Manger Purchasing, TMC. Shalen Sewnandan, Seton AutoLeather's Managing Director, received the award on behalf of GST/Seton AutoLeather, Inc.

Seton AutoLeather is a GST AutoLeather, Inc. company. The Seton AutoLeather South Africa Plant is a vertically integrated retanning, finishing and cutting facility employing about 775 employees.

Seton AutoLeather's South Africa's Plant Named as Tannery of the Year Finalist for 2013

February 27, 2013

ANNOUNCEMENT: Seton AutoLeather's South Africa's Plant Named as Tannery of the Year Finalist for 2013

Seton AutoLeather's management has been notified that its plant in Nigel, Gauteng, South Africa is one of ten finalists in the World Leather Magazine's 2013 Tannery of the Year competition.

The Tannery of the Year Award program was launched in 2009 by World Leather, a division of World Trades Publishing to provide a platform for good news about the leather industries, about positive initiatives from tanners in very part of the world. The competition is designed to showcase the best in the industry, and places emphasis on the management practices of the company, especially in the areas of environmental management and corporate social responsibility. Participants in the competition undergo an intensive two day on-site interview followed by, for the short listed finalists, an awards presentation to make the company's final case for winning Tannery of the Year.

This third Tannery of the Year program will culminate in an awards evening in Hong Kong on March 25, 2013. Shalen Sewnandan, Managing Director of the Seton AutoLeather South Africa Plant, and other GST/Seton AutoLeather company representatives will attend the event. Mr. Sewnandan will make the final presentation which will be delivered to a judging panel consisting of experts and leaders in the fields of corporate and social responsibility and business management. The presentation will be focused on the Company's commitment to: Technical Innovation; Environmental Best Practices; its Employees; the Community; Relationships with clients; and its Economic Sustainability.

GST Saltillo Plant Human Resources Manager recognized with 2011 HR Executive of the Year

January 20, 2012

ANNOUNCEMENT: GST Saltillo Plant Human Resources Manager recognized with 2011 HR Executive of the Year

We are very pleased to announce that Tadeo Carrizales, GST Saltillo Plant Human Resources Manager, will be recognized this coming Wednesday, January 25th, as the '2011 HR Executive of the Year' by the Association of Human Resources Manager of Southeast of Coahuila (ARHCOS).

The Association has more than 90 affiliated Companies in the Saltillo area who meet on a monthly basis and share topics of interest related to Human Resources initiatives. The recognition award was established by the Association in 2001 and each year an HR Executive in the Saltillo region who has demonstrated extraordinary performance in the development and execution of Human Capital Management best practices is selected.

Last month Ernesto Ruiz, Director of Human Resources and Development GST Mxico, received an invitation from ARHCOS to nominate a candidate, and he recommended Tadeo based on Tadeos significant contributions to a variety of HR Best Practices. The practices included environmental health and safety initiatives; employee educational & development programs; job evaluation systems; employee recognition programs; creating positive labor relations environment; state-of-the art recruitment methods; social contributions to the Community; and initiatives for job opportunities for disabled people.

Tadeo obtained a Bachelor钒s Degree in Marketing from Sierra Madre Technological Institute in 1998. During his college student years (1993-1998), he played American Football and was recognized for several achievements including: 'Most Team Spirit' in 1993 and 1998; 'Most Valuable Player' and 'Best Linebacker of the Major League in 1995; 'Best Defensive Player' in 1996; and in 1998 he was named to the 'All Star Team' and invited by the Mexico Team to plan against Italy.

Tadeo began his professional career at DELPHI in 1999 where he was the Labor Relations Coordinator. Tadeo joined GST at the Saltillo Plant in May, 2006 as Labor Relations Coordinator, and in November 2006 he was promoted to Human Resources Manager. During the last six years Tadeo has been working hard at the Saltillo Plant to achieve levels of excellence in Human Resources Activities, and he has developed bench mark programs such as:

  • a) 2011 Great Place to Work certification by the Great Place to Work Institute.
  • b) Program 'Our Pride' aimed at giving job opportunities to people with disabilities.
  • c) Community Support programs involving GST employees who help local orphans through clothing donations and providing Christmas presents to the people of most disadvantaged regions in Coahuila.

Please join us in congratulating Tadeo on this well-deserved prestigious recognition.

GST AutoLeather Saltillo Mexico Plant, a Great Place to Work!

April 15, 2011

ANNOUNCEMENT: GST AutoLeather Saltillo Mexico Plant, a Great Place to Work!

We are pleased to announce that the GST AutoLeather Saltillo, Mexico Plant was recently certified by the Great Place to Work ' Institute (GPWI) as 'an excellent place to work". The GPWI is recognized globally as an authority on the measurement of organizational climate and culture. In a great workplace, trust manifests itself in every relationship. In a high-trust environment people cooperate and collaborate, leading to appositive workplace interactions, improved financial performance, and greater productivity. The GST Saltillo Plant was ranked 88 of the 500 companies that applied for this certification this year, so it is now among the top 100 companies0 to work with in Mexico."

The initiative to become certified as a 'Great Place to Work' was sponsored by Csar H. Escobedo, Senior VP of Operations Excellence GST AutoLeather of Mexico and Ernesto Ruiz, Director of Human Resources and Development, Mexico in 2008. Cesar and Ernesto met with representatives of the Great Place to Work in Mexico City and authorized GPWI to begin internal survey assessments and diagnosis of the Saltillo plant work environment.

In 2009, after the initial external evaluation was completed and assessed, GPWI concluded that the employee work environment at the Saltillo plant at that time did not meet all the criteria necessary to achieve certification. The Saltillo Plant Management developed and implemented an action plan for 2010 with an emphasis on enhancing the location鮒s work environment. In December of that year, Great Place to Work ' conducted another audit of the plant's HR Policies and Practices with a focus on five key dimensions: credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie.

The results of the last audit were very positive and in late February, Brenda Ruiz, an executive of Great Place to Work ', officially certified the plant as a "Great place to work". The GST Saltillo plant is the first company in the city of Saltillo to be certified in 2011 and is recognized as a company with a high level of trust between employees and management; open two-way communications; and mutual respect across the organization. These workplace attributes are important in enhancing the organization's working relationship among its employees and maintaining its competitive strength.

GST representatives including Francisco Rios, GST VP Business Development and Ernesto Ruiz, Director of Human Resources and Development Mexico, attended the Great Place to Work Awards Ceremony at the Bancomer Center in Mexico City on April 12th to receive the recognition on behalf of GST. Congratulations to all employees who made it possible that the GST AutoLeather Saltillo Plant is formally recognized as a Great Place to Work in Mexico!

Awards 2011, 2012

North America

2012
Inclusive Company Award

Saltillo Plant, Mexico. Saltillo Plant received 'Inclusive Company Award' by Mexico Government Dec 2012. The top social responsible companies, that supports the best work practices.

Companies Familiarly and Responsible Committed Award

Saltillo Plant, Mexico. Saltillo Plant received 'Companies Familiarly and Responsible Committed Award' by Mexico Government Dec 2012. Granted to companies that prove to have good labor practices in three areas: work-family balance, gender equality and combating workplace violence and sexual harassment.

Company Committed to the Education of their Workers Award

Leon Plant, Mexico. Leon Plant received 'Company Committed to the Education of their Workers Award' by Mexico Government Sept 2012 For companies and institutions committed to the education of their workers and that of their families.

Leon Plant, Mexico. Leon Plant received ' Labor and Responsible Companies Award' by Guanajuato Government' Aug 2012 For innovation and continuous improvement to help raise business productivity.

Labor Merit Award

Leon Plant, Mexico. Leon Plant received 'Labor Merit Award' by the Guanajuato Government on May 2012. Award given to the top social responsible companies that supports the best work practices.

2011
Inclusive Company Award

Saltillo Plant, Mexico. Saltillo Plant received the 'Great place to Work' Recognition by GPTW Institute. The Great Place to Work is a survey conducted for the institute and evaluates the employees perceptions and the culture experience.

Great workplaces are built through the day-to-day relationships that employees experience. Employees believe they work for great organizations when they consistently: TRUST the people they work for; Have PRIDE in what they do; and ENJOY the people they work with.

South Africa

2012
Inclusive Company Award

Nigel, South Africa.Seton AutoLeather plant in Nigel, South Africa was awarded Toyota Motors, SA's 2012 Value Analysis and Value Engineering Achievement Award.

Seton AutoLeather was one of only four automotive suppliers that received this award which takes into consideration the suppliers' performance in the categories of quality, efficiency, cost management and all-around customer service.