GM announcement a mixed blessing for Jet Express

Kevin Burch – president of Dayton, Ohio-based Jet Express – pulled together a staff meeting on Monday, Nov. 21 on the heels of General Motors’ announcement that it is taking major steps to reduce its assembly capacity by about 1 million units by the end of 2008.

With 75 percent of its revenues tied to GM, Jet Express – a just-in-time automotive hauler – had dodged a bullet. GM will shed 30,000 workers and close nine plants, but Burch says he and Jet Express management feel the company is well positioned to benefit from GM’s turnaround effort.

“All the plants that closed are ones that we do very little business with,” says Burch, adding that GM’s capacity tightening should translate into more freight in the Dayton area, as manufacturing is consolidated in Ohio from the Oklahoma City plant. “We have been doing lean management and just-in-time for years. We are the rolling inventory. We have been involved in helping them reduce costs.”

Several years ago, Jet Express discontinued its cross-border operations with GM’s largest plant in Oshawa, Canada – one of the plants GM will close. The company – which has 100 company drivers and 240 owner-operators – also previously had weaned business away from GM parts subsidiary Delphi Corp. before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October.

“We’re going to stay a just-in-time automotive hauler,” Burch says. “We’re not going to change our venue. That’s what drivers like and what our systems are set up for. We’re going to be there to the end.”

Burch’s vested interest in GM’s success goes beyond his business relationship: His wife, who has worked in GM management for 29 years, has a pension that depends on the company’s financial stability.