When manufacturers in Michigan look for examples of agile, lean and high-performance operations, they invariably turn to Detroit Chassis LLC. With its modern, flexible plant in Detroit’s Renaissance Zone, Detroit Chassis builds vehicles and vehicle systems that consistently meet the tightest of customer schedules, dramatically reduce costs, and far exceed industry standards for quality.
Founded by entrepreneurs Michael and Carlton Guthrie, Detroit Chassis is part of the SPECTRA group of companies. Originally known as Trumack Assembly, Detroit Chassis operates as a tier one supplier from a 218,000-square-foot plant situated on 33 acres on Lynch Road in Detroit, about 1.1 miles north of I-94 on the city’s east side. It was founded in 1998 as a facility to offer a low-cost alternative for production of the Ford F-53 motor home chassis that was being assembled in Mexico. Operations began in 1999 with a lean, flexible United Auto Workers labor force and resulted in millions of dollars in savings on production and shipping for the F-53, a full rolling chassis incorporating many sophisticated subassemblies. The plant continues to produce the F-53 today, creating chassis used by all motor home body builders throughout the United States.
The flexibility of the plant allows its workers to assemble different types of vehicles simultaneously. In 1999 and 2000, the plant produced chassis for the Ford Explorer U.S. Postal vehicle, and in the following year it built the entire Think Neighbor electric low-speed vehicle, all while continuing to assemble the motor home chassis on its main line.
The plant has the capacity to turn out 80,000 assembled units per year. Moreover, the facility manufactures a number of subassemblies that could be stand-alone businesses themselves. Within the plant, Detroit Chassis workers build complex front and rear axle systems, tire-and-wheel units, steering columns and other assemblies. An in-station quality control system is employed on the main line. At designated “quality gates,” inspections are carried out on the line to ensure proper assembly before a unit passes through to the next stage of production. In this way, quality is assured during the assembly process itself, rather than being inspected after all work is completed.
The Guthries, who own SPECTRA and Detroit Chassis, are a true success story in the business arena. Over two decades, they have compiled an impressive record, owning several manufacturing and engineering businesses involved in the automotive, aerospace and consumer goods industries. They have each been active in numerous civic and social service organizations, as well.
Michael is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Carlton earned a Harvard MBA. After successful careers in business and law, the brothers joined forces in 1985 to acquire the metal stamping operations of Uptilt, Inc. and Trumark. Inc., in Lansing, Michigan. In 2001 the Guthries became sole owners of Detroit Chassis and the following year created SPECTRA.
Michael and Carlton Guthrie were honored with the 2003 Ernst & Young Entrepreneurs of The Year Award for Eastern Michigan and were named “Supplier of the Year” by the National Minority Business Development Council and “Michigan Manufacturer of the Year” by Impressions 5 Museum in Lansing, Michigan. “The Greater Lansing Business Monthly” named the Guthries “Entrepreneurs of the Year.” Michael also has received the “Platinum Award” for Lifetime Service from Junior Achievement of Michigan. Carlton also was honored with the Chivas Regal Extrapreneur of the Year Award and the Harvard Business School Bert King Award.
Beyond their success in operating profitable businesses that exceed performance standards, the Guthries work to expand the knowledge and work ethic of their employees. Every employee is challenged to commit to the company’s values.
Today, Detroit Chassis, in conjunction with its sister company Detroit Custom Chassis, continues to develop the capacity and the capability to design and manufacture all types of goods. Spectra and its Detroit Chassis affiliates are positioned to expand their services to industries across America and beyond with engineering, process engineering, niche vehicle assembly and sub-assembly capability, and specialized logistics for efficient production.