TRAVERSE CITY, MI – It has not been easy, but the Original Equipment Suppliers Assn. over time has persuaded both auto makers and its members that the organization provides them value, its chairman says.

OESA has been organized for a decade, and its membership of about 400 Tier 1, 2 and 3 suppliers has held up pretty well through the economic crisis, says association Chairman Bill Kozyra, who also is CEO of privately held TI Automotive.

Members pay their dues because they get value from the activities OESA supports, including town hall meetings with customers, he says at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars here.

“We are trying to help the OEMs mass-communicate to the supply base, with half a dozen town hall meetings a year,” Kozyra says. The meetings between auto maker purchasing departments and suppliers typically last a half-day and allow attendees to learn in a common forum.

Many members are Tier 2 or Tier 3 “and would never normally have access to the purchasers in a forum where they can meet them and shake hands,” he says.

OESA projects include councils made up of volunteers sharing information in areas such as legal issues, human resources and sales.

The legal committee, for example, reviewed the new terms-and-conditions contract Chrysler was preparing to help it anticipate areas that suppliers might find troubling.

The human resources group does industry benchmarking on such things as benefits.

It currently is working on a project that allows members from smaller companies to jointly purchase services, such as health-care insurance, at better rates than they could negotiate individually.

The communications group meets about four times a year with public-relations professionals to share best practices and discuss common challenges, such as how to meet with auto makers’ PR teams.

Future councils could include one to help smaller suppliers learn how to expand overseas, which would help the Tier 1s with their global purchasing.

Other activities may include organizing groups of suppliers that could bundle some of their non-production purchasing.

Because the supply base is better-prepared and stronger as a result of OESA, says Kozyra, “We are an organization that brings value to the OEMs; an organization that is a benefit to them.”