When Honda came to Ohio in the 1980s, it brought Japanese manufacturing techniques that are credited with revolutionizing the way autos are made in America.

One of those techniques was just-in-time production, in which inventory is minimized and fresh components arrive on the factory floor precisely when needed.

Honda also encouraged suppliers to locate close by, and 50 or so Japanese companies came to Ohio on Honda's coattails. One was TS Trim Industries, a subsidiary of Tokyo Seat Co., which found a just-in-time site in Canal Winchester (pop. 3,410) on the southeastern edge of Columbus. The company is a first tier supplier to Honda.

A central Ohio location and superior transportation infrastructure spell "just-in-time" for the communities surrounding Columbus.

"Since the arrival of Honda, just-in-time is infused in our economy and in our attitudes," says Mike Arcari, president of the Mid-Ohio Development Exchange, a regional body that assists development in the rapid growth corridor of Central Ohio.

"The components shipped from here will be on a car in 36 hours," says Roger Rill, manager of corporate administration for TS Trim.

Location: Central Ohio counties of Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Licking, Marion, Ross and Union
Population of the Metro Area: 1.4 million
Road: I-70, I-71, I-270, U.S. 23, 33 and 35
Rail: CSX, Norfolk Southern, Conrail, Indiana & Ohio shortline, Ohio Central System
Air: Port Columbus; all-freight airport at Rickenbacker
Major Employers in Central Ohio: Honda (autos, motorcycles, engines); The Limited (clothing distribution); Nationwide Insurance (7,900 employees).

TS Trim's Canal Winchester plant employs 450 associates and produces door and roof liners. A second TS Trim plant in Athens, in Southeast Ohio, produces seat cover trim and employs 400. The Athens plant also provides leather covers for an upscale massage chair made by Panasonic.

A new sister company in Reynoldsburg, TS Tech, manufactures seat frames and assemblies. TS Trim products are also exported to Honda plants in Canada and Mexico.

TS Trim's location on the fast-track, four-laned U.S. 33 allows the company to draw from a wide labor market area -- six counties contribute to the company's workforce.

The company reports its 850 Ohio employees readily accepted the blend of American and Japanese management styles. The ubiquitous uniforms underscore the teamwork management style. "The proof is in the fact that many of our employees have been here since the beginning -- over nine years -- and low labor turnover is a definite cost benefit to the company."

Mid-Ohio has broad advantages in distribution -- the all-cargo airport at Rickenbacker on the south end of Columbus, multiple rail yards, the intersection of two interstates, plus a ring road (I-270) to ease the flow of traffic in the region.

Those advantages are what caught the eye of Caterpillar Logistics Services recently when it was looking for a distribution site. The company selected Canal Winchester over other sites in Ohio and in Pennsylvania. It operates the $24 million, 240,000-sq. ft. farm equipment parts distribution center for New Holland of North America, Inc. The company cited the availability of a quality labor force as a key factor in its decision.

Canal Winchester is one of several fast-growing smaller communities that ring the capital city. Obetz, Gahanna and Grove City are all important links in the just-in-time chain in Central Ohio.

Ninety-five percent domestic content goes into the roof and door liners produced at TS Trim in Canal Winchester. Ironically, the TS Trim plant was formerly occupied by an American company that took its jobs to Mexico.
Grove City, south of Columbus and just five minutes from I-70, has witnessed a surge of industrial activity and an increase in employment of 64 percent in the past seven years. Much of the growth relates to its distribution advantages.

Grove City is home of SouthPark, a 500-acre residential and industrial community with more than a million sq. ft. of industrial space. A number of companies have chosen the landscaped community for its distribution advantages.

Headquarters of Roadway Package Systems, one of the nation's fastest growing trucking companies, Grove City has captured such major firms as Pier One Distribution, Fruehauf Trailers, Lennox Industries, McGraw-Hill Publishing, Ashland Chemical and Amana Appliance Regional Distribution Center in recent years.

Grove City is also home to another Japanese transplant, Tigerpoly Mfg. The company makes plastic parts for the appliance, construction, medical and auto markets.

Grove City has chalked up a number of quality-of-life accolades. Among them: it was named the "most livable community in Central Ohio" by the consulting firm of PHH Technology Services, and it regularly receives the "White Glove Award" for community cleanliness.

Meigs County
Northeast Ohio