The company’s expertise in making parts for ICE-based platforms is also transferable to EV platforms

May 5, 2023

By Mark Shortt

BURLINGTON, Ontario—As automotive manufacturers transition from internal combustion engines (ICE) to electric powertrains, OEMs and higher-tier suppliers are looking to connect with supply chain partners who can provide the tooling, parts, and other technologies needed for electric vehicle (EV) components and systems. One of the major challenges confronting makers of electric vehicles today is the selection of qualified suppliers.

A company that fits the description of “qualified supplier” is Burloak Tool & Die, Ltd., a tool designer and manufacturer that also provides production metal stamping services. The ISO 9001:2015 certified company is a longtime supplier to the automotive industry, making brackets for engine or battery mounts, running board mounts, and underbody protection equipment, among other parts.

For EVs, Burloak continues to produce these parts, as well as a variety of clips, housings, and thermal transfer components, said Burloak Tool & Die President and CEO Sean Brown, in an interview.

“We’re not making internal engine parts, so that part of the industry doesn’t touch us too much,” he said. “Many of the components that Burloak has proven to be excellent at are components that are needed regardless of the nature of the powertrain—whether it’s gas, diesel, electric, or even hydrogen.”

Brown said that although the EV platform is “revolutionary,” EV makers are not requiring anything of suppliers today that could be called especially unique. The expertise that’s required just intensifies with every generation, but that’s also been true with the production of ICE-based vehicles, he said. One of the major differences he sees today, however, is the speed at which the development of EV platforms is occurring.

“ICE-based platforms have developed over a 100-plus year period. Now, we’re going from electric vehicles being a notion a decade ago, to a real thing today, to a ubiquitous thing tomorrow, and it’s all happening on just an incredibly compressed timeline.”

So what do automotive customers in the EV industry need most from their parts suppliers? According to Brown, they’re looking for a high level of engagement with their suppliers, as well as trust that they will receive high-quality parts, delivered on time. Suppliers are manufacturing parts on very tight timelines. More than ever, he said, companies need to be able to trust that suppliers are going to do what they say they’re going to do.

“Then, when you’re working on a project, or job, there are a lot of iterations around design, a lot of iterations around what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. If we make this change, what will it cost us, not just in production cost and quality, but what will it cost in time for the overall delivery of the platform, which has a fixed date that isn’t going to move? So, the trust and engagement are really what they’re after, at a high level.”

Brown said that Burloak serves numerous Tier-1 suppliers, who then deliver to OEMs, but the company is engaged with customers up and down the value chain. Big investments are being made in EV platforms, including some from newer entrants with capabilities that weren’t available to the legacy ICE-based auto industry. Burloak is working with some of these companies as well. “They’ve acquired a lot of expertise in a short amount of time,” Brown said. “They know what they’re doing.”

Although customers aren’t requiring anything especially unique, Brown said, sometimes they have different production requirements for certain parts that go into an EV. Burloak, for example, has one press that’s segregated from the rest of its stamping facility because it makes parts that need to be manufactured in a much cleaner environment than is typical for traditional metal stamping.

“The part needs to be pristine when it’s produced,” he said. “It isn’t anything that’s revolutionary about how that part is being stamped beyond the fact that we’re using a very precision die that was made for that press. But it called for segregation of the press and renovation of the area that the press would be installed in, with clean floors, clean walls, clean ceiling, a different conveyor system, and air flow to keep parts clean between the stamping process and the packaging process.”