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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state’s small- and medium-sized suppliers of automobile parts will get some help from the Saturn Corp. and the University of Tennessee, it was announced Friday.

The program — the latest in a UT-Saturn partnership established in 1988 — will help manufacturers make high-quality parts more efficiently and effectively for Saturn and other automotive companies.

Joseph F. Patton, supplier training leader for Saturn, will be “on loan” for about a year as automotive industry consultant with UT’s Center for Industrial Services (CIS).

UT President Joe Johnson said the university and Saturn have a common goal in helping suppliers improve their competitiveness and relationships with their customers.

“This new program will help the entire state make industrial, educational and economic progress,” Johnson said.

Patton has spent 25 years at General Motors and seven at Saturn — overseeing materials and production control and efficient manufacturing techniques. His work with UT is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Tom Ballard, associate vice president of UT’s Institute for Public Service, said the project pairs Patton with CIS personnel to help small parts manufacturers.

“Saturn believes it can best help itself by working to improve all manufacturers in the state,” Ballard said. “They truly are a different car company taking a unique approach to product and quality improvement.”

Tim Epps, Saturn vice president of People Systems, said other joint projects include internships at Saturn for UT students and use of UT research data.

“The invitation to extend the Saturn-UT partnership and to jointly explore new and better ways to do business in Tennessee is well-aligned with our focus on continuous improvement on behalf of all of our customers,” Epps said.


Contact: Tom Ballard (615-974-6621)

Gary High (615-486-5915)