Johnson Controls and Detroit’s Empowerment Plan partner to dramatically improve production of coats that transform into sleeping bags for the homeless

PLYMOUTH, Mich. (Dec. 1, 2015) – Johnson Controls Automotive Seating has teamed up with The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit-based nonprofit employs and trains homeless women to create coats that transform into sleeping bags for the homeless, to help produce its coats more efficiently and cost effectively by applying automotive manufacturing approaches.

Johnson Controls’ Plymouth-based team applied its development and continuous improvement processes to improve The Empowerment Plan’s overall product design, manufacturing, supply chain approach. The collaborative effort between the automotive supplier and nonprofit produced the following dramatic results:

  • 51 percent increase in coat production per day (from 17-35 coats/day)
  • 20 percent reduction (two yards) in fabric per coat
  • advancements in training, temperature ratings and testing

The nonprofit is also working with another company, Lean Machine, to implement lean processes.

“What began with a financial donation from our company earlier this year has developed into so much more,” said Eric Michalak, chief engineer, Advanced Product Development for Johnson Controls Automotive Seating. “It’s been amazing to see how in just a few short months Johnson Controls’ expertise in engineering, manufacturing and supply chain could be applied to The Empowerment Plan’s coat and have such an impact.”

According to Michalak, Johnson Controls is continuing the company’s efforts with The Empowerment Plan to see what more the partnership can accomplish.  

In fact, Johnson Controls Automotive Seating recently was able to repurpose international shipping boxes to support the nonprofit.  In addition to boxes, the company invited its suppliers to assist The Empowerment Plan with logistics and distribution.  As a result, a leading logistics company is helping to provide lower shipping rates through a special state of Michigan program for nonprofits and another supplier provide the nonprofit with free bags to ship the coats for a year.

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About Johnson Controls:
Johnson Controls is a global diversified technology and industrial leader serving customers in more than 150 countries. Our 130,000 employees create quality products, services and solutions to optimize energy and operational efficiencies of buildings; lead-acid automotive batteries and advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles; and seating components and systems for automobiles. Our commitment to sustainability dates back to our roots in 1885, with the invention of the first electric room thermostat. Through our growth strategies and by increasing market share we are committed to delivering value to shareholders and making our customers successful. In 2015, Corporate Responsibility Magazine recognized Johnson Controls as the #14 company in its annual “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list. For additional information, please visit or follow us @johnsoncontrols on Twitter.

About Johnson Controls Automotive Experience:
Johnson Controls Automotive Experience is a global leader in automotive seating components and systems. We support all major automakers in the differentiation of their vehicles through our products, technologies and advanced manufacturing capabilities. With more than 200 locations worldwide, we are where our customers need us to be. Consumers have enjoyed the comfort and style of our products, from single components to complete seat systems. With our global capability we supply more than 50 million cars per year. Johnson Controls pursues a spin-off of its Automotive Experience business. Following the separation, which is expected to close in the third quarter of 2016, the Automotive Experience business will operate as an independent, publicly traded company. Bruce McDonald will serve as the chairman and CEO of the new company. Beda Bolzenius will serve as president and COO.

Follow us on Twitter: @JCseating

About The Empowerment Plan:
The Empowerment Plan is a group dedicated to serving the homeless community with a goal to better the lives of those involved. The nonprofit’s revolutionary coat turns into a sleeping bag at night and a bag when not in use. The coats are distributed to homeless individuals on the streets at no cost to them. 

Mary Kay Dodero