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Starting from a small trucking firm, James Group International (JGI) today is an innovative, minority-owned provider of global supply chain management services to the automotive and other industries with 2018 worldwide sales exceeding $138 million. Its 375,000 sq. Fort St. facility, completed in 1998, features 23 truck docks as well as indoor rail service. In 2016, its operations were expanded by leasing another 120,000 sq. ft. of space in a former American Gear & Manufacturing building near Hamtramck. The firm provides inventory consolidation and export services for large manufacturing firms. Tapping a network of 750 suppliers for parts, they are capable of manufacturing 18,000 subassemblies each week and ship more than 11.6 million orders annually to 25 countries on five continents. It has long been a Ford Motor Company minority supplier and also aids customer care and aftercare for General Motors. 


JGI began in 1971 as O-J Transport Co.  Founded by John A. James and his uncle, Calvin Outlaw, O-J Transport was originally just "two men and a truck,” with a contract to move beer from Milwaukee to Detroit, but no federal authority to operate an interstate trucking business. The Company battled for years with the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), first to get authority to haul beer, and later, auto parts for Ford and General Motors. In a series of court cases that lasted until 1976, O-J Transport fought for the right to operate on an equal basis with white-owned trucking firms that had been grandfathered into the business as long ago as 1935.  

JGI RGL 2 OJ TruckJohn James (1971)


Although unsuccessful in the courts, O-J Transport’s struggle was recognized in Congress and by President Jimmy Carter, resulting in legislative changes that gave minority-owned trucking firms the opportunity to compete fairly on a national basis. O-J Transport was the first black-owned trucking firm to gain full intrastate operating authority for auto parts from the Michigan Public Service Commission in 1978. In 1980, it was the first black-owned firm to receive permanent 48-state common carrier status to transport auto parts. 


From its original niche as a minority-owned business, O-J Transport worked closely with Ford engineers by the mid-1980s. It helped develop the system for In-Line Vehicle Sequencing (ILVS) that Ford used to deliver seats of exact specifications for each car, in the order in which they were to be installed (also known as “point of use”). In this system, a tractor-trailer would be driven up to a loading dock at the assembly plant and seats moved directly into the assembly area where they would be installed. Truckloads would be delivered about every 40 minutes. This meant that the assembly plant had no need to hold an inventory; instead seats could be built in synchronization with changes in the production schedule. All of this was a part of Ford’s move to Just-In-Time (JIT) delivery of parts.  While the ideas for doing this came from Ford, O-J Transport developed the logistics techniques for sequencing and loading the seats. 


JGI RGL 4 Forklift 20


Similarly, in the early 1990s, O-J Transport found a way to help Ford with an unexpected inventory problem. During a slow sales period, Ford found itself with excess parts inventory stored in shipping containers.  O-J offered to store the containers for Ford and to keep track of the parts.  O-J created a special-purpose inventory system to track the parts. 


In 1998, Calvin Outlaw passed away after a long illness.  The company name was changed from O-J Transport to James Group International, not only reflecting the passing of one of its founders, but also the changed nature of the organization from a simple trucking company to a more complex operation increasingly focused on the larger functions of logistics. 


Click here to view…


OJ - Transport Interstate Commerce Commission Case, Dr. Mitchell Fleisher’s summary of the ICC case that explores the firm’s pioneering efforts that helped African – American firms gain entry into the interstate trucking industry.


Minority_Suppliers_Praise_Ford_DN_-_12.15.88.pdf, a1988 press account documents how firms like Ford helped O-J Transport and others to become established as auto suppliers.


TEXT & RESEARCH - Ron Alpern [Drafted 2017]



James Group International 

O-J Transport Truck & Warehouse 


Kel Keller

James Group International - Fort St. facility