DENSO Manufacturing Michigan Inc. - 2023 Manufacturing Talent Champion
This article appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
One of DENSO Manufacturing Michigan’s core priorities is to build the next generation of manufacturing leaders, both through training and by crafting innovative solutions. These are just a couple of the reasons why DENSO has been chosen as the 2023 Manufacturing Talent Champion.
The second-largest tier one automotive parts supplier in the world, DENSO has a legacy of supporting local communities and advancing green initiatives. Although it is a humble company, DENSO has lofty ambitions, says Matt Briden, Vice President of Business Planning for DENSO’s North American Thermal Business at its Battle Creek manufacturing facility.
“We’re involved in really advancing humanity itself,” Briden says, “and that includes everything from advanced agricultural solutions to carbon neutrality as well as advanced mobility.”
The struggle to locate talent affects the manufacturing sector as a whole, but it can be especially challenging to find individuals who are skilled in highly technical trades. Brenda Dredge, Director of HVAC Operations, says DENSO is therefore focused on providing educational opportunities that enhance their associates’ skills.
“We develop a lot of our own processes and processing equipment,” she says. “It is very specific to what we do here, so we have to develop a lot of the talent in-house. We have multiple layers of technical talent here, from lead associate all the way up to apprenticeships and journeymen.”
DENSO partners with Kellogg Community College and its Regional Manufacturing Training Center to create a technical training foundation for all of its skilled positions. DENSO opened its own specialized North Technical Training Center in 2019 as well, she says.
Externally, DENSO works with local schools to help students recognize the many career opportunities available to them in the manufacturing sector and provides scholarships through the Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center.
Briden says they frequently invite students to tour their facility and that DENSO sponsors GED programs through Battle Creek schools for its associates and students in the community. They also sponsor STEM days at local schools, taking their interactive robot, Henry, with them for a visual experience.
“He’ll play tic-tac-toe with the kids,” he says. “It’s quite the conversation starter at the schools. The kids really love Henry, so we take him everywhere.”
Shuichi Kamakura, President of DENSO Manufacturing Michigan, says DENSO’s approach to growing talent in manufacturing is to build both individual and team skills and culture first.
“We believe that to create the best-quality product, we must first create the best human,” Kamakura says. “This is our culture. For that reason, DENSO positions human resource development as its most important management resource.”
In addition to promoting education in the skilled trades, DENSO has five Business Resource Groups focused on inclusion that also highlight career development opportunities: DENSO Women’s Network, DENSO Black Resource Group, DENSO Burmese Network, DENSO Hispanic Network and DENSO Veterans Network.
The groups provide associates with a safe space to communicate their challenges and solve problems, Dredge says.
“It allows them to support, communicate with and learn from each other, which is really important,” she says.
The Business Resource Groups have strong external partnerships in the community as well, leading to mutual benefits such as community event support, professional development and cultural awareness, Dredge says.
“Diversity and inclusion is something that we value immensely,” Briden says.
By promoting and embracing diversity, inclusion and belonging, DENSO associates can feel more engaged, thrive in their careers and make a positive impact in their communities, he says.
The DENSO team’s dedication to education, diversity and community makes the company a highly deserving recipient of this year’s Manufacturing Talent Champion award.
The Manufacturing Talent Champion award is part of the annual Manufacturing Excellence Awards which celebrates the leaders and products that are pushing the industry forward. Learn more about the awards program and gala.
The 2023 Manufacturing Talent Champion award was sponsored by Praeco Skills. Visit online: praecoskills.com.