Interview with MAHLE Engine Components USA Inc. Plant Manager Bruce Fandel
Just as Governor Snyder announced in his State of the State Address in January, in manufacturing, talent is a top priority. Without a team you can count on, a business can only go so far and rarely will it achieve its potential. For most manufacturers, talent development is a long and difficult process of trying to locate all the right pieces and create a winning culture. MAHLE didn’t have to wait years or decades to secure a top-notch team — with the purchase of one facility, they brought in a team of talent their competition is sure to envy and a team already making its St. Johns facility the jewel for global manufacturing giant.
“It’s a real privilege to get to work with so many great people — while we have our differences from time to time, people here look out for one another and there is a culture of cooperation that only gets better,” says Bruce Fandel, plant manager for MAHLE Engine Components USA’s St. Johns location.
Usually the company comes first, and the talent follows, but thanks to a bit of luck, MAHLE’s 2007 purchase of the 225,000- square-foot St. Johns location included an experienced team — some with decades of experience — who had worked together through two previous manufacturing ownerships. Their ability to build one-of-a-kind engine components — including more than 100 different ring types — used in vehicles around the world set them apart from others in the industry. Despite the success, the MAHLE team in Michigan refuses to settle for where they are today, and that mindset is getting them noticed.
“Last year, one of the global executives was retiring and he brought his entire team here to St. Johns. He said ‘the thing I like about [this facility] is that they always get better’,” Fandel states proudly. “There’s a lot of truth to that. From both a management and hourly perspective — in terms of capability, enthusiasm, cooperation — we have the best team today that we’ve ever had, but it doesn’t mean we don’t need to think about the talent of tomorrow.”
Thankfully, Michigan has a wealth of new talent programs from the local MMA PRIME® initiative to the statewide Career Pathways Alliance and the Skilled Trades Training Fund, from which MAHLE annually benefits.
“The Skilled Trades Training Fund is a great program that helps to fund talent development in ways that are unique to each manufacturer,” says Fandel. “At MAHLE, our push to continuously improve begins with how we locate talent and continues throughout their time here with tuition reimbursement.”
While MAHLE’s talent needs are satisfied today, the company’s drive to continuously improve ensures every team member from the newest recruit to the C-suite has access to any professional development and skills training their career path requires.
“I would say MAHLE’s purchase of this little facility in St. Johns has been very positive,” Fandel explains. “It’s a company with a long-term vision that doesn’t overreact to short-term struggles and is always willing to invest in its people. How can you not enjoy working somewhere like that?”
This article appeared in the February 2018 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Check out the latest issue and read past issues online.