This article appeared in the March 2020 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Creating a cohesive culture can be an annoyingly slow process but, when you hit upon the right one, the one that merges your people and your vision, it can open doors to incredible possibility and represent the most exciting time to be a manufacturer. It took a long time for Nexteer to discover their culture. Through half a dozen name changes and ownerships, they kept focusing on improving the car driving experience and eventually that hard work led to One Nexteer Culture and a decade of unprecedented growth.
“At the end of the day, we’re car people — we have a lot of passion for being a part of the automotive industry,” said Dennis Hoeg, vice president of Nexteer and president of the company’s North America division. “Your story and your people comprise so much of who you are in manufacturing. You need to understand that. Understand who you are, see where you want to go and don’t let anything keep the team from getting there.”
Their team views success as a choice you make. This is evident as Nexteer chose to take on a multi- year, global effort in launching Digital Trace™ Manufacturing, one of the most advanced, holistic, integrative approaches to design and production.
Nexteer’s Global Technical Center and multiple manufacturing facilities are situated on 400 acres with more than 3.1 million square feet of manufacturing, research and development and testing space.
“We’re definitely unique because everyday people don’t see our products. However, our technology touches the lives of millions of people around the world on a daily basis. It’s a huge part of what allows the car driving experience to be fun and exciting but what we do — advanced steering and driveline systems — gets hidden in the car,” Hoeg explained. “Success for us comes from working with our customers — the world’s leading OEMs — and understanding what they need and how technology can make it possible.”
To small and mid-sized manufacturers, Hoeg urges them to do the things Nexteer has done to see such rapid growth in the last 10 years.
“Focus on your people, focus on achieving operational excellence and focus on a strategy for business growth — that’s at the heart of everything here,” said Hoeg. “And the great thing is that all of those focuses are scalable for whatever size or scope you are. It all starts with communicating and listening to people; both your team and your customers.”
Despite being the key decision- makers, too many manufacturers develop strategies to achieve what they think their customers want and what they think their team is capable of. By placing communication front-and-center, Nexteer has gone further than they ever could have if they’d kept guessing the customer’s needs and hoping they were right.
“The last decade has been an incredible journey for us. We’ve increased our depth and breadth of products, completed crucial process integration, generated new R&D capability, placed innovation front and center and expanded our global footprint,” Hoeg emphasized. “That all happened because we truly listened and delivered. The more we’re communicating, the more we learn; and the more we learn, the more we can position Nexteer to be an OEM’s go-to source for every intuitive motion control challenge.”