This article appeared in the May 2020 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Autonomous. It’s the buzzword for manufacturers all across the automotive supply chain. Emerging technologies and never-before-seen innovations are already transforming some of Michigan’s most well-known manufacturers. At the center of it all is one brand fully intent on becoming the go-to source for everything driver-assisted and autonomous — Magna.
“Magna is helping to define and create future mobility. Not just the stuff you’ll be seeing 30 or 50 years from now but the technologies and innovations that will influence every step for how we get there,” said Jeff Gary, general manager for Magna Electronics - Holly Division, the global giant’s new state-of-the-art facility. “We are creating new value and new possibilities for what the vehicle of the future can do. And it’s not just technology; the stuff we’re doing today…we want to reimagine safety, mobility and the overall driving experience.”
A $50 million 2019 consolidation of three East Michigan facilities resulted in a 230,000-square-foot Holly location set to keep Magna as an industry leader in vision-based driver assistance systems. From advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and advanced robotics to light detection and ranging (LIDAR) remote sensors and micro-LED lighting, Magna continues to accelerate its production output.
Part of a sector that was growing even when the rest of manufacturing stalled, the electronics arm of Magna saw employment jump from 100 employees to over 550 today, all while the company continued to invest.
“Even in the slowdown, there was a demand for more electronic content in vehicles and that’s never really stopped,” explained Gary. “Technology is at the core of your car — it’s the central component necessary to get to that autonomous dream everybody wants. We’re excited about where we are going — where the whole industry is going — because we have the chance to be at the center of that conversation.”
Gary points to plenty of challenges along the way, not the least of which is the constant threat of low-cost overseas competition, but he believes fully that Magna has the secret ingredient to take on any obstacle.
“It’s the people who make it all possible — even as a company focused on leading the way on technology, we have to say that,” Gary stated. “We automate for quality and precision, not to replace people. We’re investing in people; we’re investing in the right people for the right roles and we’re making that investment over the long-term. I think that’s a huge cornerstone of what’s put us where we are today.”
Another crucial cornerstone is Magna’s commitment to safety. Every product is made to make you safer. Adaptive cruise control. Lane-keeping assist. Sensors to check blind spots. But it’s more than that; safety is part of Magna’s culture. Gary and his team see the Magna brand — or any manufacturer’s brand — as a signature of quality and a symbol of the standard you should want to meet every day.
“We’re a team that operates as a team because we know we all do better when the company does better,” said Gary. “Autonomous driving, autonomous tech; everything we do is about evolving and doing something better tomorrow than it was done yesterday. It’s so much fun to work here. You’re not going to want to miss what we do next.”