Magna International of America, Inc. - 2021 John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year - Large Tier

This article appeared in the November 2021 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

When it came to adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees of the largest auto supplier in North America, Magna International say the company was well-positioned for a seamless transition — despite the fact there are 158,000 employees at more than 400 locations in 28 countries.

So, how were they able to accomplish this amazing feat given the massive scale and complexity of the company? Gerry Mazzola, General Manager for Magna’s DexSys division in Lansing, says their dedicated, team-based culture can overcome any obstacle — and the pandemic proved that.

“You have to start with an employee-based culture, then you can be resilient against any challenges or crises that occur,” says Mazzola. “You won’t have to change your values or principles because you’ll be ready for any challenges.”

The first step against COVID-19 was to develop safety protocols that could be implemented across the company’s large network of subsidiaries and employees. The result of that effort was the Magna Smart Start Playbook, which was not only distributed internally but made public and accessible to any company seeking more information on how to keep employees safe and the doors open.

Magna locations quickly adopted and implemented safety protocols and their approach to employee safety has remained unchanged since day one.

“It was always about our employees and what was the right thing to do for them,” Mazzola says. “We have an amazing team, an amazing group of people. People who really care, and across Magna you see that. Employees know that they’re respected, and they’re treated well.”

It’s that powerful sense of culture that has driven Magna since its founding in 1957. Today, the massive Tier 1 auto supplier makes everything from seats to powertrains and they are the only auto supplier to build complete vehicles. Magna has 35 facilities in Michigan with over 9,300 employees, including more than 500 at Lansing-based DexSys.

For Miranda Robinette, Scheduling Manager at Magna DexSys, it is precisely this culture that drives her to work hard, with the goal of some day moving into an upper management role.

“I’ve been driven by my three children to continuously do better,” says Robinette. “I started as a temp employee and have had the opportunity to move up over the years. Eventually I’d like to move up into a management position.”

Having never worked in a manufacturing setting before, she was a little unsure but, five years later, she’s never looked back.

“I was blown away by how open the company was to change, and how welcoming they were to me,” says Robinette. “A lot of people drive by this facility, not knowing the complexity that comes with the work we do. I think [these people] would be surprised by the amazing culture we have here.”

DexSys, short for Delta Exterior Systems, opened its doors in 2014 for molding, painting, assembly and distribution of front and rear bumpers for the two large General Motors plants in the area: The Delta Township Assembly Plant and Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant.

When Mazzola is asked what he does for a living, he humbly answers that he makes car bumpers. But he and other industry leaders know it’s so much more than that. It’s the pride of making things and being the never-failing backbone to the global economy.

“What I love about this work is that, at the end of the day, you know what you’ve done. You drive down the road and you can see your work. You can point to a piece on a car and say, ‘I made that,’” says Mazzola.

When asked where they see Magna in five to 10 years, both Robinette and Mazzola have no doubts that the company will continue to grow.

“We have good leadership looking at where the mobility industry is going,” says Mazzola. “Between electrification, autonomous driving and alternative fuel systems, the industry is changing rapidly, and Magna is adapting right along with it.”