2021 John G . Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year — Large Tier
Magna International of America , Inc .
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 .” 6