Culture, Manufacturing 4.0 April 8, 2021

Relentless Innovation in Times of Social Distancing

The pandemic was an unexpected curve to us all, leading to sudden changes in our work and personal environments – in many cases blending the two.  From social distancing to travel restrictions, the rise of virtual meetings while balancing children and pets in the background… Nexteer, like so many others, quickly adapted and navigated through, learning new ways to operate and move the business forward despite this adversity. These changes have created challenges for all industries in the past year, and specifically in the automotive industry – it has prompted a paradigm shift in how we structure our workplaces, global teams and how we get things done on a day-to-day basis.

With enhanced safety measures in place, Nexteer remains committed to our culture of relentless innovation. From production lines to customer service and technical centers, we are working to make sure both our One Nexteer culture and commitment to world-class intuitive motion control solutions remain strong.

Safety in the Workplace

The health and safety of our employees remains our top priority, and we continue to operate our facilities in accordance with our comprehensive Safe Work Playbook.

Our Safe Work Playbook was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to enhance already strong employee health and safety protocols and procedures across all our global locations. For the Safe Work Playbook, we employed lessons learned and guidelines from the CDC and WHO on how to protect our employees across our manufacturing, technical and administrative locations.

As we move forward, we continue to refine our protocols and procedures based on employee feedback and considerations, government requirements and regulations and industry best practices to ensure the health and well-being of all our employees around the world.

Staying Connected Virtually

Over the past year, we’ve also adopted a heavy reliance on IT and related tools to provide the productivity, collaboration and innovative solutions that our customers expect of us, and the statistics speak for themselves. In an average day throughout the past year, our team has collaborated with each other, partners and customers around the world through more than:

  • 10,000 virtual meetings
  • 200,000 emails
  • 16,000 chats

These tools have helped us continue to deliver advanced steering and driveline solutions for our customers’ complex engineering challenges.

Innovating Through Virtual Engineering

In some ways, the pandemic has recharged our drive toward new solutions and has led to new methods of engineering and production that will carry on into the future.

As one example, we developed new virtual engineering applications to manage processes where a physical presence was previously thought necessary. Our Nexteer team recently initiated “Remote Machine Approval” for Machine Qualification (MQ) testing, which allows for remote debugging, MQ builds, evaluations, design reviews and problem solving. This new process minimizes physical presence by leveraging visual and audio support hardware, as well as integration with Nexteer standard software programs.

After a successful test launch, the approach is now standardized across all Nexteer product lines and global locations – enhancing safety for Nexteer employees while continuing to deliver world-class intuitive motion control solutions and quality for our customers.

As we continue to innovate in our operations, we are working to enhance remote runoff by adding the ability to troubleshoot equipment remotely through emerging technology like Augmented Reality.

Reinventing the Future of Work

This past year has not only taught us that we can adapt to a new way of working, it has allowed us the opportunity to redefine the future of work… taking advantage of what we learned and keeping the best of what we’ve become – harnessing the agility and resilience our team has demonstrated. Coming into 2020, our focus had shifted from why employees need to work to why employees want to work. We were asking better questions… to get better answers… to make better decisions. The events of this past year have accelerated those efforts and even further heightened the importance of employee experience.

We know there is no one-size-fits-all solution, which is why we are taking a thoughtful approach to craft a viable and sustainable “SmartWork” program that fits the company’s needs for the long term. Through pulse check surveys, focus groups, task force teams and conversations around the world, we are using an in-depth analysis of work duties, processes and operational outcomes to develop a clearly defined program with flexibility to adapt to regional and individual needs. We are also developing comprehensive training for our leaders, preparing them for success in this new hybrid work environment. Our safety protocols and One Nexteer culture will remain rooted in all that we do – for it is our people who will collectively drive our success.

Our Nexteer team works hard to make tomorrow better than today in everything we do because we know that that millions of drivers around the world rely on our safety-critical technologies every day. Whether working in person or remotely, we remain committed to moving people by delivering solutions that make driving safer, more fuel-efficient and fun for today’s world and the changing world of mobility… and even within the changing world of IT-driven remote working and global collaboration.

Cathy Xu
Cathy Xu is Nexteer’s vice president of global human resources. She is responsible for all global human resource activities and is a member of Nexteer’s Global Strategy Council.