How do successful companies sustain their organizations through decades of changing business demands?
If you ask Dr. Ted Duclos, vice president and general manager of the Global Fluid Power Division for Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies (Freudenberg-NOK), this complex question has a clear answer.
Duclos, who spoke at today’s Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich., noted that corporate sustainability requires businesses to equally address economic, environmental and social issues – a complex task. However, businesses can manage this complexity by establishing clear principles that drive innovation, continuous improvement, financial accountability, customer and employee consensus, and community support. In short, sustainable knowledge that will drive success.
“Anyone in business understands that in order for a business to survive and prosper, it must have the capacity to endure, persevere through business cycles and pursue long-range objectives,” Duclos said. “The ability to endure in business, of course, requires sound finances, relevant products and an effective means of production.
“Sustainability is about more than checking a box. It must be founded on the ability to develop new techniques, innovations and knowledge. It is a distillation of the capabilities needed to survive in an evolving business arena. At Freudenberg-NOK, our sustainability is founded upon our Guiding Principles. They drive us to challenge the status quo and create new solutions,” Duclos added.
The global Freudenberg and NOK group companies are the largest producers of seals and gaskets spanning multiple industries, including automotive, aerospace, power, medical, and food and beverage.
The organization’s Guiding Principles, drafted by the company’s founder, Carl Freudenberg, in 1887, are still in use today. The six guidelines – value for customer, responsibility, innovation, leadership, people and a long-term orientation – provide a framework for how the company does business and embody the very definition of sustainability.
“The Guiding Principles drive innovation, waste reduction, fiscal conservatism, collaboration and long-term thinking – all crucial to corporate sustainability,” Duclos said. “While new business developments, increased global product demands, environmental concerns and economic fluctuations have challenged the company, the Guiding Principles have ensured its survival.”
Admittedly, achieving sustainability through Freudenberg-NOK’s Guiding Principles sounds good in theory, but from a practical standpoint, Freudenberg-NOK has numerous examples of how it uses the guidelines to drive knowledge creation and longevity.
- The company’s Energy Saving Seals (ESS), which reduce friction and heat to such an extent that if every seal on a vehicle that could be replaced with an ESS it would save the equivalent of three days of oil imports in the United States;
- The “Net Shape Single Cavity Mold Process,” a counter-intuitive approach to manufacturing, is improving quality, eliminating waste, improving time to market and lowering inventory requirements; and
- The TANNER (Travel and Navigate New Exciting Roads) program, which has sent more than 800 students abroad to experience different countries and cultures.