The work stations are honeycomb shaped, the ceilings lofty, the hallways wide, the lighting soft and inviting, the overhead storage bins purged forever and the cafeteria deserving of at least three stars.
On a stroll outdoors, the architecture is a curious blend of colonial Boston, old-world Germany and state-of-the-art college campus.
Welcome toVillage, the new headquarters for North America's No.2 auto supplier, Visteon Corp. Employees began moving into the Van Buren Township, MI, complex in August, and all 3,200 people were settled in by the end of December.
Eager to find a zip code outside Dearborn,began four years ago the monumental task of consolidating 13 locations in southeast Michigan into one cohesive setting the supplier could call home.
Being in Dearborn was convenient because it is home toMotor Co., Visteon's former parent and still its largest customer. But Visteon lacked identity in Dearborn. Moreover, its facilities were scattered across the Detroit suburb, forcing employees to drive to meetings on a daily basis.
Plus, Visteon employees did not readily think of the Dearborn facilities as “home.” The properties were owned by various landlords, and many carried over from whenheld the parts operations, even though separation from the No.2 auto maker occurred in June 2000. By comparison, crosstown rival Corp. had the benefit of an impressive new headquarters tower in Troy, MI, when it separated from Corp. in May 1999.
In Van Buren Township, 25 miles (40 km) west of Detroit, Visteon finally stakes out a home of its own, while remaining close enough (about a 20-minute drive) to its most important customer.
“It's nice to have something we can call our own,” a spokeswoman tells Ward's during a recent tour of the complex. “It's invaluable having people together. The employees are proud the company would make such a commitment.”
The commitment is significant, considering Visteon's financial picture. The company has failed to post an annual profit since it separated from Ford, and it lost $1.3 billion through the first nine months of 2004.
Aggressive restructuring is under way, and Visteon is looking to unload unprofitable operations. Some manufacturing facilities may return to Ford, and talks are continuing between Ford and Visteon. The supplier has offered buyouts to some 8,300 white-collar workers to reduce headcount.
So the move to Van Buren Township came as Visteon employees desperately needed a morale boost. The all-new “village” provides that, with its quaint cobblestone streets and charming office buildings, none of which stand taller than four stories.
The village, near I-275 and Ecorse Road, houses Visteon's customer business groups, product line teams, global program management, aftermarket, testing, a design center and several laboratories.
The village is meant to be almost wholly self-sufficient for employees, with its own Starbucks, hair salon, convenience store, bank, dry cleaners and fitness center — all of which are expected by early this year. The cafe opened in October and has done a bustling business ever since.
In summer, the village should be teeming with people strolling from building to building or taking a break alongside the 37-acre (15-ha) Grace Lake. For now, during the brisk Michigan winter, employees can access all nine buildings at the village through a network of underground tunnels.
The new environment fosters collaboration in a way that was impossible in Dearborn, where one person's office could be miles from other team members.
The whole of Visteon's white-collar workforce has operated this way for several years, the disparate facilities serving as a barrier that blocked the simple exchange of ideas. The new buildings are configured with honeycomb-shaped work stations. Employees need only crane their necks to ask a question of a colleague. Overhead storage bins were eliminated to open up sight lines and contribute to the open feeling.
Of course, the working environment requires a new mindset. Traditional, closed-wall private offices are gone; throughout the entire village there are only 20. Private meeting rooms, however, are abundant throughout the village.
For employees, the adjustment is said to be going well. Workers moving to the village also were provided new computers and new phones.
Visteon hired an architect, but managers say the finished project looks remarkably like the rough sketches proposed by Visteon at the beginning. Visteon staffers selected the stone, brick, wood and lighting for every building. The supplier produced its own glass for all nine buildings at its facilities in Tulsa, OK, and Nashville, TN.
Visteon Village is not an island unto itself but is considered part of a broader “neighborhood” of Visteon facilities in southeast Michigan, including the Dearborn campus (engineering groups), Helm Street climate control (Plymouth) and Rawsonville (material management and powertrain engineering, near Ypsilanti).
The spokeswoman also dismisses recent news reports that Visteon will occupy a new tower to be built in downtown Detroit.
Visteon has outsourced its information technology services to a handful of companies and must provide offices for some 500 contract workers. The lease is expiring for the current offices in Dearborn, and no deal has been reached for a future location for the workers, the spokeswoman says.
Visteon says it is paying about the same amount for the new facilities at the village as for the multiple leases in Dearborn.