2017-10-01 / Insight

ZF Chassis Components among largest local manufacturers

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com


ZF Lapeer location Plant Manager Gary Phillips, along with his regular duties, helps coordinate the company’s charitable contributions. A Lapeer East alumnus, Phillips was inducted into the Lapeer Community Schools Distinguished Alumni Hall of Honor in 2016. 
Photos by Nicholas Pugliese ZF Lapeer location Plant Manager Gary Phillips, along with his regular duties, helps coordinate the company’s charitable contributions. A Lapeer East alumnus, Phillips was inducted into the Lapeer Community Schools Distinguished Alumni Hall of Honor in 2016. Photos by Nicholas Pugliese LAPEER — Tucked away on a lot alongside John Conley Drive in Lapeer looms the 155,000-square-foot facility of ZF Chassis Components, LLC, and though you may never see products emblazoned with a blueand white “ZF” on the shelves of retail stores, the chances are high ZF-made products have been keeping you safe on the road.

ZF almost exclusively manufactures control arms, which are automotive suspension items that connect the frame of a vehicle to its wheel hub, and according to ZF’s Lapeer Plant Manager Gary Phillips, they’re a safety-critical component. Control arms are what ZF does best — and they do it in huge volumes.


ZF employees headed out to I-69 between Wilder and Lake Pleasant Roads on Thursday to do their part to clean and maintain the areas along the interstate. Each employee volunteered to take part in the event. ZF employees headed out to I-69 between Wilder and Lake Pleasant Roads on Thursday to do their part to clean and maintain the areas along the interstate. Each employee volunteered to take part in the event. The Lapeer location of ZF produces more than 46,000 parts per day, to the tune of about 11 million each year. “We’re a 24-hour-a-day operation here,” said Phillips.

Lapeer’s ZF location is part of a network of ZF plants across the globe. Headquartered in Friedrichshafen, Germany, the 102-year-old company has 113 production locations in 26 countries and in addition to the automotive industry, other ZF locations produce components for rail transport, marine engineering and aviation. Lapeer’s location kicked off production in November of 1999 and has steadily grown since, providing control arms to nearly every automobile manufacturer including GM, Ford and Chrysler. According to Phillips, ZF’s Lapeer location is also undertaking some prototype work for companies looking to get into the electric vehicle industry.

While ZF as a corporation is globally-minded, the Lapeer location is focused locally. A significant employer in Lapeer County, the company has been engrained in Lapeer for almost 18 years. “We’ve got 350 people here, and I think we’re very fortunate for the quality of the people we have,” said Phillips. “Our people have work ethic and dedication, and we’ve called on them many times and they always step up.”

Phillips credits his workforce with the location’s expansion and growth over its 18-year history. When the location was established in 1999, its facility was 45,000 square foot. Now, it’s over three times that size. “We have 230 employees that have been here for more than five years,” said Phillips. “Here, it’s all about the people.”

Phillips said he’s grateful for Lapeer to provide ZF with the workforce he has, and the company looks for ways to show that appreciation by way of charity and volunteer work. “We’re partnered with the LEADER Fund, and we do a lot of donations to robotics programs and STEM-driven programs,” said Phillips. The company also funds scholarships for students at Lapeer High School, and since the program started has given $120,000 to Lapeer students.

The company also features a program called “ZF Gives,” an employee volunteer program. “ZF Gives encourages all employees to donate some of their time to volunteer work at nonprofits,” said Phillips. “We’ve had employees volunteer at Habitat for Humanity, Stone Soup Food Pantry and the (MDOT) Adopt-a-Highway Program.”

Employees of ZF could be seen alongside I-69 on Thursday, between Wilder and Lake Pleasant roads, cleaning up the areas along the interstate. “We get around 200 employees a year that volunteer through ZF Gives,” said HR specialist Kevin Ducharme. “I think it’s a great program, any time you give an employee an opportunity to volunteer and help out it just increases morale and makes ZF a great place to work.” ZF operates three highway clean-ups each year — in May, July and late September. “In the past few years we’ve really upped our involvement,” said Ducharme. “ZF is like a family.”

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