Each day on the job, Jerry Mosingo faces a part of his past.
Directly across the street from the chief executive officer's digs at the new Cadence Innovation LLC is the injection molding plant Mosingo helped transform from a shuttered shell to a state-of-the-art facility for Collins & Aikman Corp.
Now, more than two years after he left the president's job at C&A, Mosingo said he can see that plant as a symbol of what his team has accomplished in the past and where it can take Cadence.
``It's very odd to look across the street and see it, but I remember when we launched that facility with one-piece flow. It was vertically integrated. It was an excellent facility,'' Mosingo said during a Feb. 28 interview at his office in Sterling Heights.
``When I look across the street, it's another learning curve. We now have the management team [at Cadence] that put that plant into place. We have that management team doing the next step in our evolution to be vertically integrated manufacturers. It really helps to look across the street and say: `OK. Now what did I learn from that?' ''
Cadence will be relying on Mosingo and his group's ability to transform operations. The company was created in May, when private investors, led by New York-based Harbinger Capital Partners, bought the facilities and business of the former Venture Holdings Co. LLC out of bankruptcy.
The firm was born with about $1 billion in current business still being produced at facilities in Michigan, Indiana, France and the Czech Republic, with a focus on door modules, instrument panels, exterior trim and cargo management. But at the same time, the company had no independent track record.
In September, the backers brought in Mosingo, relying on his experience in manufacturing and his ability to pull together a management team that could both carry out their long-term plans for the company and help convince automakers they were serious about making Cadence a real competitor.
Mosingo has a strong reputation in operations, gained as part of Textron Automotive Co.'s trim unit, overseeing its injection molding business. When Collins & Aikman bought out Textron's trim unit in 2001, he moved over to Troy, Mich.-based C&A. He was named president and CEO there the next year, but he was out in 2003 when David Stockman - the financier who had led the financial backers of C&A - took over.
Stockman left in 2005, shortly before C&A entered Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit.
Mosingo was chief operating officer at auto exterior specialist ASC Inc. when Harbinger and Cadence wooed him away. At Cadence, he is teamed with Kirk Aubry, a former Textron executive who is now chief operating officer.
Many of Mosingo's former management team members followed him to Cadence, including Eric White - who oversaw two separate plants that were named as top manufacturing sites by Industry Week magazine - and Colin Bain, who helped create desired instrument panel skins when he was at Textron.
Mosingo's management team will be a key to getting automakers to trust Cadence, said Jeff Mengel, a partner with consulting group Plante & Moran PLLC. The people moving into offices at Cadence facilities are familiar to key decision makers at the auto plants - both as individuals and a team.
``They have a good reputation in the industry that says, `We can do this,' '' Mengel said. ``They have worked together in the past, which goes toward the idea that they know how to change the culture where it needs to be changed at Cadence. This is better than trying to assemble piecemeal a team that has not worked together before.''
At the shop-floor level, the management team has been busy bringing in new, lean manufacturing processes and reassuring workers who have spent the past few years wondering just how much longer their jobs would last, Mosingo said.
``They're starting to get excited about what's been going on,'' he said. ``They needed stability just like everybody else. They get my highest praise.
``They kept with the company through all the turmoil. You're talking about a company that has gone through some tough times, but the hourly folks were just magnificent.''
But ensuring long-term survival at Cadence will take far more than new upper management and a happy workforce.
Two years of bankruptcy, and the turmoil that preceded it, left the company without regular investments in new technology. Bain, now senior vice president of research, design and engineering, has been scouring the former Venture holdings to find what Cadence has on hand now so it can offer customers something unique, even while it invests in creating new products.
``The toughest part of the company to get moving at the pace you'd like is the technology development, because of what the company was going through - that was the first thing that they shuttered,'' Mosingo said.
``We are behind on new technology development, so our focus has been on what technology is out there, that is either developed or in the development stages, that fits within our core competencies.''
One proprietary manufacturing system - called Sandwiform, which is already in-house and being marketed to customers - offers up a lightweight thermoplastic cargo management system for the floors in minivans and sport utility vehicles.
Cadence has its own in-house modeling capability that has turned out prototypes of interiors and exteriors and production capacity that is turning out 1,300 cockpits per day.
Because of the entrepreneurial setup of the Venture operations under founder Larry Winget, though, few people knew what the company possessed. Each facility acted independently, and even sister operations had no idea what went on elsewhere, Mosingo said.
``It was a global company, but they all acted separately,'' he said. ``There was no global sharing of best practices, no global sharing of commercial ideas or mining of new business. Nothing was shared.''
Now Cadence is trying to unite all those operations under one central operating system, even as it convinces automakers to believe in its ability to deliver. In a sense, the existing turmoil in the auto interior supply industry benefits Cadence, said Russell Chick, vice president of marketing, strategy and communications.
Cadence emerged with no debt, and under Mosingo the firm believes it offers stability - even though it has little history under its own name.
Mengel agreed that industry conditions elsewhere will give Cadence an opportunity it might not have had a few years ago.
``There are very few other companies with this size and scope who have expressed an interest in being in [these manufacturing] programs. Most of the others want out of the interior trim business,'' he said.
``You've got Cadence, you've got Plastech [Engineered Products Inc.] and then you go down to a lot of companies with maybe $100 million or $200 million in business - which isn't bad, but it certainly isn't the scale the industry needs.''
The company got its first shot of confidence in late 2005 when DaimlerChrysler Corp. awarded it a multiyear contract to make hard plastic trim for the Pacifica crossover vehicle. Other contracts for future business are in the works.
``There's so much turmoil now,'' Mosingo said. ``Everybody's asking what's going to happen. Everybody needs to settle down, and they need somebody they can settle on.
``Everybody needs somebody they can believe in. I think that's what we offer.''