Orange County REGISTER
Sunday, January 13, 2013
By Bill Quinnan
For O.C. Register Special Sections
The desire to build a company offering quality products and quality career opportunities has directed some of the decisions by Magnaflow Exhaust Products founder and CEO Jerry Paolone. A prime example occurred about10 years ago, as Paolone found his company facing an increasingly competitive global market.
While Paolone observed that some businesses were responding by moving sending their manufacturing overseas, this option didn’t sit right with him, as he explained in an interview with Undercar Digest in 2007. Such a move would compromise his firm’s ability to ensure the quality of its products, as well as its ability to generate meaningful career opportunities.
Paolone, who had come to the United States from Italy after World War II, founded Rancho Santa Margarita-based Magnaflow in 1981, building a brand recognized across the automotive aftermarket industry. Magnaflow began as an extension of its parent company, Car Sound Exhaust Systems, which specializes in catalytic-converter technology.
The choice to remain in California did require some adjustments.
“In order to keep manufacturing in California, we implemented several lean programs in which we were able to identify ways to increase productivity and/or reduce costs in current processes,” explained Magnaflow human-resources director Patti Welch. “We have also completed a lot of cross-training to benefit both the company efficiencies, but also the employee’s value.”
Magnaflow’s facilities include its 50,000-square-foot headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita, a 280,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center in Oceanside, which utilizes state-of-the-art robotics and automation technology, a secondary 125,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Rancho Santa Margarita for supplementary manufacturing of mufflers, systems, tips and converters, a 30,000-square-foot research and development tech center, and its European headquarters in Rome.
As an employer, Magnaflow has earned a spot on The Orange County Register’s Top Workplaces list consistently since 2008.
Asked what qualities make Magnaflow a Top Workplace, Welch explained, “In addition to a quality product, we strive to hire quality people – people who care about the workplace and are looking for more than just a job, but want a career. We take pride in our employees and ensure that everything we do is a benefit for their future at Magnaflow.”
The company provides its companies with 100 percent paid medical, dental, and vision benefits, as well as a 5 percent 401k match, Welch said.
“We don’t want (employees) to worry about their health; we want them to focus on their family life first,” Welch said. Despite the challenges of the recent economic recession, the company did not reduce its benefits.
The firm also holds quarterly employee-appreciation luncheons, annual family picnics, holiday parties and team-building charity events.
“Our executive management, as well as all managers, has an open door policy, and although we maintain a professional work environment, we are a close-knit team, and we always have our employees’ backs,” Welch said.
As with many Top Workplaces, Magnaflow takes steps to ensure that prospective employees will be a good match for the company.
“For all positions, there are multiple interviews in which the candidate and the company have an opportunity to meet and get to know each other,” Welch said. “We take our time to find the right candidate and look for the right fit for our company – innovative, hardworking candidates looking to be a part of a team, that can become part of the Team Magnaflow culture.” Magnaflow was approved by the state of California to utilize more than $300,000 in a 2-year period to train its staff, which it has used to implement lean, quality, 5S, sales and negotiation training programs, and it plans to expand its training program in 2013.
Magnaflow’s products range from direct-fit converters and cat-back systems to universal mufflers and builder’s kits for fabricating custom system. The company has sponsors top drivers and car builders such as racing legend Mario Andretti, car designer Chip Foose of the the television show “Overhaulin’,” and monster-truck driver Dennis Anderson, whose Grave Digger trucks are featured in the Monster Jam series and incorporate Magnaflow’s exhaust products.
Among the company’s more recent innovations is its Revolver project, revealed in October at the SEMA 2012 Convention in Las Vegas. The brainchild of Magnaflow senior manager Richard Waitas and developed by Waitas and Foose, the Revolver is a 1949 Chevrolet truck with a custom fabricated bed featuring eight mufflers that can be rotated through the vehicle’s exhaust system. This enables observers to hear and compare the sound of each muffler within the same vehicle.
The convention afforded an opportunity for Magnaflow to show off other recent innovations, such as its Aluminized and Black Series diesel-system product lines, as well as its custom-builder pipe kits. The company also conducted a product-training session exploring new exhaust technologies, including clean diesel, that have been introduced to meet emission regulations, and explaining how those changes will affect the automotive-repair industry.