FAIRLAWN, Ohio—The team at the Kumho America Technical Center (KATC) in fairly small, but that doesn't mean it doesn't play a key role for the global South Korean-based tire producer.
Best Places to Work: KATC team small but impact big for Kumho
Best Places to Work
For the 2023 Best Places to Work, Rubber News is publishing features—in no particular order—on each of the nine companies honored until we reveal this year's No. 1 Best Place to Work on Friday, March 3.
"I believe the combination of the clearly aligned focus and goals, the impact our team has on the success of the company, along with the efficient, positive work environment makes KATC a great place to work," said Rick Cunat, managing director at KATC, named one of Rubber News' Best Places to Work for 2023.
KATC currently has 17 employees, with another starting in March 2023, and the team is looking for a 19th member as well.
"There have been many changes at all levels of the organization at KATC over the past four years," Cunat said. "We have hired eight new team members since 2019, which has led to a significant change in operations and has yielded positive results in a timely manner."
KATC works to ensure its new employees understand their specific roles at KATC, and Kumho at large.
"Onboard training for new hires is specifically tailored to each person, their experience level, their role, and focused on assimilating being an active contributor," Cunat said. "Since we are a smaller organization, this facilitates and accelerates the cross-functional training that is required to be an effective contributor in a timely manner."
Additionally, a major part of KATC's on-boarding process is having the new engineers meet with leadership and their peers at the Kumho Research & Development Center (KRDC) in South Korea.
"It provides them an opportunity to personally meet the chief technology officer (and) the executive leadership team, and engage with the experienced engineers they will collaborate with daily at KRDC," Cunat said.
He added that engineers also visit Kumho's U.S.-based headquarters in Atlanta, as well as the Macon, Ga., tire plant.
"They also get to meet the president, the executive leaders and the sales team members that we develop world class products for and provide technical support," Cunat said. "In a very short period, new hires understand and are focused on our aligned R&D and the business goals and are ready to actively contribute."
When creating a positive work environment, KATC shows it goes beyond the basics by focusing on more than just an annual holiday party each year. Instead, it's the little wins the team celebrates regularly that matter the most.
"We hit a significant milestone in one of our projects with a new vehicle manufacturer that we're trying to do business with, and we go out and have a small celebration or whatever it is," Cunat said. "It's a lot of impromptu stuff, but there's a bunch of little things that add up over time, which builds up the morale and camaraderie."
He added the company does hold some regularly planned activities, such as going to Put-in-Bay. Additionally, with the facility being near a freeway, they have also worked together to clean the trash out of the woods surrounding the property. They also recently cleared out the warehouse and held a pizza party for staff.
"There's lots of little things that we celebrate, and we enjoy doing as a team," Cunat said.
KATC has quite a few team members who have stayed with the company for a long time, such as Principal Engineer Bob Loeser and Lead Technician Gary Bradnick.
Loeser enjoys the ability of being involved in a project from beginning to end, as well as the variety of tasks and assignments needed to follow projects all the way through. Additionally, he likes that KATC is a smaller organization, so it can be efficient and agile, but still have a competitive benefits package with health care and a 401(k). He notes there is a flexibility of schedule and good work/life balance.
"Overall, it's been a great place to work," Loeser said.
Bradnick shared a similar sentiment, noting he both enjoys the work that he does, but also likes that there is a flexibility to balance work and home needs. Additionally, he said, the fellowship and the caliber and attitude of the other employees goes a long way.
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