After getting our feet wet on Day One of presentations and having spent the evening prior immersing ourselves in an exhibit of cultural handcrafts, we were excited to embark across to bridge to Izmit to visit Kordsa Global, the leading producer of synthetic and polyester nylons. The long and scenic bus ride took us along the beautiful coast of the Sea of Marmara, which on a beautiful warm and sunny day showcased the cultural landmarks and historic mosques that are richly filled with longstanding history. The city of Izmit was the site of Turkey’s largest Earthquake in 1999 and much work had been done to restore the landscape to the pristine and coastal city that it is today. The city itself was quite the contrast to the busy streets of Istanbul and the landscape was peppered with industrial buildings and manufacturing plants, which housed some of the most innovative and technologically advanced development centers in Turkey.
Kordsa Global is one of the largest producers of nylon and polyester yarns, and cord fabrics that are found in mechanical rubber markets for both industrial and commercial applications. They are member company of Sabanci holdings. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Tolga Pekel, who is the Global Market Development Director, and his team. The location of their global headquarters was nothing spectacular and was pretty well guarded by the looks of the security around the site.
One would think there was not much involved with the way of nylons and polyester yarn built for tires, but a more in depth presentation revealed that Kordsa was a center to new innovations in their core and R&D technologies. Because their R&D program is accredited by the Turkish government, they are able to receive government subsidies to help fund their research. This has enabled them develop chemical nano technology and finite element modeling to create a new line of synthetic reinforcements helps Kordsa remain a global leader.
Kordsa had also recently gone through an organizational change from a regional model with core group functions to a new global management model with shared services. This new centralized model allows them to achieve operational efficiencies through synergistic collaboration. Even with the downturn in 2009, engaging the new Operating Model has allowed Kordsa to quickly respond to changing market conditions. Their continued success relies heavily on their ability to match supply with market demand. Operating in nine different countries has allowed them to fully utilize their resources and still maintain control of their inventory as demand fluctuates.
Driving their success in organizational change was human resources talent selection an activities that ensure they groom the right leaders for the future. They focus their hiring with people who have the right blend of technical knowledge and background to fit into their culture. Sixteen percent of their employees have masters as well as PhDs to ensure there is no shortage of innovative knowledge. Tolga alone had advanced degrees from Duke, Northwestern, Georgetown and INSEAD.
After the presentation we moved to the cafeteria and got to experience real Turkish cafeteria food which wasn’t too appealing at first site, but turned out to be quite the delicacy. The fare was comprised of lentil bean soup, a sort of spinach goulash and an extremely rich pastry.
The visit was concluded with a final group picture in front of the building and an escort the bus. The timing of our visit coincided with the Sabanci Board’s visit to the plant, so we were unable to tour the manufacturing and R&D facilities as planned. However, we were fortunate enough to still listen to an excellent presentation.
In the end, even though nylon manufacturing didn’t have the romance of the other tech companies we visited, it was probably one of the best presentations we were given on the study tour. Our hosts were gracious, generous and knowledgeable and the subject matter aligned closely with what we learned in Global Strategy with Kevin Steensma.