On a clear day you can see glass. What you can't see are the endless stacks of paper that typify big business at work.
The first thing that strikes visitors to the Valeo Thermal Systems Technical Center in Auburn Hills, Mich., is the vastness of the 145,000 square-foot glass structure.
Standing on the second level, you can see one end of the building from the other. And it's amazingly quiet for a company that is one of the technical nerve centers for Valeo Inc.; its North American operations had sales of about $2.6 billion last year. Valeo produces electric motors, lighting, wiper systems, climate control assemblies and other components.
In the headquarters, you won't find the usual collection of cubicles, file cabinets and storage rooms. The floor plan is open; there is plenty of natural light.
One of the most noticeable features is the scarcity of paper. The promise of the computer age ushering in an era of productivity without all the paper seems to be a reality here.
"It's more than just another pretty building and more than a glass house," says Dave Slaman, general manager of the Valeo engine cooling group (valeo.com). "It's how we use it that counts and generates results."
Whether you're in a director's office, the noise-vibration-isolation chamber or the chemistry lab at the Valeo Technical Center, everything has a place, and everything is in its place.
One Valeo rule is that papers and boxes promote inefficiency. Managers model the desired behavior by working in almost pristine offices because it shows employees "if Dave can do it, so can I," Slaman says.
Working inside a glass house isn't for everyone, managers concede. "If you're a closed-door person, you don't want to work here," says Slaman, who interviews applicants in his glass-walled office so they can get a feel for the company culture. He says Valeo takes great care in screening employees; his engine cooling group reported a 2 percent turnover rate last year.