What do BMW, Volkswagen, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have in common? Yes, they’re all well known automotive brands. However, what you might not realise is that they all use wheels made by CMS. The Turkish company is one of the world’s biggest producers of light aluminium alloy wheels, supplying 21 of the industry’s leading brands.
CEO Ünal Kocaman says CMS is well on the way to achieving its goal of becoming Europe’s largest wheel manufacturer. “In 2017, based on annual capacity, we were the third-largest aluminium alloy wheel manufacturer in Europe, but we were number one in terms of profit margin and financial outcomes,” he says.
The company’s roots can be traced back to 1955, when Mr Tonguç Ösen and his partner founded Turkey’s first aluminium casting company. CMS began manufacturing aluminium alloy wheels in the early 1980s and has since grown to become Turkey’s largest aluminium alloy wheel manufacturer.
Ünal joined the company in 2000 as Financial Coordinator and became CEO in 2004. When he started at CMS, the company was producing 1.4 million wheels per annum. As of 2017, CMS produces nine million aluminium alloy wheels per year, and plans to increase production to 12 million by 2022.
“We are a good example of a growing company in emerging markets; we’ve had huge growth prospects from 2000 to today,” Ünal notes.
Although CMS has grown rapidly during the past two decades, the values of its late founder remain instilled in the company today. “A wheel is a safety part that is vitally important. It should also be designed to impress at a first glance,” the late Mr Tonguç Ösen states on the company’s website, highlighting the important work done by the staff at CMS.
Another quote from Mr Tonguç Ösen says: “No problem remains unsolved as long as you love people.” These 10 words seem simple enough, yet they speak volumes about the company and the way it treats its employees.
“CMS has a great culture,” Ünal enthuses, “probably due to the founders and because it’s a family-oriented business. We have close relationships with our employees and they are dedicated to their jobs and the business.”
This people-oriented approach extends to the way in which CMS builds relationships with its business partners and suppliers. “We supply our products to almost all automobile companies in Europe and Turkey, so we have to maintain a consistent quality level,” Ünal says.
“For this reason, since 2000 we have been selecting our suppliers carefully in order to sustain our quality level and competitiveness in the long term. We consider them to be our partners and we have been constantly developing our local suppliers in line with our quality concept and customer expectations.
“We also learn a lot from our customers,” Ünal continues. “They are implementing the latest technologies in every field. Automobile companies have suppliers in different sectors and they have to think about intuition, implementation and collaboration. Watching this, we have learned things from them that we have now implemented with our suppliers.”
Backed by a strong history and company culture, CMS prides itself on keeping its promises to suppliers. “It gives us huge credibility in the eyes of our suppliers and customers. CMS is, in terms of its foundations, a very healthy company financially. If our suppliers and customers face problems, we try to help in terms of financial, technical or other areas of aid.
“Finding ethical suppliers is our main philosophy; if they are not ethical we will not deal with them, because we have to respect our customers and the community that we live in. That’s our approach.”
According to Ünal, the company culture also plays an important role in attracting and retaining talent. “If you have a good team, your company will be successful. Talent is a make-or-break asset in today’s fast-changing business environment. I refer to myself as one of the ‘talent-first CEOs’ and it is on top of my agenda every day.
“Talent is a make-or-break asset in today’s fast-changing business environment. I refer to myself as one of the ‘talent-first CEOs’ and it is on top of my agenda every day.”
“I’m trying to hire new talent in every area of the organisation. That is my experience – I deal mostly with people, rather than technology or other issues. I allocate most of my time to recruiting new people and motivating our existing workers. We care about our employees and we treat them well,” he says.
“That’s one of the important tasks of leaders, to align the culture and strategies of the business. A good culture leads to success.”
A strong advocate of constant improvement, Ünal believes everyone should strive to do their best, as well as develop new skills. “Everyone knows the saying, ‘Good is the enemy of great.’ But unlike most, I remind myself of this every day,” he says.
“You need to have a crystal-clear vision, educate yourself and your teams constantly, trust yourself and your teams and never give up on getting to the best. A great leader needs to be resilient and have an international mindset, agile learning ability and a talent-oriented management style.”
Ünal works hard to keep his team motivated and engaged. “I listen and communicate well and often to all of my employees, regardless of their level or title. I do my best to create the best working environment for them, which is fair, fun and continuously evolving.”
When it comes to maintaining an advantage in a competitive market, Ünal believes it’s important to deliver high-quality products and service while keeping prices down.
“In the automobile sector, you have to be ready to compete with every company in terms of cost and customer satisfaction. We need to be enthusiastic and dynamic as individuals and as a company – there’s cut-throat competition in the automobile market. CMS is the cost champion. We are very efficient and we have comparatively low costs,” he says.
“We have a highly efficient pan-European distribution network, which includes 17 warehouses across the continent. In 2017, we opened a German technical centre to give technical service to our customers and generate fresh ideas.”
Innovation is also high on the agenda at CMS, with the company investing heavily in R&D, particularly with regard to light-weighting its products.
“We are trying to reduce the weight of our wheels – it is important for car manufacturers to meet their expectations on reducing carbon emissions,” Ünal says.
Established in 2009, the company’s R&D centre employs 80 people who are focused on creating superior, competitive ideas aimed at improving energy efficiency and resource usage, as well as new production methods.
The centre works closely with universities and its multi-disciplinary staff consists of graduates from metallurgy and materials science, mechanical, computer and chemical engineering, and fundamental sciences.
“Building a company together with a team who have the skills, perspectives and courage to question ideas – including mine – and fight for their own is such a rewarding process.”
Even after 15 years as CEO, Ünal still enjoys his role as much as he did on day one. “I love my job simply because it is challenging. I’m in charge of setting my company’s strategic direction, setting and realising the goals, and managing the executive team, while also being a role model and inspiration to all my staff members,” he smiles.
“I like to be involved in almost every aspect of the business. We live in a world where the most important area of competition is the pace of learning. Therefore we all need to learn more and more each day.
“Building a company together with a team who have the skills, perspectives and courage to question ideas – including mine – and fight for their own is such a rewarding process. I love seeing our growth and evolution.”
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