EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: Dana is Focused on e-Propulsion and Reducing Their Environmental Impact

July 15, 2020

An ACT Virtual Executive Interview with Ryan Laskey to learn how Dana is providing drivetrain and e-propulsion solutions for the vehicles of today and tomorrow.

Over the course of Dana’s history, the company has navigated through more than 115 years of vehicle evolution, persisted through industry turbulence, and has played a global role in transformative technological revolutions. Today, Dana has 36,000 employees and locations in 34 countries across six continents.

Dana supplies fully integrated drivetrain and e-propulsion systems for all automotive applications. Working collaboratively with OEMs and the aftermarket, Dana focuses on delivering best-in-class efficiency, maximum durability, and superior ride and handling across the globe.

Ryan will be joining a panel of industry experts sharing how their companies continue to push ahead with game-changing technologies in an online event “Executive Panel: Exploring the Cutting Edge of Advanced Transportation Technology,” taking place at ACT Virtual on the Main Stage on August 18.

ACT News caught up with Ryan to learn about his integral role and experience in advancing Dana’s electrification strategy, which the company sees as being at the heart of the next era of mobility.

ACT News: You will be participating in an upcoming ACT Virtual executive panel on August 18 as part of “The Main Stage” online event series. Can you tell us some of the insight you plan on sharing with attendees related to how Dana is exploring the cutting edge of advanced transportation technology?

Ryan Laskey: The focus will be on Dana’s commitment to sustainability and how, in turn, we are helping our customers achieve their sustainability goals as a result.

Dana’s difference lies in the whole story — the combination of our past successes, present capabilities and application know-how, and clearly-defined strategy for the future. It’s these elements, together, that positions us as a global leader in vehicle electrification, able to partner with and support OEMs at any stage in their electrification progression, with individual modules or complete, fully integrated systems.

“Dana is committed to sustainability, and in turn, we are helping our customers achieve their sustainability goals as a result.”

We’ve appropriated our 115-year heritage in drivetrain development, manufacturing, quality, service, and established supply chain to the development of e-propulsion systems and we’re making substantial progress in providing turnkey options for one-stop emission-free solutions to accommodate virtually any application and powertrain configuration.

Our OEM customers that have longstanding experience with our high-volume, efficient, reliable drivetrain products have largely embraced the progression to various electrified solutions. With our commercial vehicle experience, the significant number of BEVs in productive service today, and our strategic acquisitions, we are prepared to help our customers be successful as we move into electrified propulsion transportation.

ACT News: Dana is actively taking steps towards minimizing the environmental impact of your operations, supply chain, and the products you create. Take us through what some of these steps include to achieve sustainability goals at Dana.

To Dana, sustainability means more than just being environmentally responsible. It means providing products that go beyond offering a better bottom line to delivering innovative solutions that offer the best combination of performance, efficiency, and lowest cost of ownership, all to build a better future.

“We’re making substantial progress in providing turnkey options for one-stop emission-free solutions to accommodate virtually any application and powertrain configuration.”

Our key sustainability principles include:

  1. Understand sustainability and recognize what it means to the company. To understand where sustainability efforts should be focused, it is necessary to identify those issues that have the biggest impact and are most relevant to the business and to company stakeholders. Dana has conducted a materiality assessment to help define those ten (10) key issues across the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) spectrum that are most important to our internal and external stakeholders.
  2. Engage with stakeholders. Dana maintains continuous engagement and regular dialogue with our defined stakeholder groups. Through both formal and informal processes, this provides us the opportunity to proactively manage the emerging needs and risks. In addition to ongoing internal stakeholder engagement, we regularly engage with our external stakeholders on trending and emerging issues that matter to them, through inquiries and requests for information related to our practices as well as through periodic surveys answered at the request of various customers and investors.
  3. Set goals and commitments. Whether driven by cost reductions, innovation or improved financial performance, sustainability commitments and goals need to be established. As a demonstration of Dana’s commitment to GHG emissions reduction, on December 2, 2019, Dana Chairman and CEO, Jim Kamsickas, along with the CEOs of 75 other companies and the AFL-CIO endorsed an open letter to show the collective support for the Paris Agreement.
  4. Establish systems and processes. Specific systems, detailed processes, and sustainability champion(s) need to guide the implementation of each initiative. For example, a new solar array will power Dana’s Toledo Driveline operation providing renewable energy to the operation while also investing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in the local neighborhood through the Greater Toledo Community Foundation. The Greater Toledo Community Foundation has created a nonprofit entity that will the solar field in conjunction with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. As the nonprofit generates a revenue stream through the sale of electricity to Dana, proceeds will be reinvested in the surrounding areas through grants to local nonprofits.
  5. Track progress, communicate actions, and meet expectations. Dana’s Sustainability and Social Responsibility (S&SR) Cross-Functional Team, dedicated S&SR website, and Annual S&SR Reports provide the platform for developing and implementing our sustainability strategy and targets. Additional information can be found here.

“Dana has conducted a materiality assessment to help define those ten key issues across the environmental, social, and governance spectrum that are most important to our internal and external stakeholders.”

ACT News: Dana is a leader in the shift towards vehicle electrification. What is the company doing to assist not only customers in making this transition, but also employees, with their own vehicles?

As fleets and vehicle operators begin to adopt electrified technologies, Dana is dedicated to utilizing its expertise to educate the industry, as well as support the maintenance professionals who will be servicing electric vehicles in the field. To that end, we have developed numerous educational opportunities for our customers, including:

  • Custom, on-site training programs as needed per customer initiative
  • Training videos covering key safety and maintenance tips for electrified vehicles (the videos can be found in our commercial vehicle training module)
  • New dedicated training centers that will be opening post-COVID19

Additionally, Dana offers its total cost of ownership calculator which is an analytical tool that provides an extensive review of the total cost of ownership for diesel and electric powertrains, aiding fleets as they explore electrification’s role in their operations. Designed with the flexibility to tailor the calculations to a user’s unique situation, Dana’s calculator can address the needs of its diverse customer base, including regional considerations for units of measurement and currency. The calculator can be found at dana.com/tco.

As Dana continues to take steps to support its customers’ shift toward vehicle electrification, the company is also addressing the needs of our employees as they begin to transition in this direction with their own vehicles. Dana facilities around the world are installing charging stations for employee use. Additionally, several of our campuses utilize electric vehicles as their main transportation around their campus.

“As fleets and vehicle operators begin to adopt electrified technologies, Dana is dedicated to utilizing its expertise to educate the industry, as well as support the maintenance professionals.”

Dana has also intensified its educational opportunities for employees to learn about electrification, including courses such as High Voltage Safety, Electrified Propulsion Systems, Power Electronic Fundamentals, and Intermediate Electrification Knowledge. These courses are taught in conjunction with the Michigan Technological University (MTU) Mobile Lab and the Dana TM4 Engineering teams. Additionally, we’ve endorsed a graduate certification degree program in Mechatronics through the University of Toledo, and encourage our employees to advance their skills through this comprehensive engineering-based program. Through these various educational opportunities, we are committed to help prepare Dana’s workforce for the shift to electric vehicles across our business units.

ACT News: Dana is a global leader in drivetrain and e-propulsion systems. What are some of the recent technology milestones that Dana is most proud of?

Electric vehicles are in various phases of adoption around the globe. In China, electric transit buses already make up roughly 20 percent of its current total bus population, and it is a market that Dana is currently active in with our TM4 powertrains, as well as our eS5700r e-Axle, which went into production in 2018.

In the U.S., several OEMs and fleets are running test vehicles in short-run urban applications, such as drayage and delivery vehicles, and Dana is active here as well. In addition, there are several hundred electric school buses running in California, some of which include the Dana TM4 powertrain through a partnership with Lion Electric.

In the medium-duty range, earlier this year we announced collaborations with both Kenworth and Peterbilt for their K270E and P220E battery electric vehicles, respectively. Dana will provide the design, integration, and upfit of the complete e-Powertrain for both vehicle platforms.  Our end-to-end turnkey electric systems will result in high-efficiency solutions that greatly reduce the total cost of ownership for vehicle operators.

“In the U.S., several OEMs and fleets are running test vehicles in short-run urban applications, such as drayage and delivery vehicles, and Dana is active here as well.”

Also announced earlier this year, was the production launch of our eS9000r e-Axle for Class 4 and 5 commercial fleet applications. The eS9000r will easily incorporate into most existing chassis, reducing driveline complexity while allowing batteries to be located between the frame rails to simplify truck body positioning.

With our extensive global activity, we’re proud to report one of our greatest electrification milestones of over one billion customer driven kilometers in over 16,000 vehicles around the world. More importantly, these Dana e-Powered vehicles are reporting a savings of over 225,000 metric tons of CO2 significantly improving global decarbonization efforts.

ACT News: With all the advances in clean technologies for vehicles, do you see certain technologies that work better for one application over another, such as light-duty automotive versus commercial on-road vehicles?

With an extensive level of electrification activity in Class 4, 5 and 6 vehicles, we anticipate this truck class to be the first for widespread deployment. This includes applications such as refuse trucks, buses and last-mile delivery vehicles that have a known duty cycle (typically a range of less than 200 miles per day), and can be plugged in for overnight charging when they return from their daily route. This seems to be the sweet spot and Dana is ready to support our customers with a full portfolio of electrodynamic solutions.

“With our extensive global activity, we’re proud to report one of our greatest electrification milestones of over one billion customer driven kilometers in over 16,000 vehicles around the world.”

ACT News: From the aspect of personal development and teamwork, what are your thoughts and practices related to mentoring?

I strongly believe in a variety of mentoring programs both on a corporate level as well as those we support in our communities and industries. Mentoring programs provide an opportunity for rich learning and development, both on the part of the mentor as well as the mentee.

Dana offers an employee mentoring program in which many of our employees participate. I personally have multiple mentees with whom I meet regularly to provide guidance, as well as insights on our company, industry, and products. We frequently work on short and long term goals, as well as their career path. As a mentor, I truly believe my role is to provide the right combination of constructive feedback and enthusiastic support to help them more quickly grow into their role. If I’m doing it right, it’s a win-win situation!

I have been lucky enough to have had fantastic mentors throughout my career that really shaped the leader I am today. My mentors always made a commitment to me, and I expect to pay that forward to my mentees.

ACT News: What is a great piece of career advice you have personally received? Did you have occasion to put it to use?

One piece of advice I received early in my career was to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This is never an easy thing to do as families and work often pull us in multiple directions. I often remind myself of this philosophy to help keep me grounded, especially with my extensive travel. Being mindful of the work-life balance, I look for ways to keep my travel as efficient as possible so I can also spend quality time at home. When my children were younger it was a balancing act with my wife taking care of their day-to-day needs. Now that they’re older, it’s just as important to spend time at the dinner table learning about their day. The most important job many of us will ever have is being a parent; childhood years go by so quickly and you can never get those moments back. Finding the harmony between my professional responsibilities and my personal life was very sound advice that I’m grateful I took to heart.

“Finding the harmony between my professional responsibilities and my personal life was very sound advice that I’m grateful I took to heart.”

ACT News: What other leadership roles do you hold in the community and/or what volunteer efforts do you support?

One of the leadership roles that I find very gratifying is my director’s position on the Dana Charitable Foundation board. The Foundation was established in 1956 and is dedicated to addressing current and evolving needs in our communities with emphasis on educating our children and our people; revitalizing neighborhoods; enlightening lives through art and culture; and improving physical and mental well-being. As part of my role, I have the honor of working with our other board members to award grants and scholarships to the most-deserving individuals, programs, and organizations. It has been a very enlightening experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Much like I am a mentor in my professional life, I’m also a mentor in my personal life in the form of a baseball coach. I say this because coaching is much like mentoring in that you give guidance and insight on the fundamentals of the game, but you also provide leadership, teach good sportsmanship, demonstrate how to communicate effectively, and impart solid problem-solving skills. The ideas and approach are much the same as those I share with my mentees. Often, what I learn on the field as a baseball coach, I employ in my work life as well. I’ve been a baseball coach for 10 years and I continue to coach because I find it one the most rewarding experiences that I will carry with me throughout my life.