I joined MANN+HUMMEL in Marklkofen in 1993 as one of three production department managers in filter production. Two years later, the plant manager at the time restructured the whole production process into centres. These centres were ‘mini-plants’ within the plant. We were given a great deal of freedom but with it an even greater level of responsibility. I took on the role of heading up the newly created centre for ‘parts’ and Heinrich Güntner, who until then had been my boss, took over the centre for ‘spin-on filters’. This meant that we became colleagues and we worked together extremely well and successfully in subsequent years.
The new centres created independent areas where direct and indirect functions were grouped together. Prior to that they had been independent departments, some of which were managed centrally. At that time, the centre for ‘parts’ managed by me included parts production, the parts warehouse, tool production and design, as well as the relevant service functions. We then became the supplier for our internal customers, for example the centres for ‘spin-on filters’, ‘air filters’ and ‘oil filters/piclons’. Our brief was to run the centres in a customer-oriented manner and, above all, economically.
Centre structure proves successful
The first few years following the restructuring made for a very exciting and educational time for all of us employees at the plant, as we had no way of knowing whether the new organisational structure with the centres would actually work. Some people had their doubts, but the structure has proven successful and is still in place today. Heinrich Güntner and I changed areas of responsibility in 1999. Nowadays, this might be called ‘job rotation’. He took over management of the centre for ‘parts’ and with it pre-production, while I switched to managing production of spin-on filters. This meant that our roles changed once again. He became my internal supplier and I became his internal customer. When Heinrich Güntner entered the passive phase of the partial retirement scheme in 2002, I took over management of the centre for ‘parts’ from him. This was then integrated into the expanded centre for ‘spin-on filters and parts’.
Various organisational changes have been made over the years. The most recent of these took place in 2015, when electrical and mechanical maintenance was added to the centre for ‘spin-on filters’ as another service department. Production of spin-on filters has experienced steady growth in the past few years, with production almost doubling between 1996 and 2015.
Our portfolio in the spin-on filter area has not changed substantially in principle, but it has been extended to include new products such as high-pressure filters, which can withstand pressures of up to 120 bar. Changes to customer requirements such as ‘copy protection’ solutions have also resulted in changes to the design and manufacturing processes. The total number of employees at the Marklkofen plant has almost doubled since I started working there in 1993. Today Marklkofen is a ‘lead plant’ within the MANN+HUMMEL global production network. This means that it is the leading production plant for various production and innovation topics that are dealt with here. For example, in tool production we manufacture embossing rollers exclusively for all MANN+HUMMEL locations. As a ‘centre of competence for spin-on filters’, we support the global locations in the production area with training sessions or assist them with technical matters.
The changing nature of work
If I think about how the work at MANN+HUMMEL has changed between 1993 and today, three main changes come to mind: information technology, technical advances in the production process and globalisation. When I started working at the Marklkofen plant, computers were not really widely used and there were no mobiles or laptops. Pagers were still used when Heinrich Güntner gave me a tour of the production department during my interview. If somebody paged him, he had to call the number on the display from a nearby telephone in the hall. Nowadays, mobiles and laptops mean that we can be reached anywhere in the world. Notebooks have become our offices and we can use them to access the Intranet and all of our internal systems from wherever we may be in the world. It is now impossible to imagine our day-to-day work without IT tools. A lot of processes only run online now.
Robots had not yet been introduced in 1993 and when we started working with the first robots in the spin-on filter area in 2003 and built the ‘modular assembly equipment’ Mr Güntner visited us and I can clearly recall his scepticism: “Will that really work?” Today we have 50 robots in spin-on filter final assembly alone and without them we would not be able to achieve the required number of pieces and manufacturing costs. The global orientation of the company has also changed considerably. Today business trips by car, train and aeroplane are the norm and knowledge of English is essential to be able to speak to colleagues around the world. A lot of documents are now only available in English as well. This global focus was not anywhere near as being pronounced in the past.
The communication structures within the group have changed too. We communicate via email, Skype and WebEx, use Facebook and Twitter, and blog about our company. No matter what new media will introduce in the future, there is one thing they can never replace and that is face-to-face discussions, in whatever language and wherever in the world they may be. Sometimes you just need to be able to look the person you are talking to in the eye.