Back in 1957, after seeing an advert in the newspaper, I applied for a position as a technical salesman in the Purchasing department at Mann + Hummel GmbH. My application was successful and I started in my role on 1 July 1957.

The purchasing team consisted of around 20 employees, who were split into four sub-teams as follows:

  • Raw materials and castings
  • Metal parts, DIN parts and welded items (my department)
  • Seals (all types), packaging and plastic parts
  • Finished units, trade tools, auxiliary materials, etc.

We worked on mechanical typewriters and computers, and registered telephone conversations with the switchboard first thing in the morning, which we did using a list of suppliers who we needed to speak to that day. Direct dialling only became possible a bit later, for certain telephones and locations. A strike at the start of the 1960s really sticks in my mind: we had to notify our suppliers that no deliveries would be taking place due to strikes. The text for this was stamped on to punched tape and fed into the teleprinter at the switchboard by the employees in Purchasing. Suppliers were then called one by one and informed of the situation in this way.

Requisition requests via routing slip

We received requisition requests for production, which specified times and deadlines, from the material requirements planning departments via a ‘kanban’, and auxiliary and major units requirements via a purchase order. We recorded incoming deliveries from ‘goods in’, posted these for the orders and verified the accuracy of the invoices sent by Purchasing to the Accounting department, authorising these for payment. We also had to seek out new supply sources by looking through trade journals of the time, as well as attending trade fairs and meeting reps.

One of our other tasks was generating monthly statistics to illustrate the value of all orders placed and the amount that could be expected on the invoice the following month. These statistics were created by manually calculating the value of all orders and determining the anticipated invoice amount, which would tell the Accounting team about financial requirements for the next month.

Off to Speyer as Head of Material Management

On 1 July 1963, following staffing changes at ‘FILAP’ (Filter- und Apparatebau-Gesellschaft mbH), I received an offer to take over the running of material management at their site in Speyer. Their operations were in their infancy and still being built up, so the role there was perfect for me. With technology becoming more advanced, we gained permission to purchase the filter plant’s first NIXDORF magnetic core computer – the growing Ludwigsburg IT department having become so busy with Ludwigsburg itself that there was no way of finding the time to integrate the Speyer plant. Using this new computer, we were able to bring planning and purchasing processes up-to-date. This was so successful that, soon after, a second identical computer was purchased for Financial Accounting and Payroll.

Back to Ludwigsburg

On 1 July 1973, after ten years of successful set-up work in Speyer, I was offered the role of Head of Purchasing, replacing the outgoing manager, who was retiring. One of my main tasks in this position was to introduce IT to Purchasing. Employees took a lot of convincing and motivating as it meant moving away from familiar ways of working and entering new, uncharted territory.

Before making this major switch to IT, we worked closely with the then Head of Cost Accounting to allocate all the materials and parts to a material group, which meant a much improved level of transparency. Due to the capacity of the IT system we were using then, we were only able to use two digits for this (from 00 to 99). Purchasing would then add this material group to the orders that went to the bookkeeping accounts. It gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to read that these material groups, which of course have been expanded in line with current IT, are still in use by multinational companies today