“MANN+HUMMEL to sell Plant 1 on Hindenburgstraße” – when I read this headline in the newspaper, my thoughts immediately turned to the past. To the distant past, in fact. They went all the way back to 1951. Back then, I was a pupil learning about traditional brick-building techniques for the first time, at my secondary school, Mörike-Gymnasium, in Ludwigsburg, Germany.
To earn a little bit of pocket money, I was working two afternoons a week at Fischer’s chemical laboratory on Karlstraße. I did this from March 1951 to March 1952. At that time, the lab was testing different things for MANN+HUMMEL, including oil samples from oil filters, which were being used in various continuous operations. I also got the chance to carry out tests over my 12-month period of working there – one of which involved checking the volumes of iron in the oil. I then had to take the tested samples and results to MANN+HUMMEL’s testing department on Hindenburgstraße – by bike! I usually dealt with Mr Gaiser and Mr Ling there, but also sometimes with Mr Basilico, who was the manager at the time.
A few years later, my relationship with Plant 1 took on a whole new form: It was the summer of 1958 – school was already a distant memory , I had already graduated from technical college and had a toolmaking apprenticeship under my belt – when I decided to apply for a new position in the Ludwigsburg area. I also applied to MANN+HUMMEL and was successful, as it turned out. I got the job and started working in the company’s testing department in the autumn of that same year. I was working in the very same building I had known as a school pupil, in fact! I went on to work there for 40 years, moving around within the building, and witnessed with my own eyes the many renovations and changes that went on there. You can’t work somewhere that long and not feel a strong connection of course.
However, if I’m honest, I didn’t really work in Plant 1 for 40 years in total, as I was usually away on business. Unfortunately for my wife, this meant she had to spend a lot of time without me, but she always gave me her support. I would never have been able to manage all my responsibilities at MANN+HUMMEL without her. This company blog is an opportune moment for me to say that.
In my first few years, I started off working in different testing departments and product design, before ending up in a smaller department which supported major clients such as Daimler-Benz, Ford, Opel and Audi – and many others besides – by providing on-site testing. After a while, I was also tasked with looking after Volkswagen in Wolfsburg and I feel quite nostalgic looking back, as they were making the legendary VW beetles and camper vans at the time! Both of these models had engines that were fitted with oil-bath air filters. As engine performance continued to develop over the years, so did the challenges I faced, which required me to measure performance on the engine test bench, test the oiling of the filter insert in real conditions, plus carry out a whole host of other tests. In other words, I often had to go to Wolfsburg. In those days, there was no motorway in place for the route I was travelling to get there, so I had to go through Frankfurt en route to Hanover, then take a country road from Seesen. This meant a good day of travelling – not like the four hours or so that it takes nowadays. The train was another option I used regularly. I would take the evening train from Bietigheim and travel overnight to Hanover, where I would be picked up by someone from the then MANN+HUMMEL subsidiary, Büro Roller. I used to sleep in a three-bed compartment on the train; eventually I knew how to interpret the bed numbers and work out whether I would be sleeping on the top, middle or bottom bunk of the compartment. I then started to travel by plane more, as the changeover from oil-bath air filters to air filters with paper inserts meant I was increasingly busy, with more and more trips abroad.
In all that time, I always had my connection to Plant 1. It had its own particular charm and always felt a bit like ‘coming home’ – seeing my colleagues and coming back to a company that had always supported me and had my back. Back to 2015, and Plant 1 on Hindenburgstraße has been sold. It goes without saying that I’m in mourning slightly, but I also accept that change is inevitable with time. What hasn’t changed is my fondness of travelling. Not for MANN+HUMMEL any more, it has to be said, but with my wife – one change that is overwhelmingly positive.