Recently, I paid a visit to MANN+HUMMEL in Marklkofen. Not only our largest site, it is probably also the world’s largest filter plant. During my visit, I had the opportunity to join a tour.
Here, I share my insights from that day.
An open-plan office with a difference
As soon as I entered the production area, it became clear that this is a whole different world to what I am used to in corporate communications – a very special type of open-plan office. Naturally, this ‘office’ does not just employ people, but houses self-driving transportation vehicles, totally automated production steps and, of course, countless machines. The employees have given the machines names that make them seem almost human.
I have rarely seen anything as fascinating as the contents of Marklkofen’s large production halls. The interaction in this theatrical piece is perfectly choreographed down to the tiniest detail. Everybody knows what they have to do, where they need to be and what belongs where – despite the unbelievable quantity of individual parts, products, workers and machines. I can barely imagine the organisational effort required to coordinate all of these elements and ensure that everything is in the right place at the right time.
Innovation and technology – and a dash of magic
I could spend hours watching the machines as they take hold of the amazingly precise parts, figure out by themselves which parts are in the right positions and gradually assemble the filters at a remarkable speed! Other machines are much bigger and remind me a little of wild animals in cages. With seemingly uncontrolled, yet precisely measured movements, huge gripping arms can transport several filter elements from one belt to the next, technically perfected with special vacuum pressure technology.
Above my head, metres of conveyor belts span the halls, parts moving to their next stop like wandering colonies. Some are brought up to the conveyor belts on lifts, while some seem to defy gravity as they are transported via magnetic conveyors. It looks a little like the Weasley family’s kitchen in Harry Potter, where the potatoes peel themselves and the plates require no cleaning. The production facility has its own very special magic.
Precision work even on the largest machines
In the stamping shop, I meet some rather ‘portly’ ladies: Dagmar, Christa and Cornelia are just some of the deep-drawing presses with female names. They use huge steel rolls to produce the filter housings for our spin-on filters. This takes place in multi-stage processes to prevent even the smallest hairline cracks and ensure optimal product quality. The contrast between the precision work and enormous presses is fascinating.
There are many rumours about how the machines got their names. Today, the first letter of a machine’s name indicates its pressing force. The strongest is Annette, with a force of 450 tons.
Perfect coordination between people and machines
I also got to speak with some of the workforce – in strong Bavarian dialect. As a committed Swabian, I really had to concentrate!
The mood among the production staff is truly great, and you can sense it straight away. And it’s no wonder – employees swap roles every hour so that nobody has to spend their entire shift performing the same monotonous process. There are also ten-minute breaks every two hours. This is not the case at every production company!
The human and mechanical workers complement each other perfectly and form an almost seamless chain in which every member knows where it needs to be.
My job in corporate communications is certainly not boring, but it’s a totally different world to what I experienced today. I could spend hours talking about the many incomparable impressions I gained during this day and the interesting details I learned, describing the smells of the production hall or attempting to express in words the noises made by the machines. But the only way to truly understand the fascination of these halls is to see it with your own eyes, smell it with your own nose and hear it with your own ears.
All that remains is for me to thank Ms Kreuzpaintner for these intriguing insights and the many great stories about the production facilities in MANN+HUMMEL’s Marklkofen plant.