The filter elements lead team follows a guiding principle: everyone can learn from the best! This is a fantastic approach which makes it possible to create links between the international locations, exchange knowledge and best practices, and harness synergies. But it can certainly also pose participants a few challenges from time to time!
Transfer of expertise in the Czech Republic
The acquisition of the Affinia Group at the start of the year brought eight new plants to our manufacturing network so naturally we wanted to integrate our new colleagues from WIX Filters and FILTRON into our lead team meetings, Aftermarket training sessions and regional training from the very outset. With this in mind, we recently met with WIX/FILTRON employees from Poland and Ukraine in the Czech Republic, as production methods are comparable across all locations and the language barrier is not so severe. As well as the standard transfer of expertise and a tour of the plant, we also discussed and expanded on our existing roadmap. Specifically, we discussed relevant issues in order to work together to best support each of the individual locations. This included investigating the product mix for each location and possible ways of optimising production methods.
Our approach allowed us to provide all of the employees with a well-balanced mix of theoretical knowledge and practical application. The meetings also proved a good opportunity for forging contacts between employees, which stands to benefit several locations in the long term and encourages international teamwork.
A common tongue
It is not uncommon for these meetings to be made up of 15 participants who hail from up to 12 different nations. This presents one of the challenges which I have briefly touched upon already: the language! English serves as the shared language within the Group and largely suffices here too. I always aim to ensure, though, that some participants can communicate amongst themselves using a mixture of languages, which sees Spaniards and Brazilians conversing in a bit of Portuguese, attendees from China and Korea finding a way to interpret the characters of each others’ languages and Poles, Czechs and Ukrainians communicating in a mixture of all three languages.
On our side, too, we do our best to ensure that everyone is able to fully understand the content, producing training videos, for example, in Spanish and Chinese as well as in German and English. By doing so, we aim to cover the broad range of languages spoken at MANN+HUMMEL as comprehensively as possible and make information available to all. What it ultimately comes down to, though, has less to do with the nationality or language and more to do with the individual. The most important qualities are tolerance, respect and the motivation to work together towards a shared goal. Anyone in possession of these qualities will always be able to find a way to overcome language barriers and make a good idea accessible to all. Sometimes all it takes is a few quick drawings! Of course, I’m not saying that there are never misunderstandings, but that can also be true for different regions within a single country – consider Bavaria and Swabia in Germany, for example. These misunderstandings are only rarely attributable to nationality.
Working together to achieve our goal
Personally, I think that teamwork that can overreach national borders is an incredibly valuable commodity, because as well as domestic contracts, MANN+HUMMEL often operates on an international scale. This means that we must be able to produce and deliver the same products to an identical standard across different countries. It therefore makes no sense for each country to tackle the same problems in parallel – we can work very efficiently on a multinational basis thanks to exchanges between our employees and the transfer of expertise. But work is not the be all and end all! I also encourage employees to get to know each other beyond their professional similarities and to keep in contact with one another, as this helps achieve the best results when working as a team. Our agenda for these meetings caters for this: alongside the professional training sessions and meetings there are always collaborative activities aimed at promoting a sense of team spirit amongst all participants.
I, for example, worked for MANN+HUMMEL in Changchun, China from 2003 to 2005, where I set up the Process + Technology department. Virtually all of the employees are still working for MANN+HUMMEL today and every few years we organise an evening meal as a group, which allows us to keep up a friendly relationship outside of our day-to-day working lives.
I learnt basic Chinese during my time in China and I still attend weekly classes to this day. This gave me free rein to travel through China without the need for an interpreter, but also afforded me greater acceptance and allowed for clearer understanding. By being prepared to accept another language and a different culture, each of us can make a contribution to promoting a sense of unity.
A question of attitude
This year we began holding regional training sessions: an opportunity to brief and support employees directly in their own workplaces with their own machines. In doing so, we are pursuing our principle of being in the region, for the region. Since individual problems in manufacturing arise around specific pieces of equipment, it makes sense to hold these training sessions directly on site in order to get to grips with the situation at first hand. In this spirit, we organised a regional training session in Brazil focusing on pleats in filter media, while a second training session regarding PUR dosing to be held in Shanghai in November is already fully booked. As you can tell, I’m always on the move and I’m constantly inspired by the unique character of every country I visit. Beside the language it is very important to get to grips with a few national traditional practices to get a better understanding and to optimize the communication. After all, as experience tells us: Different countries have different customs – and that can sometimes be a bit of a culture shock at first!