In the 1950s, the demand for filter elements grew exponentially alongside the boom in the development of the German and European automotive industries. As a result, in 1960/61 the Ludwigsburg Board of Management began planning the construction of a new plant dedicated to the construction of filter cartridges. Their initial choice of location was Neckarweihingen – a suburb of Ludwigsburg, but, as they had shared some great experiences with the employees at Warth Castle and because personnel costs in the Lower Bavaria region were significantly lower than those in Ludwigsburg, the decision was taken to develop the capacity there geared towards the filter element sector.
At the beginning of 1962, Adolf Mann and Dr Erich Hummel had purchased both buildings (buildings A and B) of the defunct Kaiser pasta factory in Marklkofen, not far from Warth Castle, at a cost of approximately DM 200,000. On 4 September that year, 14 employees began normal shift production for the first time. To begin with, they would only assemble installation cartridges for Vauxhall spin-on filters on the assembly line and pack them off to Ludwigsburg, but shortly thereafter a new assembly line was built in building A for oil and fuel cartridges.
I myself joined the MANN+HUMMEL filter plant on 1 April 1965, first spending two months in Ludwigsburg to get to know the workings of the company, before becoming a Production Manager in Marklkofen by the end of May and eventually taking over as Plant Manager in November 1970. Before I joined, the plant was run by managers from Ludwigsburg, whose Swabian mentality was not the perfect fit in Lower Bavaria. Andreas Hägel, who was HR Manager at the time, appealed to Mr. Mann: “We need a Bavarian!” So, they advertised the role in the vdi-nachrichten engineering newspaper and I sent off my application. It was then Mr Mann who persuaded me to take the job despite my initial reservations. He revealed that he had big plans for Marklkofen: “We are going to expand production and, one day, employ 600 to 800 people here.”
An incredible development in 28 short years
The development of the location, which I had the privilege of managing for 27 years and nine months, is a testament to the fact that Mr Mann was not prone to exaggeration. Since that time, the plant has grown enormously: from 367 employees at the end of 1964 to 1713 employees by the end of 1992, from a production capacity of 9.125 million spin-on filters and cartridges to 77.5 million, which includes 47.1 million spin-on filters, 18.4 million air filter cartridges and 12 million oil and fuel cartridges.
By the time I arrived at Marklkofen in mid-1965, the development was already under way. The buildings known as the ‘shed halls’ (so-called for their saw-tooth roofs) were completed during construction stages 1–3, before being extended to warehouse 1 as part of construction stage 4 in 1965. More warehouses were to follow in 1969 and into the 1970s and 80s.
Over time, more and more production was shifted over from Ludwigsburg to Marklkofen: the assembly of round passenger car air filter cartridges with PVC end plates in autumn 1963, the Ford spin-on filter assembly in April 1965, the first eccentric presses and the multiple die press ‘Klara’ in 1966, followed by ‘Karola’, ‘Dora’ and ‘Emma’ a year later. 1966 didn’t just mark the start of our producing our own parts for the assembly lines in Marklkofen – we also began the vocational training of three apprentice toolmakers and engine fitters.
A milestone in 1974: over 100.000 pieces in a single working day
The 1970s saw the arrival of more and more assembly lines, machines and equipment, with some lines also already being modernised. In terms of production capacity, it was an extremely eventful decade. We had some years with 17 to 25 percent growth rates, others with limited to negative growth and some in which the order situation was so bad that we had to scale down to short-time work. However, disruptions such as these never lasted long. Overall, the level of total production just kept rising and in 1974 daily production exceeded the 100,000 mark for the first time, amounting to 100.915 filters.
On 1 July 1973, analytical job evaluation was introduced across the entire operation in Marklkofen and Warth, with the wages system changing from premium pay to the group piece rate. This year also saw the first ever open day, which attracted some 5000 visitors. This was followed by a second open day to mark Marklkofen’s 20th anniversary in 1982, which drew a similar number of visitors. In 1987, we celebrated ’25 years of filter production in Marklkofen’.
There were further production relocations from Ludwigsburg at the start of the 1980s: In 1980 came rosette assembly in February, pico and piclon assembly in the summer and passenger car round cartridge with polyurethane end plate assembly in the autumn. The process of relocating from Ludwigsburg finally came to a close with the transfer of special and small filter assembly and petrol filter production. All further development of production capacity since then has been the result of direct investment in the Marklkofen plant.
Reorganisation leads to greater independence for the plants
In the last two years of my time working at MANN+HUMMEL – I left on 31/12/1992 – I represented Marklkofen in the reorganisation within the corporate group. This gave a great deal of independence and budget responsibility over to the individual plants. For us, this meant taking on a lot of administrative tasks formerly done by headquarters, including, for example, the development of plant purchasing, planning in its entirety, mass production, building services and plant planning. The reorganisation resulted in a concerted effort to recruit administrative personnel, and by the end of 1992 146 of the 1713 people employed in Marklkofen were clerical staff.
I feel very lucky to have been part of the company between 1 April 1965 and 31 December 1992 thanks to Adolf Mann’s incredible initiative. This time brought me a lot of hard work and responsibility, but I also enjoyed many happy, rewarding years in the filter plant – it was without a doubt the most fascinating period in my working life.