In my series of blogs entitled ‘What is the actual role of …?’, I am presenting different job outlines at MANN+HUMMEL. As a ‘roving reporter’, I look over the shoulder of colleagues at the German sites. In southern Thuringia, I accompanied Mike Lewandowski, who is a tool setter at MANN+HUMMEL in Sonneberg and is also involved with the Works Council.
What does a tool setter in Sonneberg actually do?
At the MANN+HUMMEL plant in Sonneberg, there are old and new machines, large and small machin
es, semi and fully automatic machines. Tool setter Mike Lewandowski knows them all. In his view: ‘It’s certainly a challenge, a tremendous balancing act’. Depending on the product and specifications, each machine in turn has many setting options. ‘We attend regular training sessions, we must constantly keep our eye on the ball’, he says. Some international visits also provide global exchange of knowledge with colleagues.
As shift supervisor, Mike Lewandowski coordinates the work of six tool setters in both production segments. ‘Changeover’ for the setter means fitting a new tool onto a machine – for example when a different product is to be manufactured. All changeover procedures for the day are arranged on the setup plan – and there is hardly a spare minute for the shift supervisor. He acts as ‘firefighter’ in both segments, whenever a problem arises with one of the injection moulders and welding machines. ‘Some days, the phone never stops ringing’.
Always in the same team
Whatever the shift, Mike Lewandowski always works in the same team. ‘You have to be able to rely on colleagues and know who can do what’, he explains. Particularly with large machines, there is the risk that a minor defect can bring whole production lines to a halt. Suitable steps must therefore be taken to rectify problems quickly. Changeover includes checking the first-off part. For this, Lewandowski and his colleagues will, for instance, cut open an intake manifold and closely examine the welded seams. The tool setter knows that ‘we bear responsibility for product quality’.
The tools are the core components of the machines – the appropriate steel cube, each one tremendously heavy, is used to manufacture the various products. It can take up to an hour to remove a large tool using the 10-tonne indoor crane. Although the equipment is massive, essentially every millimetre counts: any deviation can have unwanted consequences for the product. The tool setters programme the machine through a software panel, but muscle power is still needed to assemble the tools. ‘Machines are programmed according to processing guidelines – though experience proves helpful time and time again’, says Lewandowski.
Basic interest in machines
After qualifying as an industrial mechanic in Berlin, Mike Lewandowski moved to Sonneberg in 2001. He started working at MANN+HUMMEL as a tool setter, following a brief period in production. He is quite clear that ‘You have to be interested in the machines’. He has been shift supervisor for over five years and also represents his colleagues on the Works Council. ‘I want to make things happen, inform my colleagues about specific topics and raise awareness’, he says. For him, co-operation is the essential ingredient in everyday life: ‘I really enjoy my job’.