SAP now running at all plants
In June 2020 and at the end of March 2021, our US plants in Waverly and Tecumseh implemented SAP. This means that all our plants worldwide now use this software.
Tecumseh is our largest plant and preparations for the SAP rollout were therefore extensive; beginning as early as January 2020. After Tecumseh, Waverly was to follow, thus completing the SAP rollout worldwide. However due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project team decided to set Waverly live first because it was easier to organize the remote support at the smaller plant. Thanks to the strong team on site, the implementation there went very well despite the short time and was completed by the end of June 2020. The project team was also able to support in the following weeks during the "Hypercare" phase; the intensive support phase after the GoLive.
Waverly then became the blueprint for the remote-support Go Live in Tecumseh. Considering the plant size and despite - or perhaps because of COVID-19 restrictions - the team got off to one of its best SAP starts here.
For this great achievement, a big thank you to the entire project team!
Auto Shanghai: a successful trade show appearance
Although the number of visitors was generally lower than in previous years due to the strict COVID-19 safety regulations, the number of visitors to our booth nevertheless exceeded our initial expectations. We were able to hold important discussions about current and future projects with many of our key customers during the first two days.
In total, Auto Shanghai attracted 1000 exhibitors this year, including major German automakers such as SAIC Volkswagen, Beijing Mercedes-Benz, FAW Volkswagen, SKODA, MINI (BMW), BMW China and Porsche. The focus of all vehicle manufacturers was the further development of e-cars, some of which achieve ranges of up to 800 km. There was a lot to marvel at, from the electric racing car to the vehicle vision from James Cameron's film Avatar that has become reality, which Mercedes-Benz has implemented with the Vision AVTR concept car.
Major suppliers such as Bosch, Continental, Schaeffler and ZF also showed their latest innovations in areas including CO2 neutrality, hydrogen propulsion, wireless charging for electric cars, artificial intelligence and autonomous transport.
Public interest in this, the world's largest automotive exhibition, was high. More journalists (10,700) than ever before covered Auto Shanghai. On the first public day alone, the show attracted 150,000 visitors.
After the show is before the show! As of now, we are busy preparing for the IAA Mobility, which will take place in Munich from September 6 to 12.
1: DFI Management Team (Mr Wang, Mr Lei, Mr He)
2: BMW China Purchasing VP of Powertrain &Chassis (Mr Ingo Kraus)
3: Lixiang Auto BIW Purchasing Director (Mr Ma Li)
4: CJLR Purchasing Director (Mr Jimmy JIAO)
5: BMW-Brilliance Powertrain & Chassis Senior Purchasing Manager (Mr Jeffrey SUN)
6: DF Passenger Vehicle (DFPV) Purchasing VP (Mr Xu Bin)
7: DF VOYAH (DF-H) Purchasing Director (Mr Liu jun)
28.04.2021 - Auto Shanghai: Every fourth vehicle comes from Germany
All major German vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers are represented at the Auto Show Shanghai. The Chinese market is immensely important for German vehicle manufacturers: every fourth car sold in this country bears the logo of a German vehicle manufacturer. In 2020 no other country in the world sold as many passenger vehicles as China (a total of 29 percent of global passenger vehicle sales).
China continues to focus on e-mobility, with the market expected to grow by 70 percent this year to which German carmakers are also catching up with. They are currently demonstrating this at the world's largest vehicle show in Shanghai. Vehicles are considered a status symbol in China even more than they are to Germany which gives way for German electric vehicles to be well received by the public:
BMW is scoring points with its new all-electric flagship SUV, the BMW iX, which is to be launched in 2021. BMW plans to offer 12 electric models in China by 2023. Audi presents the Audi A6 e-tron concept, fully electric and expected to be available in dealerships from 2023, VW shows the ID.6X urban SUV, or ID.6 Crozz, the large version of the ID.4, which is expected to go on sale in China this summer. Mercedes-Benz presents its new all-electric SUVs EQA and EQB and impresses potential buyers with the EQS: the first all-electric model based on the platform of the S-Class luxury sedan.
But the competition is not missing out on the action either. The China-based company Evergrande Automotive, for example, announced that it wants to become the largest car company in the world. With its focus on e-mobility, it wants to beat Volkswagen, Daimler and Tesla to the top spot. However, the euphoria is quickly put on hold when it is discovered that all the vehicles on display are replicas.
The other China-based electric start-up NIO, on the other hand, made its first appearance at Auto Shanghai two years ago. Today, NIO’s electric off-road vehicles can be seen driving more and more frequently on the streets of Beijing or Shanghai. This year, NIO presented its new flagship, the ET7 sedan, as well as its lifestyle brand 'NIO Life' as the recycling project 'Blue Sky Plan'. NIO announced that it would be coming to Europe this year with its premium range vehicles.
Toyota, previously known for hybrid and hydrogen powertrains, is now also focusing on electric. Seventy electrified models are to be offered by 2025. At Auto Shanghai, the Japanese carmaker showed its first pure E-SUV bZ4X, which will be available Summer 2022.
But it is not only China that is focusing on e-mobility; electric mobility has also arrived in Germany. In an international comparison, Germany ranks second behind China (1.25 million electric vehicles) and ahead of the USA (approx. 303,000 electric vehicles). But with almost 400,000 newly registered electric vehicles in 2020 alone, together with the rest of Europe, 1.37 million electric vehicles were registered.
26.04.2021 - Auto Shanghai: "Mobility Moments" - Interview with Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch
In this week's "Mobility Moments", Editor-in-Chief Adrian Smith of Autofutures Europe spoke with Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch, CTO KIRCHHOFF Automotive, about our products at Auto Shanghai, electric mobility and the importance of the Chinese market for manufacturers and suppliers, as well as the future of mobility.
For example, Dr Gaitzsch's answer to the question "How important is the Chinese market for your company?" is like this: "China is currently the largest automotive market in the world and the growth rate is also higher than in all other regions. In addition, the 'Auto Shanghai' is the largest car show in the world. This underlines the importance for the automotive industry and also for our company."
Read the entire interview here:
Adrian Smith: Describe KIRCHHOFF Automotive and its key services
Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: With 9.000 employees in 26 Global production plants (in Europe, North America and Asia), KIRCHHOFF Automotive develops and produces body-in-white and chassis parts and complex assemblies, made out of steel, aluminum and hybrid materials. Our customers are more or less all passenger car OEMs and some coming from the heavy truck business.
Adrian Smith: What are products and new technologies that you are showing off at Auto Shanghai 2021?
Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: Our focus is on safe and lightweight products not only but especially designed for electric mobility. Amongst others, this includes, for example, crash management systems, battery housings, cross car beams, etc.
Adrian Smith: How do your products make mobility safer?
Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: The complete structure of a passenger car changes due to electric mobility. The former engine as a crash absorber is not anymore in place, this is why the structure for such a frontend needs to be designed in a completely different way. That’s what we have been doing over the last months and the results, we do present in Shanghai.
Adrian Smith: How important is the Chinese market for your company?
Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: Currently, China is the biggest automotive market in the world and the growth rate, too, is higher than in all the other regions. In addition, the ‘Auto Shanghai’ is the biggest auto show in the world. This underlines the importance for the automotive industry as well as for our company.
Adrian Smith: Do you think autonomous transport will be viable this century?
Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: I’m quite confident that autonomous driving will come up in the next years and decades. If not in the 2020s, it will be the case in the 2030s, at the latest.
Adrian Smith: What will urban mobility in Europe look like by 2030?
Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: The urban mobility will be completely different compared to what we are familiar with today. Connectivity, electric mobility, shared mobility and the beginning of autonomous driving will have a huge impact. Cars for urban mobility will be different from cars for the countryside. That means they will be much smaller, easy to handle, limited in speed and acceleration, etc.
21.04.2021 - The automotive world looks to Shanghai
Since Monday, our company has been live with its own booth at Auto Shanghai; the world's most visited auto show. In an interview with a regional newspaper, CEO J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff talks about electro mobility, our growth in China and more.
In Shanghai, we present our latest welding and joining technologies, lightweight construction concepts, as well as an advanced system that improves the crash management of the entire vehicle. "Particularly with electric vehicles, load management is quite different from that with internal combustion engines," explains J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff in an interview with the newspaper.
Due to the restrictive quarantine regulations for travelers coming into the city, he cannot be present in Shanghai this year. But he is all the more looking forward to the IAA, which is scheduled to take place in Munich in September. "The IAA is certainly still ahead in terms of innovation and importance - for now," he says. Among the exhibitors in China, he says, are also many manufacturers who produce less complex cars that would not be possible to sell in Europe. "But China is gaining a great deal of experience, especially in the field of electro mobility," added J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff.
You can read a translation of the entire newspaper article in the attachment.
20.04.2021 - We are ready to go
Four days to set up - anyone who takes longer has to pay a penalty. Thanks to perfect team coordination, we made it just in time. Our stand at this year's Auto Shanghai has been up and running since 6 p.m. Sunday evening.
On Wednesday, the world's largest auto show with around 1000 exhibitors opens its doors to trade visitors. Journalists already have access to the exhibition grounds on Monday and Tuesday to report on the latest trends, innovations and concept cars.
For more than 10 years our KIRCHHOFF Automotive stand has been an integral part of Auto Shanghai. But this year everything was different... For the first time, it was not possible to travel to China and accompany the preparations, set-up work and the first days of the trade fair directly on site due to the strictest Corona protection regulations - unless you had taken on a four-week quarantine.
But new challenges also lead to new paths. Thanks to perfect cooperation and intensive digital coordination between the Chinese team, the German and Chinese stand builders as well as our corporate marketing, the trade fair appearance at Auto Shanghai was implemented in KIRCHHOFF Automotive Design in the shortest possible time.
Our Chinese site manager sums it up just before she leaves for the next project: "Thank you so much for letting me be part of this worldwide teamwork via zoom/teams/bluejeans/whatsapp/wechat and email."
We are now looking forward to the official start of Auto Shanghai on Wednesday and to many visitors.
16.04.2021 - Finally a trade fair again
Embracing Change...this is the theme of the largest and most important automotive show in Asia, the Auto Shanghai. It will be taking place under the strictest Coronavirus safety regulations from April 19 to 28 in Shanghai/China. We are very pleased to be able to show new products and innovative technologies for the next generation of lightweight automotive construction on a 90-m2 stand.
Under the motto MAKING. MOBILITY. SAFE., we have invited our customers across Asia to our exhibition stand at Auto Shanghai. Safe mobility is important to us. We will be presenting our visitors with product developments that will make tomorrow's mobility safe. For example, a hybrid crash management system developed by us acts like a protective shield in the event of a frontal collision and ensures that all those involved in the accident are optimally protected in the event of a crash. Body structures developed specifically for e-mobility are also the focus of our trade fair presentation. In addition, we will present structural parts made of aluminum, in the development of which our many years of experience in the design and production of aluminum parts have played a decisive role.
This year, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the planning of the exhibition stand and the entire logistics had to be handled completely via video conferencing for the first time. Also, the usual support of our international colleagues from central departments (Marketing/Sales) at the stand was unfortunately not possible, as no one from Europe or North America was able to enter China in time with the current quarantine measures in place.
Math does not have to be dry
Students from the Siegerland - Olpe - Wittgenstein region in Germany can experience this in the DigiMath4Edu project. The Department of Mathematics Didactics at the University of Siegen has launched the project. KIRCHHOFF Automotive is one of the companies supporting and promoting it.
3D printing tablets, VR and AR applications - these are the means by which mathematics can be taught in a vivid and interesting way. How does that work? That's what teaching assistants specially trained by the University of Siegen have been showing teachers at five schools in the Siegen-Wittgenstein and Olpe districts that have been participating in the DigiMath4Edu project since February 2021. In the difficult times marked by the Corona pandemic, this is an important boost for (digital) education.
Companies can participate in the project with career orientation days and workshops on topics such as CAS systems, programming/optimization, Smartboard & Co, AR and VR. KIRCHHOFF Automotive will offer workshops at Rivius Gymnasium in Attendorn in the first year of the project. Concrete planning for this will begin in May 2021.
The DigiMath4Edu project is being funded as part of the structural support programme Südwestfalen REGIONALE 2025.
Obituary Josef Groß
We mourn the death of our former managing director Mr. Dipl.- Ing. Josef Groß who passed away on February 16, 2021 at the age of 85.
After his apprenticeship and journeyman's time as a toolmaker in Wilhelmshaven and engineering studies in Berlin, Josef Groß worked for Olympia in Wilhelmshaven and Keiper-Recaro in Remscheid and Rockenhausen.
From 1986 until his retirement in 2000, Josef Groß was Managing Director of the former M. Kutsch GmbH in Attendorn. He was also responsible for the management of Sigro in Olpe and Letterkenny in Ireland and Gametal in Portugal, which were part of the group of companies at that time. We also remember his trips to Brazil and Mexico, during which he laid the foundations for our activities in Central and South America together with Wolfgang and Arndt G. Kirchhoff. Particularly close to Josef Groß's heart were our market entry plans in the Central Eastern European countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The decision to set up our plants in Poland and the composition of the management team, many of whom are still actively with us today, was certainly a highlight of his professional life.
With his decisions and many capabilities, Josef Groß had a decisive influence on the development of the entire KIRCHHOFF Group. His work in the details of forming products and processes as well as the development of the necessary joining techniques formed the solid foundation on which we were able to build our now global company. For health reasons, he handed over the operational activities from the management to his successor, Stefan Leitzgen, in 1999.
His economic, technical and human perceptiveness distinguished him and made him a valued superior and colleague.
We will remember Josef Groß with honor.
Our sincere sympathy goes to his family.
Office Management: 100% Digital
Digitization is becoming more and more common in KAPS Administration. With the help of digital platforms, we have introduced a new method for Office Management (OM) in our KAPS tools. This also takes continuous improvement into account.
In administration, we often use spreadsheet programs to document and analyze information. They allow rapid visualization, easy management and documentation of data history.
Now, like in production, a so-called dashboard gives an overview of all relevant key indicators at a glance in the administrative area. The dashboard is used to quickly check which indicators lie outside our goals and where we can improve performance.
„Digital Office Management is an excellent tool that alllows us to perform the OM meetings in a practical and efficient way,” says Procurement Manager Jorge Brandão. “We can now resume our team meetings that were interrupted by the pandemic.”
The OM boards previously used personal meetings, but are now replaced by this new digital format, and meetings are done via BlueJeans software. “I think that also after the pandemic we will continue to use digital Office Management, in conjunction with personal meetings,” says Armindo Jales, Managing Director Adminstration and Finance Manager.
A Win for Our Company
On June 25th, Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) in the USA, announced their supplier award winners. There are 260 suppliers for SIA overall but KIRCHHOFF Automotive was amongst the chosen group of suppliers to receive an award.
The North York plant in Canada who produces for SIA, has been recognized with 2 category awards from Subaru this year for their hard work. They were recipients of the Excellent Performance Award, and the Commodity Leader Award.
Taken from the press release statement by Subaru: “Our success relies on a network of suppliers that provide us quality parts in a safe and timely manner,” said Scott Brand, executive vice president at SIA. “These companies represent an incredible commitment to helping Subaru efficiently manufacture high-quality vehicles for our customers.”
Winners were recognized in the following five categories:
- Special Recognition – Above and beyond effort as identified by SIA management
- Commodity Leader – Top scoring supplier in commodity category
- Excellent Performance – Achievement of SIA targets for safety, quality, cost and delivery
- Superior Excellent Performance – Three and four consecutive years as recipient of the Excellent Performance Award
- Presidential – Five consecutive years as recipient of the Excellent Performance Award
Due to COVID-19, ceremonies to honour the winners have been post-poned till later this year and plaques were delivered via mail to locations.
The New Normal
The face mask is put on and the hands are freshly disinfected: The workday can begin. This is what everyday life now looks like for many employees. To protect themselves and others from infection with the corona virus, we have introduced new protective measures at our plants. How do our employees deal with them?
Erik Proháska, shift supervisor press shop in Esztergom/Hungary, says: "At first the measures were difficult to get used to, but now the workers take them for granted. What the colleagues liked best was that our company took protective measures such as the use of disinfectants immediately after the outbreak of the virus".
Teams have been partly split up, so that half of them work on site at the plant and the other half in the home office, alternating weekly. Other protective measures include keeping a distance, leaving doors open, regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces and physical barriers such as Plexiglas walls.
"I have temporarily been in the home office since March," says Sabine Montenbruck, assistant to Production Manager in Iserlohn/Germany. "Working from home works very well. I am grateful that we have this opportunity and that IT was able to equip us with laptops so quickly. At my first meeting in the office, wearing the face mask was still a bit unusual. By the second visit, it was almost routine."
Mike Walsh, Health, Safety & Environmental Manager at Aurora Corporate/Canada, explains: “Corporate and local procurement staff have been working hard to secure purchases of masks, including reusable and disposable masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies. Each facility has reviewed its inventories and are prepared for return to operations. All employees will be provided with masks should they be required to use them where we cannot provide sufficient physical distancing for the tasks they perform, government mandated, or in case employees want to wear voluntarily.”
"Some employees still have difficulty maintaining the necessary safety distance, especially at the gatehouses and the time clocks," says Fábio Valente, Health and Safety Technician in Ovar/ Portugal. Proof of disinfection of the workplaces before each shift or machine use is also a challenge, he says. In general, however, the protective measures are well accepted by the employees. "To prevent the spread of Covid-19 in our company, everyone must show responsibility. That's the message we must send to everyone."
Hugo Ferreira, Global Director KAPS in Ovar/Portugal, still works from home. "For my department, the biggest challenge is that we are not allowed to travel and hold workshops on site. That's why we do them online. Otherwise, the changeover is not dramatic for us. We are used to working in different places. So we had already established management systems to coordinate our teams."
"Wearing the masks, disinfecting hands and surfaces became very easy habits. Sometimes we forget to take off the masks, for example when we drink a glass of water or just eat a snack - they have already become a part of us," says Corina Mandă, Management Assistant in Craiova/Romania.
Thomas Lozinski, Head of Hot Forming & Trailer Systems at the Iserlohn/Germany plant is optimistic: "We don't let our work spoil the fun and make the best of the situation. We know that KIRCHHOFF Automotive is well positioned and that we will survive this difficult time. You can feel the fighting spirit in the workforce and the willingness to help overcome the crisis. The community and cohesion in the company are important pillars for all employees and provide security.
We all have to get used to this new normal. In order to protect ourselves and others, the measures will probably remain in place for quite some time. But we are confident that by doing so, we can all contribute to the safe working conditions in our factories.
With limited production, we will restart our plants in Europe and North America in the coming weeks. COO Stefan Leitzgen with an overview of the current status and what we can expect in the coming weeks.
Andreas Heine: What is the timetable for Europe, when will which plant start up again?
Stefan Leitzgen: The first plants restarted last week, others will follow this week and the last hopefully from 11 May. However, we often work in single shifts at the beginning and not even on all plants and over the whole week. For example, we will start in Attendorn this week on a shift with 25 employees, normally about 120.
Andreas Heine: They say that the development in North America is a good two weeks behind. Does that also apply to the restart in Canada, USA and Mexico?
Stefan Leitzgen: In general, that is the case. The complete lock down in all three countries will continue until at least May 10th, in Mexico even until the end of the month. But even these dates change almost daily. With very few exceptions, none of our customers are planning to restart before 11 May.
Andreas Heine: How much of our capacity will the customers call up? Are the strategies for ramping up the automotive plants similar or completely different?
Stefan Leitzgen: We expect a maximum of 50% of normal sales in Europe in May, and that is already an optimistic scenario. In North America, we expect sales to be significantly lower. Basically, all OEMs are planning similarly. They all start with one shift and then increase their production week by week. Often the assembly lines run slower than before the crisis because fewer employees are used. The speed of ramp-up varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Andreas Heine: Are we well prepared for the restart everywhere or are there still special challenges?
Stefan Leitzgen: All plants must carry out a "Return to Work" audit. This is how we check whether all Covid19 precautionary measures have been implemented. And every employee worldwide receives training in which the plant-specific measures are explained. Yes, I am convinced we are very well prepared.
Andreas Heine: Will our new binding instructions for dealing with each other in the plant be accepted in times of Corona and will they be implemented where employees are already working?
Stefan Leitzgen: Our Covid19 protective measures will also be implemented in the plants where employees are already working. Of course not everything is running smoothly yet, but it is working. There is occasional criticism, for example for the closure of the changing rooms. But there are also employees who have thanked us for our prudent approach.
Andreas Heine: Are there any projections as to how badly the shutdown has affected us as a company and what impact it will have on our annual results?
Stefan Leitzgen: There is an initial forecast for the period from January to the end of June. The figures are very sobering. However, it is still far too early to make a forecast for the entire year. But one thing is already completely clear today: we will have to tighten our belts considerably.
Andreas Heine: At present it is difficult to bear the many crisis reports every day. Is there anything that could cheer us up a bit, give us hope for the future?
Stefan Leitzgen: Yes, our management colleague in Romania has become a father for the third time.
Andreas Heine: That are definitely good news, congratulations from me as well.
Our Plant in Gniezno is Growing
Last year, our plant in Gniezno, Poland, was considerably expanded in only six months at a cost of just under EUR 2.7 million. We manufacture products for various VW models at this location.
The production hall for complex assemblies and logistics was expanded by 2,350 m². The expanded welding area mainly accommodates spot and MAG welding systems. The total hall area is thus 7,100 m²; if the loading road (a 17 m wide roof for loading and unloading the trucks) is added, the total area is even 8,400 m².
The office space has also been expanded. New changing rooms, an open-plan office and a new, flexibly usable meeting room have been created on 420 m².
The Gniezno location was newly established in 2015. The geographical location close to the VW plants Września and Poznan as well as the attractive job market were the decisive criteria for this decision.
"So beautifully quiet"
FAUN welcomed MEP and Vice-President of the European People's Party (EPP) David McAllister on Monday 17.02.2020 at the plant in Heilshorn. The MEP met with the FAUN management, the Mayor of Osterholzer Torsten Rohde and District Administrator Bernd Lütjen as well as former District Director Hans-Dieter von Friedrichs to discuss strategies for the expansion of the hydrogen infrastructure to enable energy supply for emission-free heavy-duty traffic.
After the test drive with the ROTOPRESS BLUEPOWER, FAUN's refuse collection vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells, McAllister said: "So nice and quiet. FAUN has developed the battery hydrogen drive system ready for series production and is building 22 of these emission-free vehicles this year. The basis is a Mercedes Benz Econic as a glider, in which battery packs, fuel cells and hydrogen tanks are installed instead of the combustion engine and exhaust system. The vehicles will be assembled according to the area of application. Hydrogen is an ideal carrier, the medium is light and has a high density, so that longer operating times are no problem.
For FAUN hydrogen is the only reasonable drive system. Only in this way is a closed energy cycle possible. With the BLUEPOWER vehicles, FAUN provides companies with one hundred percent electric and emission-free refuse collection vehicles and sweepers. Noise emissions are also marginal, as all units have been optimized for quiet and energy-efficient operation. The electrical energy produced by the fuel cells from hydrogen is not only used for driving, but also for all body functions.
Domestic waste collection is stopped frequently, in densely populated areas every few meters. With conventional chassis, a lot of energy is converted into heat that cannot be used any further at the brakes, and BLUEPOWER vehicles store this energy in the batteries for later use. This means that a BLUEPOWER vehicle requires up to 40% less energy, is CO2 and NOx-free, and emits less particulate matter. FAUN is thus making a valuable contribution to the hot topic of climate protection.
Picture: Looking to the future, (from left): Matthias Kohlmann (CFO FAUN Group and President of the Stade Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Elbe Weser region), Torsten Rohde (Mayor Osterholz-Scharmbeck), Thorsten Baumeister (COO FAUN Group), Bernd Lütjen (District Administrator Osterholz), Hans-Dieter von Friedrichs (District Director a.D.), Burkard Oppmann (Managing Director FAUN Services GmbH), David McAllister, Dr. Johannes F. Kirchhoff (Managing Partner KIRCHHOFF Group), Patrick Hermanspann (CEO FAUN Group)