Awarded Again!

Awarded once again: the KIRCHHOFF Automotive plant in Attendorn (Germany) has been re-certified as a recognized training company, and the plant in Esztergom (Hungary) has been awarded the title of "Reliable Employer 2022/2023"!

In the online recertification with 22 test points, the trainers made the strong training at the Attendorn plant transparent. The trainees were also surveyed. Overall, the plant completed the re-certification with an A grade (over 86%).

"In today's world, it has become much harder to find young people for in-person training in our areas. Here, the Training South Westphalia quality seal is a good way to stand out from other companies; we draw attention to ourselves as a company with excellent training and training standards," says Martin Kleine, technical trainer.

The German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DUIHK) has awarded the Esztergom plant (Hungary) the title of "Reliable Employer". This is awarded to companies that provide exemplary care for the working and living conditions of their employees. We have once again proven that our employees are the heart of our company. We are proud of this honor and hope that all our colleagues share our joy!


Shenyang Plant Resumes Production

On March 24, there was a production shutdown for all enterprises in Shenyang. Now, the local government is gradually allowing the enterprises to resume production under closed management operation.

Since April, the epidemic situation in Shenyang began to ease. Thanks to everyone's continuous efforts, our plant in Shenyang has finally passed strict government approval and is able to continue providing services to our customers.

At 2pm on April 6, our colleagues returned to the plant and prepared for the fully closed production operation that was to follow. The closed production operation means that employees can only commute between the plant and a quarantine hotel, or just live in the plant altogether. Our colleagues returned to the plant with the necessary living supplies, including clean clothes, hygiene products, and battery chargers, and the company prepared toothpaste, toothbrushes, towels, and other necessary living supplies for them in advance.

The team can only return home when the controls are completely lifted – there is no definitive date for it yet.

During the closed operation, the Shenyang plant will refuse all visits and unauthorized outings, and will arrange production schedules according to demand. All staff are also required to take daily nucleic acid tests and implement all protective measures (such as wearing masks all the time, washing hands frequently, regular ventilation, keeping a safe distance, and disinfection). Additionally, no big event is allowed and the number of participants in meetings is strictly controlled.

"We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all our employees, suppliers, and families for their support in resuming production at the Shenyang plant during this very difficult time. We are grateful for the support and understanding of our employees' families, who have given up the opportunity to spend time with their families in order to help us, and we will do our best to ensure their health and safety. We believe that the difficult time will not last long and we hope that with everyone’s joint efforts, we will soon be able to return to normal work and life”, says Plant Manager Jimmy Gu.


Helping the fleeing people

We thank our colleagues in Poland for their personal commitment to a wide range of relief efforts for people who have fled the war in Ukraine. To date, several millions of people have left their homes and are seeking protection in Poland. But the number of refugees is also rising in Romania and Hungary, and here, too, the employees of our plants are organizing relief efforts. In addition, KIRCHHOFF Automotive will donate 50,000 euros to aid organizations in Poland, Hungary and Romania as a first step.


Support for Startups in the Circular Economy

Until March 18, 2022, interested startups can apply for the Accelerator Program by Circular Valley. This program supports them in implementing their innovative business ideas and technologies. KIRCHHOFF Automotive is part of an extensive network that assists the startups.

"What Silicon Valley is for digitalization, Circular Valley is for the circular economy. The goal is to develop concepts for emission control and waste avoidance and recycling," explains Christoph Wagener, Vice President, Research and Product Development, at KIRCHHOFF Automotive.

The program itself runs from June to September. In it, innovative startups from all over the world work together and take part in customized expert workshops and training modules. The focus is also on individual support from numerous coaches, and access to a network of over 70 partners from business and science - including KIRCHHOFF Automotive.

"In today's world, the circular economy with the goal of conserving natural resources is becoming more and more important. The goal for Germany as a high-tech location must be to take a leading position in this. Circular Valley can play a significant role in bringing together the know-how of startups, science and industry to create circular economy technologies," says Prof. Christoph Wagener.

For more information, visit https://circular-valley.org/tender_batch3.


What E-Learning Has To Do With Digital Transformation

Everyone talks about it, everyone thinks the others are doing it, no one knows how to do it properly – in a webinar Lisa Kitterer, Vimala Pehnelt and Mary Sinischo reported on the introduction of an e-learning system at KIRCHHOFF Automotive.

The topic of digital learning is a long-term, strategically oriented topic at KIRCHHOFF Automotive. In an e-learning project, together with 17 Functional Leads and more than 150 authors the company has already been able to make more than 1,000 pieces of learning content available. And they are nowhere near the end of the project.

In the webinar, the global HR development department clarified how they dealt with challenges and what recommendations they give to other organizations to drive digital learning forward.

Lisa Kitterer, Global Director Employee Development, also reported that the backing of senior managers was always particularly important for the implementation of the project. She emphasized the value structure of a family-run company in which the further development of employees always has a special role.

Curious? Then watch the webinar here.


Workforce Development and Investing in the Latest Technology

A detailed article describing the situation (or measures) in our North American plants has been published in the current February issue of American magazine, MetalForming.

Recognized worldwide as a leader in providing stamped parts such as welded assemblies, cross car beams, bumper systems, and further metal and hybrid structures, our company is at the center of the evolutionary swirl encapsulating this rapidly evolving market. In doing so, we have tuned our senses to react to new challenges every day, such as electrification, light weighting, new steel and aluminum grades, reduced lot sizes, shortened lead times and, of course, workforce and supply-chain hiccups.

"We’re heavily invested in training our workforce and providing them with state-of-the-art stamping and welding technology," says Joshua Forquer, Executive Vice President of Sales and Technical Development at KIRCHHOFF Automotive in Troy, USA. He adds that this clears the path to continued success.

Joshua Forquer eyes servo-press technology as providing a sizable competitive advantage for the North American plants, particularly for forming advanced high-strength steels. The plant in Tecumseh, USA alone has 14 presses with press forces of 250 to 1,650 metric tons. Six of these have been newly commissioned since 2017. But it is not only technology that is important, but also employee job satisfaction. "We're committed to building trust and stronger relationships between management and the workers on the floor," adds Forquer, "which we believe will come with our growing commitment to training and investing in our employees." One key to this is the recent investment in a series of online training modules.

Employee development is also of central importance in the welding sector. Missy Smith, Plant Manager in Lansing, USA, works closely with union leadership on workforce development initiatives. For example, as a member of a committee, she has developed a training program together with the Michigan Department of Labor and Lansing Community College.

In order to exchange best practices worldwide, there is the global KIRCHHOFF Automotive best-practices database called GoBench. "We use this for cross-facility benchmarking – any competitive advantage or process development reside in this global database. These process enhancements then become available to anyone on our engineering team anywhere in the world. And, if our management team labels a process enhancement as a global standard, every facility must budget to implement that process to improve their performance," explains Joshua Forquer.

Read the full article in MetalForming magazine here.

Info: MetalForming Magazine

MetalForming is a monthly magazine with a circulation of over 53,000 copies, aimed at engineers, technicians, managers, designers and others working in facilities that add value to sheet metal. Readers are involved, for example, in the manufacture of fabricated metal products, automotive stampings, electric and electronic equipment, appliances and other similar products. MetalForming aims to provide them with tools they need to do their job better.

Source: www.metalformingmagazine.com/about-us/


Successful Support Program: From Homeless to Team Leader

Helping people overcome drug addiction and find a new start: our plant in Waverly, USA supports former drug addicts with special programs that help support them in making a new start in their careers.

Our colleague Ben Buck participated very successfully in such a program – today he leads the Honda Accord team in the plant and has been clean for almost seven years.

The story of Ben Buck sounds like a Hollywood drama with a happy ending. But, it really happened. It encourages others to make a fresh start. Ben participated in the Transitions Work Experience Program in Scioto County, Ohio. There is a similar program in Pike County, where our Waverly facility is also involved.

Poor decisions early in life sent Ben to prison for seven years, followed by homelessness and turning back to drug addiction. After a near fatal overdose, his kids became the reason Ben sought treatment and a fresh start. "I was living in the back of a Jeep Cherokee, filling out thousands of employment applications. I always answered truthfully when asked if I had ever been convicted of a felony," Ben said, even though he knew that it was likely the reason he would not be hired. He had quickly lost faith in the community, industry, and apparent programs that seem to offer support.

But Ben didn't give up. "In 2017, I came to KIRCHHOFF Automotive in Waverly as a temp. I was excited to be working a really decent job. I worked harder than anyone else. I was always honest with my supervisor and team lead. He was understanding and did not hold my past against me." Ben was then able to participate in the Transitions Work Experience Program, which is designed to help people transition out of drug addiction. "I was quickly offered a full-time position, and several years ago I was given the opportunity to step up and begin leading others." Today, Ben Buck leads the Honda Accord team in Waverly; they produce the cross car beam for this vehicle on a complex assembly cell.

In the past five years, Ben has lost over ten friends and relatives to drug addiction. "It tears your life apart. I feel very fortunate to have overcome this, and it has left me with a very strong belief that recovery and employment go hand-in-hand." He celebrated his birthday on January 13, which marks 82 months of being clean.

"We are so thankful for Ben and his passion and commitment, not only to the Waverly plant, but also to those coming from similar backgrounds," said Plant Manager Mel Fultz. "We remain committed and engaged to do as much as we can to help our community combat this plague."

Ben Buck is also grateful to our company and for participating in the Transitions Work Experience Program. "Tomorrow I could start working at another company in Waverly. But that company didn't save my life."

Further Information: Transitions Work Experience Program

The program in the Pike County region of Ohio, USA has been in place since 2019. It is designed to help those affected by substance abuse transition out of addiction and reorganize their work lives. Adult employees with technical work experience can acquire basic skills and learn professional etiquette in the form of internships. In May 2020, we established an internship site in Waverly for the program. A total of eleven interns participated last year. More than half of them were offered full-time employment and more than a third will continue to work full-time at our plant.


No One Will Be Lost

The President of the VDA (German Association of the Automotive Industry), Hildegard Müller, visited the Attendorn-based automotive supplier companies KIRCHHOFF Automotive, Mubea and the Automotice Center Südwestalen (acs) on January 18. The main topics of the talks were demography and shortage of skilled workers as well as current issues around material supply and raw material prices.

All those involved in the talks - including our shareholders Arndt G. Kirchhoff and J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff - agreed that domestic companies must make their employees fit for the transformation - no one will be lost. Another important topic of the talks was energy costs and, above all, energy volumes: Where is all the electricity supposed to come from, according to the political directive? Apart from the fact that we lack thousands of charging points for e-vehicles, where does the electricity from the gas pump come from?

In addition to KIRCHHOFF Automotive, Hildegard Müller visited the companies Mubea and acs. The acs is our partner in the research and development of innovative body structure parts. This collaboration has resulted, for example, in a hybrid instrument panel beam and a pre-galvanized crash management system with high deformation capacity, which we presented at the IAA Mobility in Munich.

Hildegard Müller succeeded Bernhard Mattes as VDA President on February 1, 2020.


Developed in Collaboration: Luxury E-Car for the Chinese Market

In recognition of our outstanding performance in developing a luxury electric car last year, our Chinese plants received a letter of thanks from Liao Zehua, Head of Supply Chain at Lixiang Auto.

Last year, KIRCHHOFF Automotive (KA) in China and vehicle manufacturer Lixiang Auto worked together to develop a luxury brand electric car. Together, the two companies were able to overcome all the challenges involved, successfully improving sales from 5,379 in January to 14,087 in December – nearly triple the increase! A single model of the EV brand was able to sell over 10,000 vehicles in November and December respectively. Our teams from Sales, Research & Development, Production, and Logistics have thus demonstrated that they deliver outstanding performance in the automotive industry.

Liao Zehua, Head of Supply Chain at Lixiang Auto, sent a thank you letter to Wen Leyendecker, Managing Director of KA China. In doing so, he showed his appreciation for our hard work and commitment. In the letter, he expresses his trust in and praise for KA China, and expresses his hopes for future development and cooperation.

"2022 will be a crucial year for Lixiang Auto and KIRCHHOFF Automotive in China to capture the huge electric car market. We will continue to work together to master a future full of challenges and opportunities!" said Liao Zehua.

Wen Leyendecker replied: "It is also a great honor for us to cooperate with such a fast-growing luxury electric vehicle brand like Lixiang Auto, and it will be our constant mission and responsibility to ensure product quality and continuous supply. In the new year, we will continue to leverage our strengths as an expert supplier of aluminum products to deliver innovative, safe, and lightweight products. We look forward to further success in our cooperation on new models!"


Setting a Sign for the Environment

In 2020, KIRCHHOFF Culture Life launched its tree planting campaign: 1,785 trees were to be planted at all KIRCHHOFF Group sites. Now, additional employees in Germany, Poland, Portugal, Hungary, and Italy have joined the initiative.

"It was a great campaign - sustainability for the whole family. We helped to give the barren landscape a new face again," says Peter Kampschulte, Plant Manager Forming in Attendorn, Germany. Around 30 employees planted 60 winter lime trees at the German sites on the first weekend in November.

“An amazing project! It’s great to see how many children are involved. Trees for the future, where children are our future. Projects like this can change the mindset of many people. I am proud to part of this KIRCHHOFF Culture Life project,“ says Giorgio Aschieri, Farid Ind./KIRCHHOFF Group, Vinovo, Italy.

“We love this idea to get employees and their families on board for an important project for our environment. It’s a great initiative and fun to be part of!“ say Géza Körtvélyessy and Szilárd Méri, Managing Directors at KIRCHHOFF Automotive in Esztergom, Hungary.

The activities were organized by our cultural representative, Thomas Kirchhoff: "It is a pleasure to see how many employees and their children support our initiative in such a great and enthusiastic way. In the end, we will have planted almost 100,000 trees for the future - a drop in the bucket, but a steady drop wears away the stone."

The number 1,785 stands for the founding year of the KIRCHHOFF Group. Together with local tree nurseries and forestry offices, employees and their family members can participate in the campaign. This way, we can set a global example on how to cherish our environment and the future of our children.