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.


For More Responsible Supply Chains

KIRCHHOFF Automotive is one of the 15 founding members of the association Responsible Supply Chain Initiative RSCI e.V. The aim of the association is to support all stakeholders in the automotive sector by establishing a high level of sustainability in supply chains.

The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) is working with manufacturers, suppliers, and other associations to develop a standardized test procedure for evaluating the sustainability performance of companies in automotive supply chains. Christian Arens, Key Account Manager in our Daimler team, was present at the founding meeting on October 28, 2021.

"Companies’ careful duty towards the environment and people has become a central issue in our industry in recent years. For some time already, we at KIRCHHOFF Automotive have been committed to the joint development of suitable instruments to promote sustainable corporate policy. By founding the association, we are underlining the relevance of the topic and have the opportunity to consolidate our activities in dialog with vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, and associations," says Christian Arens.

The association aims to review and further develop the sustainability of companies in their supply chains. It has developed a special program for on-site investigations and follow-up. With this program, the effort, costs, and eventually the results, can be shared. In order to create transparency about working conditions, tests are carried out directly at the production site. The program promotes supplier development and contributes to the further development and continuous improvement of sustainability.

"The standardized audit mechanism was developed in close cooperation with our customers. I am convinced that the path we have taken is target-oriented and accompanies the process in a meaningful way for all involved parties. The establishment of the association gives us the opportunity to apply the standard internationally as well," Christian Arens concluded.

The operational phase will start at the beginning of 2022, in which the founding members will carry out initial risk-based pilot audits.

Founding Members of the association RSCI e.V.:

  • Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW Group)
  • Brose Fahrzeugteile SE & Co. KG
  • Business Network for Corporate Responsibility AISBL
  • Daimler AG
  • Dr. Ing. h.c. Porsche AG
  • Ford-Werke GmbH
  • KIRCHHOFF Automotive GmbH
  • Magna International (Germany) GmbH
  • MAN Truck & Bus SE
  • Robert Bosch GmbH
  • Schaeffler AG
  • Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA) e.V.
  • Volkswagen AG

Please find attached a press release (English) by the VDA on the foundation of the association.


"The switch to digital must lead to improvement"

In some areas, such as digital audits and digital shop-floor management, digitalization has already brought us further. But it is not an end in itself. In this interview, Stefan Leitzgen, Managing Director and Global COO, talks about the challenges and potential of digitization.

What are the biggest challenges in digitization?

A major challenge is the valid assessment of the cost-benefit ratio. Many things are technically possible, but often bring only minor benefits. The permanent costs for hardware and software and the additional CO2 impact reach a relevant order of magnitude for many digital solutions when looked at closely. Added to this are questions of data security and protection against hacker attacks.

At the moment, our teams around the world are being sensitized to be careful on their PCs and not to download any malware that reaches us via fake e-mails. How should we imagine the threat in production?

Digital solutions within our own corporate network are well secured by our extensive cyber security measures. But every interface to the Internet is a potential source of danger.

In which areas do we see the greatest potential for digitization?

I see great potential in the analysis of machine and process data. With the help of machine data, we can identify at an early stage what we need to do to avoid malfunctions and how energy can be saved. Through the extensive analyses of process data, we can once again significantly improve the quality of our products.

Can you give a few examples where digitization has already helped us?

Among other things, we have introduced electronic signature, digital audit and digital store floor management. This saves us tons of paper every year. And we are making great progress in building our digital manufacturing platform. This will later network all the machines, equipment and transport systems in our factories.  

What are the next projects we will see in the company?

We are spending a lot of time and resources this year on building the digital manufacturing platform. In addition, we are working on the digitalization of our maintenance processes.

Thank you very much for the interview.

The interview was conducted by Andreas Heine, Global EVP Communication & Marketing.


Completely Rethinking the Security Architecture

German Chancellor Angela Merkel praises the strengths of the German automotive supplier industry during her visit to the KIRCHHOFF Automotive booth at the IAA Mobility in Munich.

Arndt G. Kirchhoff and J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff welcomed the German Chancellor, who was accompanied by Markus Söder (Prime Minister of Bavaria), Winfried Kretschmann (Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg), VDA President Hildegard Müller and Federal Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer, to find out about KIRCHHOFF Automotive's innovations.

The focus was on a crash management system specially designed for electric vehicles and a world first instrument panel beam in hybrid design. Both whose joints are produced substance-to-substance, in a form-fit and force-fit manner and thus prevent the formation of corrosion between the two materials steel and aluminum. "These are two examples of how we are combining vehicle safety and lightweight automotive construction," explained J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff.

The Chancellor was impressed: "That's very interesting, I hadn't thought that through at all. The entire security architecture has to be completely rethought. And these are the strengths of the German automotive supplier industry - that you are thinking all this through," she said. Arndt G. Kirchhoff said that caring for vehicle safety is the main concern of KIRCHHOFF Automotive: "The number of accidents on the roads is decreasing every year. That is our main task: to continue to make cars safe in the future." After 2007, 2013 and 2017, this was the fourth visit of the German Chancellor to a
KIRCHHOFF Automotive booth at the IAA.

Here you can see a video of the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the KIRCHOFF Automotive booth. You can display English subtitles using the icons in the lower right area of the video.


One of the highlights: German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel visits our stand

A short visit to KIRCHHOFF Automotive before her visit to the VW: Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel visits our stand one last time at the end of her term in office. After 2007, 2013 and 2017, this is now the fourth time that we have had the opportunity to personally present our innovations to the Chancellor.

A short visit to KIRCHHOFF Automotive before her visit to the VW: Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel visits our stand one last time at the end of her term in office. After 2007, 2013 and 2017, this is now the fourth time that we have had the opportunity to personally present our innovations to the Chancellor.

The focus of Merkel’s visit this time was on two innovations, including a world first. Angela Merkel was impressed by our developments, which are light, economical and crash-proof.

Arndt and Wolfgang Kirchhoff welcomed the Chancellor, who visited the KIRCHHOFF Automotive stand accompanied by Markus Söder (Bavarian Minister President), Hildegard Müller (VDA President), Andreas Scheuer (Federal Minister of Transport) and Winfried Kretschmann (Minister President of Baden Württemberg).


IAA here we come

Wondering why our global CTO Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch is particularly looking forward to the IAA this year and why he believes trade shows are important for us even in times of digitalization? An interview with his perspective, conducted by Global EVP Communication & Marketing Andreas Heine, can be found below.

Andreas Heine: There are only a few days left until the world's leading automotive trade show, the IAA, opens its doors again. But this year, a lot is different. Thorsten, we will no longer be exhibiting in Frankfurt, but in Munich, and the event’s name is also new, IAA Mobility. Does the new name bring anything new?

Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: Absolutely, Mobility stands for new mobility, and by that we mean everything that people use to move around and that moves people. At the trade show, this also means bicycles, for example.

Andreas Heine: Doesn't that weaken the IAA as the world's leading trade show for automobiles?

Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: Not at all. We want to show that we see ourselves as part of tomorrow's mobility and are not against new forms of mobility. Quite the opposite, in cities it makes sense in many situations to leave the car behind and ride a bike. But if you do need a car, it will be emissions-free in the future and contribute to cleaner air in the city. In the countryside, the car is still indispensable in most cases.

Andreas Heine: What does the new location entail?

Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: We will be exhibiting in really beautiful, new exhibition halls. The whole team is looking forward to it. This time there will be a colorful mix of manufacturers and suppliers who will no longer be separated. For example, VW will be exhibiting in Hall B2, as will a new Chinese car manufacturer. In addition, there are many places in the city where you can touch and test this new mobility - everything from e-vehicles to e-bikes and much more.

Andreas Heine: What will we be presenting?

Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: We will be showing our share of this new mobility as we are already supplying many parts in electric vehicles and more and more are coming. An example of that would be our battery housing for the large batteries in the Volkswagen Group's current e-models. We have commissioned a completely new laser welding system in Iserlohn specifically for this purpose. In addition, we will also present world’s firsts for future vehicles, including fully laser-welded bumpers made of galvanized steel.

Andreas Heine: Why is this trade show still so important for us, when today it is increasingly possible to exchange information digitally?

Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: That's true, but it doesn't replace personal contact. Our business is based on long-standing partnerships with manufacturers and their trust in our ability to develop the best parts for them and find the most optimal body-in-white solutions for their challenges. That is still done best by sitting down together and looking each other in the eye.

Andreas Heine: How can employees get an impression of the trade show?

Dr. Thorsten Gaitzsch: The trade show only lasts a week this year, which means that by Friday our booth will hopefully be full of customers. For the weekend, we will raffle tickets to our employees via K>NET; and for those who can’t travel all the way to Munich, we will offer a live stream through K>LIVE on Wednesday from 5 to 6 pm local time. There, you Andreas will show the booth and certainly also conduct interesting interviews around the IAA.

Andreas Heine: That's right, we will be sending out the access data to everyone. Thank you very much Thorsten for this insight into the IAA, and in one way or another we will all see each other there.


"A role model for many companies in our country"

On June 30, Arndt G. Kirchhoff, Dr. Johannes F. Kirchhoff and J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff were in-ducted into the "Hall of Fame of Family Businesses". The three partners of the KIRCHHOFF Group have been working together successfully and harmoniously for over three decades.

Stefan Heidbreder, Managing Director of the Stiftung Familienunternehmen (Family Business Foundation), praised this collaboration as, "a role model for many companies in our country."

Since 2009, the Hall of Fame of Family Businesses has inducted personalities from German family businesses who have accomplished outstanding achievements in their company and set an example for society. A jury consisting of representatives of the Handelsblatt (business newspaper), the auditing and consulting firm KPMG, and the Family Business Foundation, selects inductees.

The shareholders of the KIRCHHOFF Group were inducted into the Hall of Fame on the basis of their special achievements in corporate management and the successful influence of the family on the company. The honoring ceremony took place at the KIRCHHOFF Automotive information center in Iserlohn/Germany. Anja Müller, editor of the Handelsblatt newspaper, presented the honorees with porcelain chest from the Nymphenburg manufacturer in Munich, which featured a map of Germany and the company's location on it, with the words "Welcome to the Hall of Fame of family businesses."

J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff explained that the award was also due to the employees. "We accept this award with great humility and are of course very happy about it. However, at the same time, we would like the award to be attributed to our many employees and our entire team. Because it is not just us who have brought together this success to date. Many thanks."

In addition to Arndt G. Kirchhoff, Dr. Johannes F. Kirchhoff and J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff, Prof. Dr. Reinhold and Bettina Würth of the WÜRTH Group and Alfred Ritter of Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG., were inducted into the Hall of Fame of family businesses.

Here you can watch the event from June 30, 2021 (in German).

Info: The "Hall of Fame of Family Businesses" inducts personalities from German family businesses who have attained outstanding achievements in their company and are social role models. In addition to the successful management of the company, the jury also evaluates the performance of the family: if it has a significant and successful influence on the strategy of the company as the main shareholder. Other criteria include the long-term safeguarding and creation of jobs through innovation and outstanding productivity, environmentally friendly business practices, and social and cultural commitment. This award was created by the editorial team of the Handelsblatt newspaper together with the Stiftung Familienunternehmen foundation (Family Business Foundation), whose managing director Stefan Heidbreder, is represented on the jury.

The award was held for the first time in 2009.

Source: Handelsblatt


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!