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As part of my Master’s degree programme in ‘Chemical Engineering and Process Engineering’ at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), I am required to take part in a work placement and, since I already knew that I wanted to specialise in the area of particle and filter technology, it didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted to apply to MANN+HUMMEL.
A MASTER’S THESIS WITH PRACTICAL RELEVANCE
I began my placement in the liquid filter test facility in April 2018, where I then spent the following six months working with mobile particle filters. I enjoyed the placement very much; so much so that I soon decided that I would also like to write my master’s thesis at the company. However, I was interested in getting to know another area when doing so, so I decided to focus on the subject of air filters/aerosol technology and applied to the ‘Fine Dust Eater’ team for my master’s thesis.
Even during my placement, everyone was already talking about the innovative ‘Fine Dust Eater’ project, focussing on the topic of air pollution, which has been the subject of much attention recently. As a result, I had already been carefully following the progress of the project, which made it all the more pleasing when I was accepted. From the academic side, I had Prof. Achim Dittler, who leads the ‘Gas particle systems’ working group at the Institute for Mechanical Process Engineering and Mechanics at KIT, as my supervisor to provide scientific support for my thesis.
CONTRIBUTION TO A PRODUCT INNOVATION
Since November 2018, I have been writing my master’s thesis on the efficacy of the stationary filter columns at Stuttgart’s Neckartor and in Ludwigsburg’s Bleyle quarter in filtering fine dust from the ambient air. The examination of the columns’ efficacy primarily consisted of measuring the concentration of fine dust directly at the site using mobile measurement technology. In comparison to measurements taken in consistent laboratory conditions, measuring fine dust in outdoor areas poses some entirely new challenges. For instance, there are numerous environmental influences at the site, most of which are impossible to predict and affect the measurements taken; for example, smokers walking past or sudden changes in the weather conditions. The majority of the on-site measurements were taken on ‘Feinstaubalarm’ (fine dust alarm) days when the particulate concentration was extremely high.
These are days on which Stuttgart’s citizens are asked to limit their car use in order to reduce air pollution. Since not every day has extremely high concentrations of fine dust, we needed to make use of these days by taking measurements all day, whereby it was, of course, irrelevant whether the temperature was just over 0°C or a mild 10°C. On top of this, a certain sense of responsibility and special care are, of course, also required for a master’s thesis on a topic like this which is currently the subject of so much public debate and controversy. This is because there is interest in the measurement results both from within the company and from the public at large. Ultimately, however, the work has paid off, with initial results showing that the filter columns are having a positive effect.
A TEAM WITH A STARTUP FEEL
It wasn’t just the tasks that I was able to take on that were exciting, however, it was also a special experience for me to work in a project team with members from a range of disciplines. This gave me
an interesting insight into areas beyond my specialism, which provided a contrast to my previous experiences in specialist teams with a conventional structure. Furthermore, when developing innovative product ideas, speed and close communication are usually required, which calls for alternative ways of working. This meant I was able to learn new agile working methods such as SCRUM, a procedure model for project management, which facilitates fast and efficient product development.
In any case, I am very happy to have been able to contribute to the development of an innovative product with my master’s thesis, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to gain experience in an agile and constantly expanding environment.
My personal journey with Microdyn-Nadir began almost 15 years ago, long before the company became part of the MANN+HUMMEL group. MANN+HUMMEL took over the company – a technological leader in the manufacturing of membranes and modules for micro-, ultra- and nanofiltration as well as reverse osmosis – just at the beginning of 2015. Back in 2006, the Wiesbaden-based company was a small but high-quality manufacturer that was still producing many of its products in manual lines. However, continuous expansion meant that the company had to start thinking more in terms of automated production processes, which required the appropriate investments to be made. A colleague from university made contact with the company and so I provided support over the weeks that followed, acting as an external advisor. My first task back then was to prepare precise specifications. They were to cover all parameters required for setting up the automated production lines that were needed. This was followed by a series of further assignments, and I never lost contact with the company, meaning I was able to witness the positive developments at Microdyn-Nadir from up close.
Of course, university professors are, first and foremost, university professors. We teach our students and pass on the knowledge they need for their subsequent professional career. For us here at the University of Applied Sciences Bingen, however, this also means placing particular emphasis on the application side of science. Theoretical knowledge is an good basis for professional success, but this should always be complemented through its practical application. With this in mind, we require our students to complete practical projects, which are often run at various companies in the area. We also like to collaborate with companies for bachelor’s and master’s theses, and they provide the students with assignments and support.
From master’s thesis to the world of work
What I have in mind is a perfect example involving Microdyn-Nadir which began in 2014, when we were discussing the situation at the Singapore location, which had been taken over in 2011. Evidently, the conditions on site were not quite what those in Wiesbaden had imagined. We were discussing the possibility to send me to Singapore for a few days in order to get a quick overview of the situation on site. I felt the proposed time period was too short, but I had an idea: at the time I was tutoring a very promising student who was still looking for a subject for his master’s thesis. Seeing an opportunity, I suggested that he could write it at Microdyn-Nadir by taking a closer look at the production processes at the new location.
And that’s exactly what happened: Alexander Ubl spent six months at Microdyn-Nadir, with four months in Singapore, writing his master’s thesis during that time. His work there not only involved examining the status quo but also optimising production processes and compiling a comprehensive compendium with specific recommendations for action. It is therefore no great surprise that he ended up staying at Microdyn-Nadir. He is currently lending his expertise to the Incube programme in Silicon Valley.
Back then there was still a little persuading to do for this kind of collaboration. Today, students from the fields of mechanical engineering and industrial engineering also have outstanding job prospects. The reason for this is the much-cited skills shortage. For the companies, this means that they need to start looking for talent as early as possible in order to avoid getting left behind. For this reason, companies are increasingly approaching universities in order to gain more direct access to promising candidates. At the universities however, more and more opportunities have been created to bring companies and students together. This is, of course, also the case for us here in Bingen, although we may have slightly different priorities.
Often, HR representatives are sent to universities to speak to the students. As a technical university, we like to invite those who work in the field an who can share their experience. As an example for my field of work, I could mention our industry seminar, which we launched back in the summer semester of 1996. The guiding principle remains the same today as it was back then, namely ‘integrating industry into teaching’. The seminar complements the range of courses on offer for the degree programmes in mechanical engineering and industrial engineering with practical contributions from industry.
The seminar topics deal with industrial developments, processes and products but also job characteristics and operational procedures from the various fields of work related to mechanical engineering and industrial engineering. In the seminar, we touch on all fields from construction to production, sales to marketing, right through to continuous improvement process (CIP), controlling, implementing an IT environment (CAD, FEM, ERP) and project management. This gives the students a great opportunity to get in touch with people on a professional basis with their different personal profiles and presentation styles. The seminar has thus become a forum for technical discussion, which gives the students valuable professional guidance, and gives companies the opportunity to present themselves in-depth from a practical perspective.
Of course we have had representatives of Microdyn-Nadir as guests. Gabriel Cil recently gave a presentation on the subject ‘Investment controlling using the MANN+HUMMEL group as an example’ alongside his colleague Stefan Knippelmeyer. And that’s not all: they also brought facts and figures with them, which the students in attendance could use to calculate costs whether an investment was worth it or not from a practical perspective. Naturally, this was well received by the attendees. And, I’m sure that many contacts were also made, which should help our students to find a job they find genuinely interesting and Microdyn-Nadir to unearth some real talent.
Anyone who has read one or the other of my blog articles in the past will know that I have spent a large part of my time at MANN+HUMMEL overseas. One thing I almost never managed to do, however, is to go and visit the tourist sights after finishing work for the day. Of course, now and again, there would have been time to do so, but most days were simply too stressful or exhausting for me to want to go out again in the evening. I do have holidays too, which I always use to travel and to explore the world. I began doing this when I was still working and have put even more energy into this passion since taking retirement. One of my first trips took me to South Africa, where I was soon reminded of MANN+HUMMEL.
Outstanding views from the cable car
Many people claim that the area around Cape Town and Table Mountain is the most beautiful corner of the world. And, with the wonderful hospitality of the South Africans and the mostly superb weather, it really is lovely there. Table Mountain is Cape Town’s iconic landmark, towering to a height of 1085 m and providing a home for more than 1470 different plant varieties. The king protea – South Africa’s national flower – can also be found there. A trip to Table Mountain is, of course, a must for anyone visiting Cape Town. It almost goes without saying that visitors will enjoy some spectacular views from up there.
The walk to the top takes almost two hours. When I visited just before the turn of the millennium, the new cable car was already running, making the climb to the top much more pleasant. The cable car consists of two round gondolas working in tandem, each carrying 65 people. In order to prevent the gondolas swinging in strong winds, 4000 litres of water were loaded as ballast. The real novelty, and a genuine thrill for all the visitors, was that the gondola rotated 360 degrees during the trip, which allowed everyone to take photos and enjoy the unforgettable view. This is still the case today.
What happens if the power fails?
When you are waiting at the valley station and see how steep the cable car’s ascent you are bound to ask yourself what will happen if the power fails, which was and still is a genuine possibility from time to time in South Africa. There’s no cause for concern, however, as precautions have been taken for just this eventuality: namely, an emergency generator at the valley station. This ensures that the gondolas arrive safely at whichever station they are travelling to. The emergency generator is supplied with 141 kW of power by a Deutz engine, the BFG6M 1013.
This engine is also equipped with a MANN Piclon air filter – made from sheet metal – on the inlet side, as I was delighted to discover during my visit. A large dust separation valve and a rain cap complete the equipment. You may well wonder what the reason is for including a rain cap in this application. Well, it is actually intended to prevent moisture or coarse particles from getting into the filter when air is taken in. This helps to protect the main element and extend maintenance intervals. That said, the engine is located in an enclosed space where moisture and severe dust conditions are not an issue. So, what caused the operators to fit the filter with a rain cap? I wasn’t able to find out the reason – perhaps it was simply a question of design.
MANN FILTERS ensure safety
The emergency generator with the MANN FILTER is located right at the exit from the valley station behind a glass partition, which means that 750,000 people walk past it each year. I wonder how many of these people notice that there is a MANN FILTER built in? I, for one, noticed and this reassured me that MANN+HUMMEL has a worldwide presence when it comes to intake air filters – even at the southernmost tip of Africa.
In any case, the system gives an excellent overall impression. It would be nice to see a new, more conspicuous type plate on the filter, in order to give us a bit more prominence but what was it we used to say in the company? “Our filters can be any colour, as long as they are black.” Nonetheless, I was delighted to see a product from ‘my’ company in such an exposed location and I hope that anyone who has the opportunity will get to visit this most beautiful corner of the world.
The Open Innovation Challenge entered the fourth round in 2018 with an exciting topic: Additive Manufacturing – Disruptive Advantage – ready to print?!
The spotlight was squarely on 3D printing – a trending and forward-looking topic that has evolved enormously over the last few years and caused a great deal of hype. But 3D printing technology is nothing new. Our prototyping team has been dealing with the topic for 20 years now – way back in 1999, the first 3D printer was commissioned at MANN+HUMMEL and is still running on potato starch.
With this wealth of experience, the prototyping team advised us throughout the challenge and we were of course very excited about what innovative ideas the participants would pull out of their hats this time. The stars of the show were two raw material manufacturers, who excelled in various categories:
The award for the category ‘Best Support’ was won by DuPont, who – with their extraordinary Hytrel® – supply one of the first materials used to manufacture and install a component directly additively, and not indirectly using the pressure of a tool. DuPont will work together with our prototyping department on the additive manufacture of bellows.
The Innovation Award in the category ‘Best diversity and overall competency’ went to ThyssenKrupp, with whom we will soon be tackling several topics.
We are currently attempting to print segments of tool inserts such that individual parts can be manufactured additively and the remaining insert can be manufactured mechanically, which would save time and money for production.
We are also delving into the topic of ‘end-of-life’ management together, i.e. the issue of how to manufacture replacement parts, for example, if the shaping tool is no longer available because the series has been discontinued. In this case, too, 3D printing is a revolutionary alternative that brings with it many advantages.
With these approaches, we can make the manufacturing process even faster and more agile and draw mutual benefit from our experiences. Jürgen Jenner, Head of Prototyping, is also pleased with the cooperation: “I am very excited about where we will end up after researching together for half or three-quarters of a year. That is what is really interesting, and ThyssenKrupp and DuPont are the perfect partners for us in this.”
We are eager to know the results of exploring new avenues together in the field of 3D printing technology and we are in absolute agreement: the Open Innovation Challenge proved itself a success once again!
A startup mentality in a traditional, medium-sized company? No, I couldn’t picture it myself at first either. That was until I joined MANN+HUMMEL as a student trainee around six months ago, as part of my mechatronics studies at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences. To be precise, I was part of the ‘Fine Dust Eater’ team. The Fine Dust Eater is a MANN+HUMMEL technology platform, which aims to develop filtration solutions for keeping the air clean in urban areas. The main focus is currently on reducing traffic emissions using mobile filters and improving air quality at particulate hotspots, such as railway stations, bus stops and junctions, through the use of stationary filter columns (Filter Cubes).
The Neckartor Project
On my first day at work, I was greeted by a young and dynamic team that works together in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Once installed in the team, I was lucky enough to be able to start work immediately on an exciting live project – the plan was to install 17 Filter Cubes at Neckartor in Stuttgart, one of Germany’s worst affected locations in terms of particulates. The filters have now been operational since the end of 2018 and are not only capable of filtering particulates but will soon also be able to filter nitrogen oxide (NO2) from the air. Today, I would like to take a quick look behind the scenes and show just how much work goes into a project of this scale.
The Electronics/IoT team was made up by me and two other colleagues and we were responsible for measurement, electronics and development. Specifically, this meant that we were responsible for setting up the control box and developing the software, as well as installing the columns’ electronics and cabling. We were also tasked with commissioning the columns in test mode, in order to check their functionality, and with resolving any initial errors that arose. This in particular led to some overtime here or there. The filter columns themselves were initially built at MANN+HUMMEL and were then delivered to Neckartor. After that, it was just a question of setting them up at Neckartor and connecting them to the power grid. I was involved at every stage of the implementation process, from development to testing, right through to on-site commissioning. As a result, my working day was always extremely varied as we made preparations and carried out programming in the office, but there was also plenty of technical work to be done on the columns themselves.
Not without ist challenges
Of course, I was also faced with plenty of challenges, some of which turned out to be downright stressful on occasion. One pertinent example of this was having to carry out on-site commissioning in all kinds of adverse weather. For me, this meant wrapping up warm and driving to Neckartor with my laptop on more than one occasion, to ensure that commissioning ran smoothly. The time pressure was another stress factor which had a real impact on some days. However, when I look back on the promising results of the initial measurements, I must say that the hard work was all worth it and that simply having the chance to work on programming and controlling the Filter Cubes was always a lot of fun.
One thing that struck me as being particularly positive was the large amount of responsibility you are given as a student trainee at MANN+HUMMEL. This meant I was able to complete certain tasks and get involved in the organisation on my own. For example, I took on various independent software tasks and built a couple of the filter columns together with other MANN+HUMMEL employees, as well as checking the cabling.
And so it continues
Although my work on the Neckartor project is now complete, I’m happy to say that my time with the Fine Dust Eater team is far from over: I’ll be remaining with the team and will shortly start work on my bachelor’s thesis looking at the development of a mobile IoT analyser unit. Even though this means I’ll be able to stay on at MANN+HUMMEL for another six months, I’ve already learnt so much from my time here. There is a real emphasis on teamwork in the Fine Dust Eater team, and you develop a kind of startup mentality, which gives you a lot of freedom. I can’t wait to get started on the rest of my time here!
First-hand professional experience and real-world applications are things you don’t often find in the classroom. That is why, as a semi-recent graduate from the University of Wyoming’s MBA exchange program, I was thrilled to return to my alma mater and share my experiences and insights with implementing agile methodologies within MANN+HUMMEL’s new digital business unit.
Every year, for one week, the University of Wyoming (UW) makes the voyage across the continental United States to Germany as a part of their international exposure experience. During this time, the students have the opportunity to meet and interact with several German companies. This is made possible through an exchange program with Hochschule Pforzheim. During this most recent trip it was my privilege to lead the university’s visit with an Agile workshop at MANN+HUMMEL headquarters in Ludwigsburg, Germany.
How it all began: Introduction to MANN+HUMMEL through Design Thinking workshop
In 2008 I graduated from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s degree in Management and a minor in entrepreneurship, and eventually found myself working in the oil and gas industry.
During one of my rotations off, I visited my undergraduate university and had a chance to speak to Steve Farkas, the Director of the MBA program at the University of Wyoming. During his time as Director, Steve had initiated an exchange program with Hochschule Pforzheim and was looking for students to join the program. We spoke about the program and I expressed interest in exploring the opportunity. Three months later, I was attending my first semester at UW’s MBA program.
The first year of my MBA in Wyoming was focused on business interaction and networking. Steve is an accomplished networker and believes that exposure is the best way to garner the skills and mindsets that MBA candidates need to succeed in the real world. The MBA program embodies this belief by giving students the opportunity to interact with executives from various companies every week in a Friday Speaker series.
In the third semester, I transferred to Germany to attend Hochschule Pforzheim. During my time there, I attended the Design Thinking Workshop organized by MANN+HUMMEL. I found the presentations on potential IoT-based, digital solutions both inspiring and fascinating. So much so, that I took an internship opportunity with MANN+HUMMEL to write my master’s thesis regarding the Monetization of IoT and Digital Goods at the North Carolina Innovation Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was from this interaction that I learned of the Senzit program and eventually gained the opportunity to take on the Product Owner role.
Real World Applications: Agile at MANN+HUMMEL
With the recent push for MANN+HUMMEL to start utilizing agile frameworks and methodologies, the Senzit program has taken up the challenge and started to work in an agile framework known as scrum. Scum emphasizes teamwork, accountability and iterative progress toward a well-defined goal. The framework begins with a simple premise: Start with what can be seen or known. After that, track the progress and tweak as necessary. This framework, while although new to MANN+HUMMEL, was designed and developed for software. Agile works exceptionally well for software development as it encourages rapid iterations and smaller releases, however, agile’s true strength is its customer focus. This focus fits well with MANN+HUMMEL’s dedication to “customer obsession”. The customer is at the center of the development cycle, and the Product Owner’s (PO) job is to represent the “Voice of the Customer” (VoC) in the development cycle.
The only downside, until joining MANN+HUMMEL and the Senzit team, I had never not heard of agile or scrum. In my mind, project management and the waterfall were the industry standards and the only way for teams work.
While the learning curve was steep, the advantages of agile were immediate and a clear, sustainable solution for product development. As I progressed with my role, and MANN+HUMMEL progressed in its push for agile, I found that there were others within the organization that were looking to pick up the agile mindset and turn from Project Managers into Product Owners.
Better Together: Agile Workshop and Wyoming Week
After experiencing, first-hand, the benefits of scrum, MANN+HUMMEL’s drive towards digital transformation, and UW’s dedication to graduate emersion programs it was only natural to bring everyone together to discover the world of agile. A workshop of this nature would give students a brief introduction into the agile mindset, and, at the same time help MANN+HUMMEl’s new product owners succeed in their roles.
The workshop would also provide an environment for PO’s to refine their skill sets and, more importantly, practice being the voice of the customer. With the help of the student’s, POs could practice forming and interacting with a customer advisory board, and the students could represent a real-life focus group for upcoming products.
After receiving support from Chris Sturgess and Andreas Lawrenz, and many months of planning, on November 13th 2018 our first Agile Workshop with an academic institution took place. This event furthered the University of Wyoming’s target of bridging the gap between the classroom and the corporate world, enabling students to experience a real-world application of a methodology being adopted by businesses around the world. In the end, whether you were a MANN+HUMMEL product owner or an impending graduate, understanding the agile framework and learning how to build a scrum team is an invaluable skill set each participant will utilize for years to come.
My name is Jesús Alonso and I am the director of human resources at the only factory operated by MANN+HUMMEL in Spain, located in Zaragoza, in Aragon. Our factory was founded 54 years ago and currently employs more than 800 workers. We are very proud of our long history as a solvent company which, from the beginning, has been committed to corporate social responsibility and its impact on workers, their families and the autonomous community of Aragon. Several years ago, the Instituto Aragonés de Fomento (Aragonese Institute for Development), acting on behalf of the Government of Aragon, launched a campaign to promote social responsibility among Aragonese companies, creating the CSR Seal. Companies may be awarded this seal after completing a comprehensive questionnaire on strategies and subjects related to the social responsibility of a company. It covers aspects such as commitment to workers, social impact, working environment, innovation, the sustainable development goals set out by the UN and the articles of association. This questionnaire is evaluated by a committee, and, if approved, the company is awarded the CSR Seal, which is conferred at an annual ceremony. MANN+HUMMEL IBÉRICA was awarded the CSR Seal in the first year of its existence.
Awarding of the CSR+ Seal
The Government of Aragon decided to take a second step in promoting corporate social responsibility by creating the CSR+ Seal. For this award, it was not enough to simply fill in a questionnaire; instead, companies seeking to obtain the CSR+ Seal have to demonstrate compliance with the requirements in at least two of the four categories that are evaluated. These categories are equality, corporate volunteering, work-life balance and promotion of Aragonese culture. At MANN+HUMMEL IBERICA, we had been working in these areas long before the Government of Aragon proposed this seal.
Our team of corporate volunteers comprises 40 employees who spend a lot of their free time organising and participating in activities with associations, foundations and non-profits (food banks, replanting trees in deforested areas, projects with marginalised groups, collection points for gifts, etc.).
We have also worked for years in the area of equality, which is why we applied for the CSR+ Seal based on our activities in these two categories. After we had submitted our application, the Government of Aragon granted us the CSR+ Seal based on our intense efforts in the categories of equality and corporate volunteering.
The importance of social responsibility
The human resources team was involved in obtaining the CSR+ Seal from the beginning. I personally completed the questionnaires, and our department coordinates the company’s activities and strategies on social responsibility. It was a great honour for us to attend the awards ceremony in December 2018. The awarding of the CSR+ Seal is a recognition of the work we have been doing for so many years. Personally, I am also very proud to work for a company like MANN+HUMMEL IBERICA that firmly believes in corporate social responsibility. We are one of the few companies that publish a report on corporate social responsibility specifying all strategies, activities and initiatives that we carry out. It is an indication of how important it is for us to give so much time, effort and resources to conducting such activities.
A look to the future
The CSR+ Seal encourages us to continue working on corporate social responsibility. Our employees take pride in this distinction, and it has made us a very attractive company for future talents, since young people place great importance on commitment to the environment, social responsibility and a commitment to workers. The CSR+ Seal also places us in good standing with public authorities. MANN+HUMMEL IBERICA is a company that has committed and will continue to commit itself to social responsibility as one of the key priorities in its corporate Management.
Mi nombre es Jesús Alonso y soy el director de Recursos Humanos de la única fábrica de MANN+HUMMEL en España, situada en Zaragoza, Comunidad Autónoma de Aragón. Nuestra fábrica se creó hace ya 54 años, y cuenta en la actualidad con más de 800 trabajadores. Estamos muy orgullosos de nuestra larga historia como empresa solvente que, desde el principio, ha estado muy comprometida con la Responsabilidad Social Corporativa y con su impacto sobre los trabajadores, sus familias y la Comunidad Autónoma de Aragón. Cuando hace algunos años el Gobierno de Aragón, a través del Instituto Aragonés de Fomento, inició una campaña para promover la responsabilidad social entre las empresas del tejido aragonés, creó el sello RSA. Las empresas podían obtener este sello completando un exhaustivo cuestionario en el que se reunían estrategias y temas vinculados con la responsabilidad social de la empresa. Abarcaba aspectos como la atención a los trabajadores, el impacto social, el medioambiente, la innovación, los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible dictados por la ONU, o el Pacto Social. Este cuestionario era evaluado por una comisión y, si se superaba, se concedía el Sello RSA, que se entrega en una ceremonia anual. MANN+HUMMEL IBÉRICA consiguió el Sello RSA el primer año que se convocó.
La concesión del Sello RSA+
El Gobierno de Aragón decidió dar un segundo paso para promover la Responsabilidad Social Corporativa y creó el Sello RSA+. En esta ocasión, no era suficiente con rellenar un cuestionario: se estipuló que las empresas que desearan obtener el Sello RSA+ debían acreditar el cumplimiento de los requisitos en al menos dos de las cuatro categorías que se valoraban. Estas categorías eran Igualdad, Voluntariado Corporativo, Conciliación de la Vida Laboral y Familiar, y Difusión de la Cultura Aragonesa. Desde MANN+HUMMEL IBÉRICA llevábamos trabajando en estos ámbitos desde mucho antes de que el Gobierno de Aragón propusiera este sello.
Nuestro equipo de voluntariado corporativo cuenta con unos 40 trabajadores que dedican parte de su tiempo libre a organizar y participar en actividades con asociaciones, fundaciones y causas sin ánimo de lucro (Banco de Alimentos, repoblación de árboles en zonas desforestadas, colaboraciones con colectivos en riesgo de exclusión, recogidas solidarias, etcétera).
También llevamos años trabajando en pro de la igualdad, por lo que solicitamos el Sello RSA+ presentándonos a estas dos categorías. Finalmente, el gobierno de Aragón decidió concedernos el Sello RSA+ por haber trabajado de manera intensa en las categorías de Igualdad y Voluntariado Corporativo.
La importancia de la responsabilidad social
El equipo de Recursos Humanos estuvo involucrado en la concesión del Sello RSA+ desde el principio. Yo personalmente rellené los cuestionarios, y es nuestro departamento el que coordina las actividades y estrategias sobre responsabilidad social de la empresa. Para nosotros fue un gran orgullo asistir a la ceremonia de entrega de los premios en diciembre de 2018. La concesión del Sello RSA+ ha supuesto un reconocimiento al trabajo que hemos realizado durante tantos años. En lo personal, también supone un gran orgullo pertenecer a una empresa como MANN+HUMMEL IBÉRICA que apuesta firmemente por la Responsabilidad Social Corporativa. Somos de las pocas empresas que publican una Memoria de Responsabilidad Social Corporativa en la que se especifican todas las estrategias, actividades e iniciativas que llevamos a cabo. Es un significativo indicador de la importancia que tiene para nosotros destinar esfuerzo, tiempo y recursos a este tipo de actividades.
Una mirada hacia el futuro
El Sello RSA+ nos anima a seguir apostando por la Responsabilidad Social Corporativa. Este reconocimiento ha supuesto un gran orgullo para nuestros empleados, y nos convierte en una empresa muy atractiva para atraer futuros talentos, pues los jóvenes valoran de forma muy positiva el compromiso con el medio ambiente, la responsabilidad social y la atención a los trabajadores. La concesión del Sello RSA+ también nos posiciona muy bien ante las administraciones públicas. MANN+HUMMEL IBÉRICA es una compañía que ha apostado, apuesta y apostará por la responsabilidad social como uno de los ejes principales en su gestión empresarial.
This time last year, I was working in the hectic start-up environment of Silicon Valley. As part of MANN+HUMMEL’s InCube innovation program, we had just six months to get a new product idea up and running – quite a challenge but one we were all up for. Together with four other MANN+HUMMEL colleagues from around the world, I developed qlair, an innovative, data-driven application which actively improves air quality within buildings.
I’m now back in Germany and qlair is thriving. In such a short space of time, the qlair team has brought a working prototype to market and negotiated pilot tests with key clients around the world. However, our success has come after making some very difficult decisions. When our six-month Silicon Valley phase was at an end, we had to plan for the next stage. With the team separating and going back to our home countries, the first challenge was deciding on a base to continue our work.
Getting the right balance to move forward
Deciding on a location was a difficult decision – but one that we all understood had to be taken. It was obvious that working out of four offices (two in Germany, one in the USA and one in South Korea) was not going to work. We decided that qlair would have a main base in Raleigh, North Carolina with Ellie (who had originally come from the Raleigh office) and Marcel, who had the flexibility of not returning to Germany and remained in the USA. I returned to Germany and worked full time for qlair focusing on the European market. Carlo and Minsik stopped working for qlair and took other new positions inside MANN+HUMMEL. So we had to adjust to several changes at once: reducing the team size from five to three, and not being able to work out of the same location any more.
Partially reintegrating into the corporate world
The next part of the project had a different feel to it. After being out on our own in Silicon Valley, we were now based in MANN+HUMMEL offices so the ‘corporate mindset’ was starting to creep back – expectations were different with a focus on defining objectives, reporting progress and achieving key results. This is, of course, in no way a negative but just needed some adjustment for me and my colleagues in the USA. After all, we had worked and lived together so intensely, we knew each other really well on both a professional and personal level. We knew how the others would react to situations and recognized each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Another challenge was moving from being in the same location and having personal face-to-face contact every day to now working together much more independently and remotely. Even the time difference became a barrier, as it was simply not possible to have all strategic and management meetings together anymore.
The challenge of a new market
Selling qlair to a European audience was also proving to be a challenge. qlair relies on data collection and analytics to predict air quality in rooms and areas within a building. However, it soon became clear that potential European clients had a different perception of data protection and data security. They raised many very detailed concerns around data collection, data ownership and cloud storage, probably as a result of the introduction of GDPR regulations in the EU.
After investigating the market for a couple of months, we concluded Europe was not a suitable fit for qlair and there were much greater differences to the US than anticipated. We could not incorporate all customer requirements and the US showed a better product-market-fit for the time being. We took another hard decision – to concentrate on the American market and only work reactively with customer opportunities in Europe, the consequence of which led to yet another decision: for me personally to step out of qlair.
Some may call this a failure. However, I don’t see it as that. The qlair team have learned a lot about the expectations of the European market and we can use this knowledge to develop the product further. Plus, by knowing that the European market is not for us at the moment, we can now focus on other opportunities in the US market. We have been training up the Tri-Dim sales force to help promote the product and find new clients. For the first time, qlair exhibited at both the CES in Las Vegas and AHR in Atlanta. Just to underline the importance and opportunities in the American market, qlair was also chosen as a CES Innovation Award honoree.
A proud achievement
Personally, I still support the team part-time with the residual customer activities in Europe and some marketing and overall strategic issues. qlair has been an unforgettable experience and I’m excited for its future and what the growing US team will be able to achieve.