Describe your career at Weber.
My first job at Weber was as an intern in the Quality Management and Weber Production System (WPS) departments. After my internship, I wrote my diploma thesis in the WPS area, focusing on the introduction of Kanban systems.
After that, I had the opportunity to work as a quality planner for Weber. In that role I supervised demanding projects for, among others, several kinematics assemblies of the BMW 5 series for the series-production site that later opened in Poland. I also supervised international, English-language projects, including one on instrument clusters (speedometer displays) for a French OEM. During this time I gained extensive technological, process-related and organisational experience in the project and production environment, and made multiple visits to customers and suppliers. In addition to our original production skills, such as plastic injection moulding, assembly, welding, embossing and printing, I got to know other technologies, such as those used in our painting plant at our site in Poland, and our suppliers' chrome-plating processes.
After about 3 years I took over as Quality Planning Team Leader. I thus had leadership responsibility and was responsible with my team for the quality side of project business, for inspection equipment monitoring, organisation of damaged part appraisal and warranty scope. The work also included supervising various customer, supplier and certification audits.
About 2 years later I also became Head of Quality Management. During this period, I also took on contract reviews and negotiations with customers, internal reporting to management and the cross-location standardisation of QM business processes. Subsequently, I made the decision to participate in developing Weber’s entrepreneurial activities in China.
How were you prepared for your stay and your work in China?
There was intercultural training and the option of language lessons. Speaking with colleagues who had been working in China for a long time also helped.
What was your work like over in China?
At that time, Weber had been assigned the task of planning and localising newly acquired kinematics assembly projects. A new plant was also built, and later expanded. We also had to build up a highly localised production site which, in addition to series production, could provide design services and project management.
HR processes, accounting, logistics, purchasing and supplier processes also had to be set up.
Initially, one of my main tasks was to coordinate the transfer of knowledge across all divisions in the plant and to ensure appropriate integration into the Weber Group. My tasks also included supporting the greenfield plant construction, supervising on site capacity, investment and personnel planning, and preparing the site for certification and customer audits. Furthermore, the plant had to be made ready for production, and we had to begin series production. At that time, I was commuting between Europe and China.
Later, I was employed locally in Suzhou for one and a half years and supervised the incorporation of our general manager there, the selection of personnel, the development and consolidation of processes in series production, shop-floor management, developing the KPI system, reporting to the management, monitoring the readiness of local new projects, supplier selection and qualification programmes. I also worked on many special projects throughout this time.
How do you rate your time abroad in retrospect?
Personally and professionally it was a very enriching experience, one I wouldn’t want to do without. I also got a lot better at eating with chopsticks!
How is it being in Germany now?
Since my return from China, I have assumed the role of Organisation Developer for the Weber Group. In this role I coordinate and supervise process managers across all sites in the design of their business processes. I also supervise strategic projects and tasks.
Are there any experiences that you can now incorporate into your day-to-day work?
Due to the global and cross-departmental orientation of my current role, I can incorporate experiences from all stages of my career to date. In my current role it is also very helpful to have built up a broad network within the corporate group.
What would you like to achieve in the future in and with the company?
In my role as Organisation Developer, I would like to do things such as lay the groundwork for making the future expansion of new business locations more efficient.
What advice can you give to someone who is planning to work abroad for a certain period of time?
It is always helpful to prepare conscientiously for your time abroad and to maintain contacts at home, professionally as well as personally. Furthermore, you should always plan for your return. Besides that, I think it is important not to get discouraged during a stay abroad, and even if everything doesn't always work out right away – stay focused!