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A "KulTour" of the Plants with Music from the Factory

The Human Resources department is driving cultural change at the German sites. The Volkswagen Sound Orchestra from Kassel is providing the perfect soundtrack.

How cool is that?!

At the ­Volkswagen plant in Kassel, employees have founded a special orchestra: the employees use sounds from the factory to create music. The Volkswagen Sound Orchestra can be heard at Volkswagen sites in Germany in the coming months. The amateur musicians are joining the Human Resources department’s KulTour 2018. "We are organizing dialogs and discussions in Wolfsburg, Braunschweig, Salzgitter, Emden, Hanover and Kassel in order to drive forward cultural change at Volkswagen. Some will be broadcast live to all plants via Group Connect," says Ralph Linde, Head of the Volkswagen Group Academy.

The Volkswagen Sound Orchestra will provide the perfect soundtrack. Jens Dembowski, currently Production Manager of the Seat gearbox plant in Barcelona, founded the orchestra in 2016. "The idea behind the orchestra was born in Kassel. We asked ourselves how machine sounds could be performed, accompanied by musicians and their various instruments," says Dembowski. When doing so, they noticed that music can also be used to communicate. "Music connects people. Together, you create something. It breaks down hierarchies. A gearbox production manager, administrator, foreman and maintenance worker create something new through experimentation. Freedom of thought is expressed through music and creates a new sense of cohesion."

Saxophone, Turkish saz, Greek bouzouki, tuba and trumpet – the instruments that are used are as diverse as the origins of the employees. Dembowski says, "Everything comes together to create a unique, musical and technical work of art, every time." The rhythm is not played in the conventional manner on a drum kit, but on car parts.

To create their music, the musical employees also use sounds from the factory.

"We used the sounds of machines and systems, along with the hissing of the compressed air lines, and incorporated this into our jazz," explains Detlev Morawietz, from Gearbox Production Design in Kassel. He is the saxophonist of the twelve-man orchestra.

For the Volkswagen Human Resources department, the orchestra embodies Volkswagen’s cultural values. "Music is communication between equals. In order for it to work, we all have to work together in harmony. That’s exactly what we want to achieve at Volkswagen, too," says Ralph Linde. Real dialogs that cut straight through all levels of the hierarchy, an approachable atmosphere and the dissolution of power relationships – all that is what the Human ­Resources department wants to promote with its KulTour events at the plants this year. The starting shot will be fired on June 25 in hall 5 of the Wolfsburg plant. "The company management, Works ­Council, plant management and ­Human ­Resources will all be present at the events. We will also invite around 200 to 300 employees," says Linde.

Chairman of the General Works Council Bernd Osterloh welcomes KulTour: "The Works Council has been promoting the topic of company culture at all the sites for many years. This can be seen, for example, in the "Kulturköpfe" ("culture heads") campaign. If the company finally wakes up and starts moving in this direction, I welcome that. KulTour’s approach is just right: decentralized, dialog-oriented and cooperative."

To find out what the Volkswagen Sound Orchestra sounds like, you can listen to the following audio samples:

Drivers of Cultural Change

"The Human Resources department sees itself as an important driver of cultural change at ­Volkswagen," says Human Resources Manager Gunnar Kilian. His team developed the concept for the KulTour event series 2018. Speakers’ corner, market stalls and a stage for open talks are just  some of the features.