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The employee magazine
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Efficiency Program

Paragon of efficiency

A plant in the Russian city of Kaluga is setting standards. In hardly any other Volkswagen Brand location is production so efficient. This isn’t a coincidence, as plant manager Andreas Klar explains in our interview..

Mr. Klar, you launched a program to increase quality and productivity at the Kaluga plant in early 2014. Was there a specific reason for this?

Yes, there was. At the end of 2013, signs were emerging that the Russian economy would slide into a severe crisis. Above all, the outlook for the automotive market was gloomy. This is when we realized that we needed to make Volkswagen Russia crisis-proof in order to make it through to the other side. We knew this would only function if we worked more efficiently and optimized the processes in our plant.

How did the employees react when you presented the program to them?

Right from the start, we adopted a very open approach to addressing matters, and tried to show employees the necessity of our efficiency program by means of specific examples. For example, I demonstrated that an aluminum rim would now cost almost double due to the currency collapse. Honest and transparent communication is essential when you wish to get your employees on board, especially in difficult times.

What were the specific objectives you set together with your staff?

We came up with four major objectives. We started with increasing availability. That means keeping production running with as few disruptions as possible. So we set about locating sources of disruption in the plant and eliminating them to the extent possible. Furthermore, we trained the employees to be able to rectify disruptions as soon as possible. We also took measures to increase direct production, which is the quota of vehicles leaving production without rework. We also wanted to increase the quality of the vehicles we produce. The employees should make the vehicles diligently, as if they were their own.

And last but not least…

…we wanted to reduce the time required for each vehicle to be produced.

The sounds like it’s a matter of easier said than done.

From the outset, we defined where we wanted to be after 12 months and after 24 months. And to be honest, our objectives for 24 months’ time were more than ­ambitious. The success did, however, drive the entire program onwards. I was able to report positive intermediate results to the staff at our second employee meeting. That made the staff feel proud – and motivated them to continue. All of a sudden, ­employees were coming up with their own ideas about how we could be even more
efficient.

Plant manager Andreas Klar is convinced: “Honest and transparent communication is essential.”

» Success drove our efficiency program«

VITA

Andreas Klar (52) began his career in 1994 in component production at the Hanover plant. In 1999, Klar, who has a degree in economics, started working at the Wolfsburg plant, where he assumed responsibility for Industrial Engineering for two years before
being assigned responsibility for Assembly 1. After taking on other positions in Hanover and Wolfsburg, he left for Kaluga in 2009, where he was appointed Head of Quality Assurance at the Volkswagen Group Rus. The father of two has been manager of the Kaluga plant since 2014.

Whether quality, direct production, time needed or availability – you met all your targets, even outdoing some. Which result are you particularly proud of?

Of our direct production quota. We have increased it to 96 percent – making the Kaluga plant the world champion. We earned a lot of praise for this, even from Brand Manager Dr. Diess, who paid our plant a visit last November.

How are you planning to continue now that you have reached your targets? Will you and your employees now be able to lean back and relax?

No, not at all. We are all aware of how difficult it is to maintain this level. Especially as we are facing another big challenge this year with the start-up of the new Tiguan. This will be the first vehicle based on the Modular Transverse Matrix to be produced at our plant. We have set ourselves the target of achieving a high-quality start-up. The first results from pre-series production have made me highly confident.

Which hopes do you have with regard to the new Tiguan?

I am convinced that the new Tiguan suits this country well. With its superior driving characteristics, the advanced systems, and the exciting design, the SUV will appeal to the taste of Russian customers.

What are the general prospects like on the Russian automobile market?

Slowly but surely, we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. The price of crude oil is slowly recovering, which is helping to stabilize the ruble. I am confident that the market will recover in the medium term. By 2018 at the latest, when the FIFA World Cup is held in Russia, things will start picking up again.

Volkswagen Plant Kaluga

Plant management: Andreas Klar

4,300 employees

Volkswagen Brand models: Tiguan, Polo

97,000 vehicles

were produced by the employees in 2015.