You have been plant manager in Kaluga for one year. What sets the plant apart?
Since the Kaluga plant consists of both vehicle and engine production, and I’m also responsible for our contract manufacture in Nizhnij Novgorod, it’s difficult to give a short answer. All three areas have their unique strengths. One thing they all have in common, though, is a young workforce with an average age of about 34, and their employees’ willingness and ability to learn. I have never experienced it at such a level before. We also have short routes everywhere – in both the spatial sense and in our decision-making processes. The team, by which I mean the workers on the production line as much as I do the management, from the foreman to the plant management, is unbelievably quick to find and implement solutions. That is something that impresses me again and again on a daily basis.
How is the automotive market developing in Russia, physically the largest country in the world? You have challenging times behind you...
That’s true, unfortunately. I was fortunate to take up my post just as we were emerging from the worst of it. In my previous posts in Russia, however, I had already experienced some difficult times. Now, though, we are back in motion, not least because our colleagues from the Moscow plant are doing a good job. This helped us make the decision to start building up a new "soft" night shift team in vehicle production at Kaluga again. The engine plant has been running a seven-day operation since the beginning of this year, as we now export our 1.6-liter MPI engines worldwide. In the second half of the year, we will also ramp up capacity in Nizhnij Novgorod to at least a two-shift operation. You see, it’s all moving in the right direction. We hope it will stay that way. At least, we are doing everything we can.
Other than Russia, you have also worked in Germany, the Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and India. What have you gained from these international experiences?
Plenty! I find it fascinating to pass on knowledge, motivate teams, help them achieve goals, and at the same time expand one’s own horizons and gather experiences in other countries and even different cultural circles. These are all things that are only possible in an international company like Volkswagen.
What are your goals for Kaluga?
As the Technical Director of Volkswagen Group Rus, my goals are not limited to the Kaluga plant. The vehicle production division has to reduce its costs significantly again this year and next year in order to keep the promise we made as part of receiving the go-ahead for further vehicle projects. If we are successful, vehicle production can look forward to a long-term profitable future in 2020 at full capacity after the ramp-up curve is complete.