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Master craftswoman always on the move

From launch to launch – Sindy Illmann from the pilot hall in Wolfsburg accompanies new Volkswagen models all over the world.

She travels, travels, and then travels some more. Thousands of kilometers. Last year, she was on the road for over 25 weeks, including several weeks in China and India, twice in Puebla in Mexico, in Poland, and in Portugal. This year is no different: Puebla in January and February, Pamplona, Spain in March, then two weeks in Mexico in April. Sindy Illmann is the master craftswoman in the pilot hall who lives out of a suitcase. From Wolfsburg, she travels all over the world from launch to launch – a globetrotter in the brand’s global manufacturing network.

The 38-year-old from Wolfsburg helps the sites that are bringing a new model into production. Most recently, it was Puebla for the Tiguan with a long wheelbase. There, she is one of at least a dozen in the “Apa” team, which is involved in the pilot process audit. They test the entire pilot production, from the pressing plant and logistics to quality assurance. Everything is put to the test. Illmann is usually the only woman there. “Depending on the cultural differences on site, it’s sometimes difficult and sometimes easy to get people’s attention and to effect changes.” She tries to overcome such hurdles by means of her specialist knowledge and open manner.

» It’s sometimes difficult and sometimes easy to get people’s attention. «

» I sometimes talk with my hands and feet. Somehow I always get by. «

In terms of language, too, Illmann goes her own way. When she tests the manufacturing line in Puebla, she doesn’t speak a word of Spanish. Nonetheless, if she notices something during the audit, she approaches the employees on the production line with a friendly “hola!” (hello). “I then talk with my hands and feet.” Sometimes she draws a sketch in order to explain what needs to be improved. “Somehow I always get by,” says the German native.

As an industrial master craftswoman, Illmann heads a team of ten pilot ­assistants in the pilot hall in Wolfsburg. A “production worker with heart and soul,” as she describes herself, she often travels to production sites as a pilot tester. Once at the plant, she doesn’t just impart production standards from the handbook. She often carries a number of good examples in her suitcase. For Illmann naturally remembers the things that worked well in one location when she is on site at another plant. In this way the forewoman has become an ambassador of knowledge who builds bridges between the production sites. Like a “living lexicon,” she says. At home, her three dogs await her return from her travels. She brought the pets back with her from various business trips.

A sharp eye: Sindy Illmann makes sure the Tiguan is free from dents (top). Always on the move: she uses her flying time to check emails.