My job at Mercedes-Benz Vans: Always in motion

Sixteen years — that’s half of my life. That’s how long I’ve already been working at Mercedes-Benz Vans in Düsseldorf. During this time I’ve passed through many different projects and stations, and I’ve been given the opportunity to get continuous advanced training and learn new things. That’s why I particularly like the Van unit.

What connects me with Mercedes-Benz Vans? The ongoing search for new challenges, never standing still, and always keeping my eyes on the goal of continuing my own development — it’s just like the story of the Sprinter. This is also the spirit that has driven my career at Vans: Always in motion. The best thing might be to start my story 16 years ago…

Daimler — a coincidence, or fate?

After high school, I knew for sure that I wanted to work with my hands. So, since I knew very little about computers at the time, I asked my cousin to search for companies to which I could apply. Daimler was one of the names on the list. Thus it was probably a coincidence, but perhaps also a twist of fate, that I landed here at Vans. In short, in September 2002 I moved from Saxony to Düsseldorf and started my training as a production mechanic.

Very close to the product

After my training I started out as an assembly worker in the overhead conveyor area on the night shift. I worked on the vehicle substructure and assembled cable sets as well as all the parts under the vehicle. In order to install these, you have to stretch your arms up over your head.

The predecessor of the NCV3, the T1N, was initially produced here in Düsseldorf. At that time we worked in boxes. These were workstations into which the vehicles were driven. There we worked together as a group to assemble the substructure.

Later, when the T1N was replaced by the successor model, the NCV3, the entire production process was converted into a “one-line” process. In other words, production took place on a single assembly line. I even worked myself on the very last Sprinter of the old model that came off the line. It was a silver T1N with rotating beacon — I can remember it exactly because it was a special experience for me. In any case, I find it very fascinating to be so close when a vehicle is created, and to be able to contribute to it.

Large and small moments of success

Overall, I worked in assembly for nine years. During this time, I was loaned out here and there, and thus I was able to take a look at the work being done in other units. At some point, however, I wanted more — to see more, to learn more, and to get further training. So I completed my master craftsman’s certificate in parallel to my daily work.

Me and my team: Valentin Laux, Thomas Laaber, Thomas Strassmann, Houman Mousavi-Rad, Sven Kirstein, Susann Kahlert, Hendrik Schnell, Stefan Ton (back row from left to right); Isabelle Foltyn, Christoph Sester, Dorothea Manka, Wilhelm Kölsch (front row from left to right)

And I have to admit that there were a few times when I reached my limits. Working nights during the night shift and going to school and learning during the day — that was a challenge. But in retrospect, it was definitely worth it, and I’m glad that I decided to do it back then and didn’t give up.

During my examinations phase in May 2014, I moved professionally to a new project: the “paperless factory.” As the main multiplier for the project, I helped to digitalize the production at the Düsseldorf plant and to make sure that everyone knew what a “paperless factory” is all about. Previously, about 40 sheets of paper with installation instructions for the vehicle body accompanied it. Today, the information for the assembly workers is provided on tablets.

On the assembly line, I took over the responsibility for the entire line support for one shift (about 600 employees) and supported the employees during the conversion to the digital world. During the first three months I was on the Quality System (QSYS) team, where I was able to learn which processes were running in the background. That was extremely helpful. All of the entries made by the workers are processed and saved in the Quality System (QSYS).

Later on I was also allowed to work closely with the team during the introduction of the paperless factory. I was very happy about that. When I go into the production hall today, I’m proud to see what has changed and to know that we pulled the project off together from the very beginning. I’m proud to see how naturally the digital technology is being used today.

Step by step

After receiving my master craftsman’s certificate, I started to do a training program in technical business management in 2015. Once again, I did this alongside my job. That too was a very big challenge. But when I start something, I always finish it.

After completing the program, I was appointed as a forewoman in Düsseldorf in January 2016. In my opinion, one factor that helped me in this position is my previous work on the assembly line, which gave me a completely different view of the processes involved. As a result, I’ve always considered it important to work in the team at eye level. After all, we are pursuing the same goal together.

You never stop learning

The next move was waiting for me in June 2017, when I changed over to the Mercedes-Benz Production System (MPS) team. This team’s tasks are very diverse — for example, projects, workshops, supporting the ramp-up management, carrying out analyses, and optimizing the GAL, which is a kind of error report. Now I can look even further outside the box. A big part of MPS is international collaboration and sharing experiences with colleagues. That’s very exciting!

But back to the here and now: In March 2018 I completed my technical business management training and immediately set my sights on a new goal: the MPS expert training program. It will last for a year and a half, during which I can be assigned to three projects worldwide. I would like to master them successfully. As I said before, I’m always in motion.

Surprise — I’m still here

Each step and each station at Mercedes-Benz Vans is very special for me, and the individual tasks are absolutely not comparable with one another. The various fascinating experiences I’ve had at Vans have enabled me to acquire a wide variety of advanced training.

The development opportunities I’m getting at Mercedes-Benz Vans, as well as the solidarity of the team here in Düsseldorf, are simply unique. I am very grateful for them! I’m looking forward to seeing what the next sixteen years at Mercedes-Benz Vans will have in store for me. One thing is certain: I haven’t learned everything yet — not by a long shot!

This article was released before (Aug 2018) in the intern Intranet of the Daimler AG. This is an adapted and updated version.

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Susann Kahlert has worked on the Mercedes-Benz Production System (MPS) team at Vans in Düsseldorf since 2017, and she began the MPS expert training program in October 2018. She’s not yet driving her favorite car (the GLA AMG), but she’s working every day to make this dream come true one day. Unfortunately, she’s had to give up her hobby, playing soccer, but she still enjoys watching live soccer games in the stadium.