For our first customer magazine, ‘Safety First’, we have been researching, gathering information and photographing. Even within our own company. Going by our motto “How WAS works”, we are aiming to provide a glimpse behind the scenes at WAS in future featuring different departments and employees. Our first visit was to the workplace of Hans-Peter Stemmeler, sandwich department supervisor, and this is featured in ‘Safety First'. Highlights from the article are now available from a small selection on our website for enjoyable reading during breaks.
When Hans-Peter Stemmeler enters the case production area of the WAS sandwich department each morning, he continues to be fascinated by what he sees, even though the experienced supervisor knows everything there is to know about the production hall.
No - Stemmeler's work and that of his 10 colleagues has nothing to do with toast, butter and salad leaves: They work with large metal and plastic components and the huge VacuTherm® equipment at the heart of the workshop. Custom-made floor, ceiling and wall components for vehicle cases are glued together in the sandwich department. This is how WAS vehicle cases are made. Components are joined together using a special process involving vacuum and heat to create a stable unit. They are layered and put together just like the ingredients in a sandwich, so to speak.
The name’s similarity to the American sandwich arose thanks to the layered production process of the different parts and materials - similar to a sandwich filling - before they are combined. In actual fact, the process shares many more similarities with aircraft production. The basis of WAS vehicle case production – the so-called WAS VacuTherm® process – originates from aviation technology and was further developed by WAS to produce its own cases.
As a result, the special WAS VacuTherm® equipment is relatively inconspicuous. Three stage-like platforms are elevated at waist-height above the production hall floor. Two smaller platforms and one larger, the “heated one”. All built here at WAS. On one of the smaller pieces of equipment, four young men are applying plywood board prepared with adhesive measuring 1250 mm x 2500 mm to a structural frame filled with hard foam sheets. Teamwork and precision is crucial here since there is no room for error during the adhesion process. Once joined together, the layers of the sandwich cannot become unstuck. “Glued means glued” confirms a satisfied supervisor, Hans-Peter Stemmeler. The result of a technology which keeps intercontinental flights safe over the Atlantic can tackle any headwind on the road.
Each week in the WAS sandwich department, walls, ceilings and floors - everything that needs to be welded - are produced for 17 to 20 cases. The well-functioning team rarely makes mistakes since they understand each other on a personal level.
And even if errors do come about, supervisor Hans-Peter Stemmeler does not lose his nerve. He has been responsible for sandwich production at WAS since 2001 and even accepts a long-distance relationship with his main love, (and) the Cologne Carnival. This has taken place for many years since the pleasant Rhinelanders always endeavour to make things happen. At work he checks the production schedules, coordinates shift cycles, oversees deadlines and material acquisition. And “if the lawn needs to be mowed in Cologne on the weekend, that also needs to be factored into the schedule.” Stemmeler typically coordinates 10 colleagues across two shifts. Depending on the order situation, an additional night shift is sometimes required. Contract workers also strengthen the team. Stemmeler also recruits full-time employees for his department from this group.
He deals with paperwork from his standing table in the production hall; he doesn’t have an office. In fact, he doesn’t need an office since, according to him, he doesn’t spend much time at his desk anyway. He prefers to get involved and it's easy to believe him when he says he enjoys working with his colleagues, even the younger newbies. He finds it easy to form interpersonal relationships At the team level, close collaboration and of course a good dose of humour is the adhesive which holds the department together. And in Stemmeler's sandwich department, people are well conversed in the subject of adhesives.
We’ll stay on the ball and hope to share new stories on everyday life at WAS here soon. How WAS works!