“Nearly every new project is uncharted territory for us, but we can shape the territory ourselves. That makes each task unique and exciting in its own way”, says Bussmann.
The forty-three-year-old, who spends around ten weeks of the year flying around the world for Wörwag, could, by now, write a book on the subject, or take on a part-time job at a travel agency.
Recently, he put together his own ideal itinerary of eight flights on seven days stopping off in Stuttgart, Paris, Detroit, Spartanburg, Dallas, San Luis Potosí, Mexico City, Paris, and Stuttgart. “Travelling for work means living out of your suitcase,” Bussmann says with a smirk.
Travelling is part of his job description. Whenever Wörwag has opened up new markets in years past, Bussmann has been involved on location.
And, in the last 20 years, Wörwag has grown enormously on an international level, has put down roots all over the world, but is still at home in Zuffenhausen. In 2000, Wörwag opened a U.S. location in Lafayette, Indiana, and three years later in Langfang, China.
Bussmann provided instructions in the laboratory, operated the bead mills, and visited customers. The focus was largely on conveying Wörwag know-how. Whether it is in China, the United States, South Africa, Spain, or Poland—the subsidiaries are now fully fledged and fulfill the same standards as in Germany.
Wörwag reacted to this fact at the beginning of 2016.
International Technology Management became International Project Management (IPM), something of a control center for future large projects.
The background behind this change to the structure was the observation that the operative tasks had become less complex, while planning ones were becoming ever more so. “In many areas, we are entering uncharted territory for Wörwag. We can design processes that are more efficient and successful than the existing ones,” says Bussmann.
Lab coats and spray guns have been replaced with software tools such as Sharepoint and Excel. It was not for nothing that all department members were trained to become certified project managers. “Without these new structures and framework conditions, I am sure that we would not have been able to handle some recent projects as well.”
This also applies to opening up the new market in Mexico. The footprint, according to Bussmann, was put in place in record time with just a small squad. Now he says it is time to start detailed planning. Primarily, this consists of coordinating all customers, suppliers, and colleagues involved in implementation at the Wörwag locations.
“Functioning project management is essential for the tasks that we will be faced with,” Bussmann can say from experience. “Customers are located less and less centrally, the requirements are becoming more and more complex, and we need someone in charge who can maintain an overview.”
“The important thing is that we get the products to the customers. At IPM, therefore, we evaluate every step that goes into the implementation of the projects”, says Giuseppe Polito.
One of these people is Giuseppe Polito. Among other tasks, the thirty-seven-year old looks after an existing customer who expanded into Central America.
In realizing this international project, the IPM forms the interface between the Wörwag plant in Lafayette, the automobile manufacturer in Germany and Mexico, the customer in Mexico, and the Wörwag headquarters in Zuffenhausen. “The important thing is that we get the products to the customers,” according to Polito. “At IPM, therefore, we evaluate every step that goes into the implementation of the projects.”
“If your family isn’t behind you, you can’t do a job like this.” Sigurd Tetz.
Sigurd Tetz, who has worked at Wörwag since 1989 and helped to shape the founding days of the subsidiaries, can also bring his experience into play.
“I was always a pioneer,” the fifty-five-year-old remembers. First the USA, then Spain, China, and South Africa. “I always had to visit countries where I didn’t know what to expect, either linguistically or culturally,” says Tetz, who often had to fly off at a day’s notice.
“If your family isn’t behind you, you can’t do a job like this,” Tetz recalls. After all, it was not uncommon for a planned 14-day trip to the States to turn into four weeks. Planning always meant being spontaneous. When Tetz was needed, he was there.
Unlike his colleagues, Kaichen Li, who has worked at Wörwag since November 2014, needs to handle two additional challenges: understanding the Swabian dialect and learning the language of paint.
Originally from China, Li is a newcomer from another sector. Now 30, he came to Germany at the age of 14 and studied economics in Essen. At the Chinese Talent Days event in Cologne, he met the Wörwag CEO Dr. Achim Gast. “He was surprised that I could speak German so well,” says Li, who came to Stuttgart soon after to start as a trainee and intern.
Within a very brief period, he not only learned the basics of Swabian, but also started getting to grips with the language of paint.
“As a young person, I can learn a lot at Wörwag,” says Li; “I feel very comfortable here.” He was particularly impressed by the support he received from all his colleagues—both in the laboratory and in production.
As a native speaker of Chinese, Li is an important factor in the development of the Chinese market. He is currently looking after a technical project with the aim of making current formulas using raw materials from China.
At the moment, these materials are usually imported from Germany. Li has also made collaboration with Wörwag colleagues in Langfang less complicated.
Petra Holzhüter is also a member of the IPM team. The sixty-two-year-old supports her colleagues with planning and organization.
Although she packs her suitcase a lot less frequently, the chemical engineer does have a lot to do with internationalization. Drawing up formulas and datasheets as well as maintaining the model database are among her tasks.
The centrally stored data means that the locations in the USA and China, for example, can access up-to-date formulas at any time. “I support my colleagues in providing or researching data and, thanks to my laboratory experience, with development issues,” says Petra Holzhüter.
There is no lack of new challenges at the moment. In addition to Mexico, Wörwag has its sights on new markets. Bussmann will soon, once again, pack his suitcase. And as long as he remembers three things, nothing should go wrong in his next destination.
Photos: Rafael Krötz
Text: Michael Thiem