Mahle is bearing the load
With three sites across the UK, Mahle Engine Systems is a relatively new addition to the global Mahle Group, as it was acquired in March 2007.
The Mahle Group is a major supplier of automotive components, with a degree of non-automotive solutions as well. Previously part of the Dana Corporation’s hard engine division, Mahle Engine Systems is a recognised producer of bushes and bearings.
The Mahle Group took over Dana’s 39 global facilities and 13 aftermarket sales offices, which was valued at $670 million in 2005. Prof. Dr. Heinz K. Junker, chairman of the Mahle Group management board and CEO, comments on the takeover: “We believe that Dana’s engine hard parts business is better positioned in the market as a part of the Mahle organisation. This acquisition is a strategic step to fill our product portfolio and to strengthen and balance our global presence. Now, we will start working to integrate the Dana locations into the existing Mahle production network by appropriate restructuring measures, in order to facilitate all necessary synergy effects for the future.”
Norbert Pittner, managing director of Mahle Engine Systems UK, outlines the recent history of the business: “The facility in the UK was established in 1947, and has had different owners control it since its inception. The takeover by Mahle is very significant and has had a massive effect on the business. Dana’s engine hard parts business was filing for chapter 11 in the United States, which made the takeover process welcome, but problematic. The new relationship with Mahle guarantees a positive future, and will hopefully aid the steady recovery of the business.
“We make bearings, bushings, and thrust washers for the automotive industry. At this facility, we also make strips, which is the starting material in the production of bushings and bearings. The company then sells these supplies to its customers, or to our Mahle partners around the world. The major customers that our division deals with are car manufacturers, such as Ford, BMW, General Motors, Volvo, Iveco – you name them, we supply to them. The Mahle Group provides comprehensive component systems, and we are happy to be part of this network.”
The UK business has recently re-received Ford’s Q1 award, which is a significant development, as Norbert elaborates: “To not have the Ford Q1 award will result in less business – the award is an indicator of certain manufacturing quality levels, as well as a company’s status as a Tier 1 supplier to Ford. We received this award again in December 2006, after having it previously when the company was still Dana. The facility lost its Q1 accreditation for a period, but it is proud to now have it back again, which is in itself an indicator on the upward trend in business.
“The range of services we currently provide to Mahle are sufficient, so expansion is not really a factor at this time. The market conditions for engine hard parts are relatively flat at the moment, so in this atmosphere, we must concentrate on consolidating our position in the industry.”
The move within the automotive industry is towards developing products and components that are not only of the highest quality, but are also environmentally sound. Mahle is no different, as Norbert explains: “Our facility is fundamentally committed to the practice of creating environmentally responsible automotive components, and we are very interested in the developments being made in areas like lowemission engines and lead-free cars. Legislation is adapting to meet the global environmental concerns, so materials that are lead-free are of optimum importance to businesses such as Mahle. We now have two products that meet these stringent demands – one is aluminium-based, and the other is made from copper. Both of these solutions are lead-free, and it is an important move for the company to make.”
Coupled with this responsible approach to environmental issues are the company’s committed health and safety record, and efficient practice. As Norbert states: “Mahle’s UK facilities are run to lean principles to ensure high levels of efficiency. The company uses the Six-Sigma programme to get the most from its processes, and we have a dedicated team that works on developing the best solutions for every manufacturing application at the site. Health and safety is of absolutely fundamental importance to Mahle’s manufacturing processes. Everything must be in place and working properly to ensure that there is a reduction in the amount of mishaps. The quality of the company’s operations has resulted in Mahle receiving TS 16949:2000, ISO 18001 accreditation, as well as 14001 certification, for recognition of its environmental practices.”
Finding the right people that have the skills to meet the demands of the automotive industry can be taxing, but Mahle has developed adequate solutions, as Norbert comments: “Mahle takes on apprentices that are trained in areas where there are fewer employees on the market. Taking on one or two apprentices a year means that the company has a constant supply of highly trained individuals.
“One of the most important areas to focus on is employee training, and we make sure that all of our people our up-to-date on the latest processes,” he continues. “Everyone is responsible for their own action, and this really makes the difference at our operations. The success of Mahle’s UK facilities can be attributed to our dedicated team of employees that we have working at the site. Without their efforts, and their open approach to change, we would not function at the level that we do,” Norbert concludes.
Mahle Engine Systems
Products: Bushings and bearings for automotive industry
Sites: Rugby, Bathgate and Kilmarnock, UK