6:00 AM in Gostyn. It’s time for the next shift at MANN+HUMMEL Filtration Technology’s Polish site. The plant has only been part of MANN+HUMMEL for a few months and is thus involved on the global project to integrate 4,500 new employees following the biggest transaction in the company’s history. The team handling the merger is on-site today.
It is change of shifts in Gostyn. The team supervising the merger is onsite today. “I’m always happy to see the colleagues here. They’re all so kind,” says Danielle Silvester with a smile. This kindness she sees in her Polish colleagues is also written all over her face. Her big, blue-green eyes light up and mask how tired she must surely feel. It’s early in the morning and, following eight hours’ travel the day before and only a brief sleep, she has arrived at Wrocławska Street 145 in Gostyn, Poland. This is the home of MANN+HUMMEL Filtration Technology Poland. Around 1,950 people work at the Gostyn site, which has been part of the MANN+HUMMEL Group since May 2016.
Looking back: In 2016, MANN+HUMMEL acquires the global filtration business of U.S. company Affinia Group, thereby completing the biggest transaction in the history of the family-run company from Germany. MANN+HUMMEL adds the WIX Filters and FILTRON brands to its product portfolio and grows to become a new company: In addition to the two new product brands, over 4,500 new colleagues instantly become part of the group on May 4, 2016. More than 20,000 employees now work for the filtration specialist at over 70 locations – one of which is Gostyn in Poland.
This is Danielle Silvester’s third visit this year. As a Project Manager on the post-merger activities (PMA) team, her job involves bringing together the new locations and colleagues with the parent group, especially the sites in Europe as well as the Human Resources and Communications departments. Silvester supports the various PMA teams in deploying MANN+HUMMEL’s expertise for their work to ensure the merger is a lasting success.
In the video interview, Danielle Silvester talks about her personal highlights during the merger of MANN+HUMMEL and Affinia Group.
For everyone involved, it’s a mammoth task. The coming together of German company MANN+HUMMEL and the very American Wix-Filtron business unit represents a meeting of two very different corporate cultures. Silvester is aware that this factor plays a major role in the merger: “Culture influences the way we work. Everyone has a different approach to tasks, everyone has their own strengths. We need to know what they are so that our work together will be even more successful than it was as separate companies. That’s a big challenge, but it’s not insurmountable.”
We can achieve so much more together. The best results can only be achieved in a team.
Danielle Silvester, Project Manager Post-Merger Actitivies MANN+HUMMEL
Cultural integration is a topic close to Silvester’s heart. That’s because it’s one she also has to deal with in her personal life: Silvester was born in Canada and spent most of her life in a multicultural environment near Ottawa. For the last seven years, though, the 28-yearold has lived in Germany, where she found a home from home after spending an exchange year in Stuttgart and completing a master’s degree in Munich. Silvester is fluent in German. You can hear her Canadian accent, but there’s also a touch of Swabian in her voice. That’s no surprise, as she lives near Stuttgart with her husband and has been working for MANN+HUMMEL in Ludwigsburg for four years. “Of course you can learn about international cooperation and cultural differences in theory, but I know from experience that it’s really important to actually get involved with a new culture so that you feel, and truly become, integrated,” says Silvester. “And you need a lot of patience, too.”
Ralph Müller, Director of Post-Merger Activities, is also in Gostyn today. He agrees with Silvester: “A culture emerges from interaction among people; that’s true in both personal and business life. For the merger, we must take the time to understand the differences in culture at Wix-Filtron and MANN+HUMMEL. Only then can we build on their strengths and use them to our advantage.”
Müller works with Silvester, colleagues from the PMA office and the PMA teams in various departments to achieve this. He guides the different teams and coordinates planning, tracking and reporting of the global post-merger activities. Many things are done from the business unit’s American headquarters in Gastonia, North Carolina – but also while on the move or directly on-site at the various locations. Traveling is therefore part of Müller’s daily work. “It’s almost an improvement,” he laughs.
It’s our employees who decide whether or not we’re successful.
Ralph Müller, Director Post-Merger Activities MANN+HUMMEL
Before moving to the U.S. with his wife and two children, Müller worked as Manager of Engineering, Technical Services and Operations at locations including Bad Harzburg and Sonneberg in Germany. After starting his career in engine development, the graduate engineer spent seven years working in application development and technical sales at BorgWarner before joining MANN+HUMMEL. You only have to look at Müller to see that he’s had many years of experience in project management. In a calm and confident voice, the 35-year-old talks about the integration task MANN+HUMMEL is facing now and in the months ahead. He knows there are many factors that can influence the success of a company acquisition, for example whether employees identify with the new company, the long-term corporate strategy or indeed the corporate culture. “First we have to know what these factors are if we’re going to leverage them for success,” says Müller.
But what’s written on paper is only half the story. “At the end of the day, what really counts is how our employees act. From the word go, we want to give the colleagues lots of responsibility and benefit from their experience. After all, it’s our employees who’ll decide if or not we’re successful,” adds Müller. “Day-to-day business needs to keep running smoothly alongside the general integration process. That’s a challenge. We must work together as a global team and keep talking to the colleagues.”
We speak the same language. We’re all filtration experts.
Sigfrid Steiner, Group Vice President & General Manager Wix-Filtron Europe
Today we’re talking to Sigfrid Steiner. In the spring of 2016, the Group Vice President & General Manager of Wix-Filtron Europe relocated to Poland – the nerve center of Wix-Filtron’s European business.
Steiner’s move was a clear sign of commitment to the merger. “You need to be on-site as much as possible to make sure work puts the interests of the company into practice. That, of course, demands some readjustment and an open mind. But I feel at home here and the teamwork is going smoothly.” The 61-year-old businessman has always had an open mind. After 14 years in a range of managerial roles in the automotive aftermarket business at Robert Bosch GmbH, Steiner joined MANN+HUMMEL in 2000. Here, he’s headed the Automotive Aftermarket business unit for almost 16 years, and was the project manager responsible for the acquisitions of Helsa GmbH, Purolator Filters and not least the Affinia Group.
You can genuinely sense his enthusiasm for his new work in Poland and his new colleagues. “I always think it’s fascinating when employees from different locations come together and get on well straight away because they speak the same language. That’s got nothing to with Polish, German or English. We’re all filtration experts who get straight to the point.” As does Steiner: “Trust. Teamwork is always based on trust. And mutual trust takes time to grow. But when it’s there, we can look forward to excellent, successful teamwork. And that’s what you see here.”
Achieving more together
It’s a view Danielle Silvester shares: “Whether it’s at home or work: Teamwork is everything. We can achieve much more together than we can alone – that’s always been my experience. Those around you bring out strengths and fill gaps where you’re not quite up to speed. The best results can only be achieved in a team.”
The global MANN+HUMMEL and Wix-Filtron team is working well – despite the former rivalry between the companies. “Throughout the company, we work really well together. The colleagues here are open-minded and honest, which we really appreciate. And it’s wonderful to see that we’re all pulling together, even though we were competitors before the acquisition,” says Silvester. “It’s like we were predestined to work together.”