The appeal of optimisation

Since mid-November 2019, Thomas Ruland has been the Works Manager of our maintenance workshop in Leverkusen-Opladen. We wanted to get to know him better and met up with him to talk about his first impressions, his plans and objectives.

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. You have been the Works Manager in Opladen since last November. How do you like your new role and what experiences have you made in the first few months?

I like the job very much and have made some very positive first experiences. I have a lot of experience in process optimisation and organisational management and have already implemented initial measures. The first one is the introduction of project organisation. Each machine is now defined as a separate project with a project manager. Depending on the scope and requirements of a project, we put together the appropriate team. This change has been received well by both our staff and customers, and we have had our first successes with it. As a result of this measure, we have experienced completely new dynamics in our processes.

This also means more responsibility for the individual members of staff, especially the project managers.

Yes, of course. I find this is very positive and motivating for all members of a team. They all work together to achieve a goal and therefore are also jointly responsible for its success. The notion of having a “right to success” is very important to me. Each member of staff should not only take on responsibility but also appreciated for successful completion of a task.

This sounds very respectful. Apart from that, have you been able to introduce other initiatives?

To me it is generally very important to support and encourage staff as much as possible. We have a colleague who is responsible for the areas of occupational health and safety as well as waste and environmental management. Another colleague will look after training and development, both for our apprentices and the rest of the staff. He is the first point of contact for any training requests and develops individual training programmes in cooperation with the works management; all with the ultimate aim to be even better positioned for our customers and to be able to serve them even better.

This colleague has another important role, doesn’t he?

Yes, definitely! He is responsible for putting together our service teams, especially for requirements at short notice. This way we can respond flexibly and adjust quickly to the very diverse requirements of our customers. This was of particular importance to me: to have a competent and experienced team ready to be deployed so that the machines will be operational again as quickly as possible.

What are your objectives as Works Manager?

I want to ensure that the “first hand service” that Deutsch Plasser stands for is delivered at our Leverkusen-Opladen site. To achieve this, we have to make sure that we have the required know-how available. Here, our team at the maintenance workshop has excellent prerequisites. My job is to utilise the existing potential even better and to develop it further.

How do you want to achieve this?

Through a sensible approach to specialisation in individual areas. Our members of staff have a wide range of expertise. They are highly competent and experienced, which is invaluable for us and our customers. But I would like to develop and encourage certain specialist skills so that we become even more effective and diverse. Therefore, it was important for me to introduce the new role of training and development manager and equip him with the right competencies.

In your new position you work closely with Sven Peters, the Technical Manager of the maintenance workshop. How well does this cooperation work?

Very well. Of course, we have to get used to each other and grow together as a management team, but we are on the right path. Mr Peters deals with all the technical issues and so is in close communication with the colleagues in Munich and myself, both in the bidding and implementation phase of a project. In addition to that, he assists the project managers with any technical issues. I look after the “admin” side of things, i.e. I make sure that the right members of staff are available for a project in the right numbers, the processes run smoothly, and the cost and time specifications are adhered to.

With regard to the workshop, at what capacity are you working this year and what work priorities do you envisage?

At the moment we work at full capacity, which I am very pleased about, especially since we are working on very interesting projects. A major focus this year is retrofit, there is a clear trend towards this service. The customer gets a machine upgraded that is already in use, and its functional scope extended; and all that at a cost which is significantly below the purchase price of a new machine. And on top of that it is much quicker! Here in Leverkusen-Opladen we are ideally positioned for this type of project, and the positive reception this has from our customers confirms our assessment.

What have you got planned for this coming winter?

We are planning for this at the moment and will also optimise our processes further to be available for our customers even more quickly and at an even better quality than before. We are already in initial talks with customers with regard to winter planning; but I also want to invite our customers to talk to our sales department so we can review jointly how best we can meet the customers’ needs this coming winter.

Many interesting and exciting points that sound very promising. We would also like to get to know the person behind the position. Where have you been before joining Deutsche Plasser?

My training was in business administration. After that I was the works manager for a machine manufacturer for the pharmaceutical industry. Then I had various positions in project management and was branch manager in the USA. Later, I worked as a consultant for process and production optimisation. In addition, I studied in Germany, the USA and Canada and completed an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA).

Ideal prerequisites for your new position in Leverkusen-Opladen! What attracted you to Deutsche Plasser, why did you want to work there?

Above all, the versatility of the job and the “appeal of optimisation” . I like companies that have “grown”, such as Deutsche Plasser, also in the context of a technological world leader such as Plasser & Theurer. No matter how well a company is organised and how well a workshop runs, there is always room for further optimisation; and the Deutsche Plasser maintenance workshop is where I want to get involved and use my knowledge and experience to contribute to the success of the company for the benefit of our customers. I think of the bigger picture: for me, track construction is a market of the future; I regard the railway as the transport sector of the future, especially if we think about the protection of the environment and sustainability. And I want to be part of this development and make a positive contribution.

 

Thank you very much for talking to us!