The Mercedes-Benz plant in Gaggenau, located in the Nature Park of Black Forest, is doing some things to increase energy efficiency. We learned just how multifaceted this topic is in an interview with Jürgen Süss, Head of Environmental Management at Gaggenau plant, and Olaf Götsch, Head of Environmental Management at the Gaggenau plant, and Olaf Goetsch, Head of Infrastructure Supply and Energy Manager at the Gaggenau plant.
Mr. Götsch, how and why do people become energy managers at the Gaggenau plant?
It's best that we start from the beginning: Standard 16.001 Energy Management (Now Standard 50001) has been in existence since 2009 and Daimler has been working on this topic since 2010. We first came together in various working groups at team leader level. To that extent, I virtually grew into my current job. It's not as if I had actively applied for it (laughs). Energy management is part of my and my team’s job because in Gaggenau we are responsible for operating all of the power generation and transmission systems - down to the last socket. To that extent, I am one of the first employees to be involved in energy management at the Gaggenau site. My official appointment as "Energy Manager" came in 2012.
And what are the special aspects of the site that apply to the task of environmental protection management?
Jürgen Süss: We have a broad portfolio in terms of production as well as facility. That means we have many different environmental facilities. Starting with combined heat and power plants, industrial wastewater treatment facilities and large storage tanks of dangerous materials, to enameling lines, X-ray equipment, hardening and heat treatment plants and truck test sites, there are many different environmentally relevant sites subject to approval. That makes my job and that of my environmental protection team extensive, but also very exciting. What needs to highlighted is that my team consists of very dedicated colleagues and that we have managers and employees at our location that care about the topic of environmental protection. They actively participate. That is why our work within a functioning and active environmental management on site is fun.
We work where other people go on vacation.
A lot of things are being done here at the site. What is your favorite personal project right now? And what topic is currently challenging for you?
Jürgen Süss: One of many relevant topics at the moment is industrial waste water treatment. This is a very important topic in energy management. In Gaggenau, there is an industrial waste water plant that we would replace. We have decided on a very innovative procedure. The result is: Savings of 550 megawatts of electricity per year. One kilowatt hour of electricity causes more than 500g of CO2 emissions. When you convert the 500 megawatts to a total of 500,000 kilowatts, you can see that a lot of CO2 will be saved in this area. We will thus be saving about 250 tons CO2 per year. Another decision criterion was the quantity of waste. With our new industrial wastewater treatment facility, we will reduce waste by approximately 100 tons. That is about two thirds less than before.
What is so special about your location in terms of environmental management?
Olaf Götsch: One important core element at the Gaggenau location is our "team spirit". We are all pulling together. Even before Leadership2020 we actively lived many of the leadership principles in our team. This has been a great help in prioritizing our topics and implementing them together.
Jürgen Süss: I agree with my colleague. The close collaboration between planning, production and facility management and environmental protection helps us a lot. The cross-hierarchical cooperation moves us along. It takes place across all functions. Also in the context of our slogan at the site, #thisisourplant. This "we feeling" is what defines the Gaggenau site and takes place cross-functionally. Project teams that work on the same topics get together and keep the overall goal in mind. That is also reflected in terms of environmental protection. The leading managers contribute via the environmental management board to environmental projects throughout the year and also take part in executive workshops that strategically develop environmental management.
What successes have you been able to celebrate thus far?
Jürgen Süss: I would divide environmental protection achievements into two categories, technology and conservation. We have introduced an eco-friendly paint method with dry scrubbing and received a commendation from the Department for the Environment. Yet even more important than the award is that we thereby annually save significant amounts of electricity, natural gas special waste, litter and ultimately operation expenses. That secures the economic viability and competitive ability of our location. With regards to conservation, we are gradually installing near to nature green spaces and following a clear biodiverse strategy. As part of the United Nations Decade of Biodiversity, the UN has awarded a number of our spaces four times since 2015. Recently, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Conservation and nuclear Safety and the regional board visited Gaggenau to present us with the award. Thereby we can actively provide a sustainable contribution to conservation of resources and nature beyond the compliance with environmental legislation.
How can energy be saved at the site?
Olaf Götsch: As a general principle, waste is always to be avoided. Lightning systems that have seen better days have to be replaced, and my colleague from Planning has updated the hydraulics in the heating plant to state-of-the-art. However, we also want our employees to think for themselves; they should be our eyes and contribute their own ideas. That is also the DNA of our location. Always try to get better at what you do. Trainees in their third month of training traditionally spend one day with me in the workshop so that I can explain the meaning of energy management to them.
Does the younger generation have a different view of energy consumption?
Olaf Götsch: We have to sensitize young people. We also want to teach them where they are currently positioned and where their responsibilities lie. I explain to our trainees that they can secure their jobs through the right attitude towards energy efficiency and by avoiding wastefulness. Our products become cheaper if we use less energy, making us more competitive.
Each kilowatt hour that is not consumed unnecessarily is saved and also saves resources worldwide.
Jürgen Süss: And also with regards to conservation, the right attitude of our employees is key. Aside from continuous qualifications for employees, for example through eLearning, we start as soon as possible to develop a sensibility for these issues, already in the first weeks of an apprenticeship. We show the trainees what it means to responsibly handle resources and how to operant the plants with discernment. We have developed an eLearning tool for our employees in Gaggenau. Employees can independently and comprehensively educate themselves on topics like the environment and energy. It is especially important to repeatedly put these topics into focus to ensure sustainability.
What could the individual employees in Gaggenau apply in their private lives?
Olaf Götsch: We already cover a lot during the training. If I can apply the trained contents in my personal life, they are even more valuable for me. This is our approach in everything we do. This responsibility applies applies to everyone. The same environmental and energy awareness requirements apply to everyone.And everyone takes away some of this knowledge for their own lives and hopefully makes more sustainable use of resources. We have a pioneering role and are glad to take this responsibility on.
Jürgen Süss: I fully agree with that!