A touch of color Surface Finishing Engineer

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The most beautiful section in the plant? For Stella Steisel it is very clearly the paint shop. She is a production engineer in surface finishing at Mercedes-Benz and in charge of new production ramp-ups at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Rastatt. The 31-year-old explains in the interview what exactly this entails and what she does in her daily work.

Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

I am 31 years old and a have a degree in process engineering. I have been working as a production engineer in surface finishing in Rastatt since October 2017. Before that, I worked as a planner in plant engineering.

Why did you choose Mercedes-Benz as your employer?

As a teenager, I wanted to drive a Mercedes (C-Class) and had always been fascinated by the quality and the design of our cars. The slogan "The best or nothing“ may seem a little bold for some, but to me it exactly matches my attitude towards my job. It is simply a pleasure to work with people who have such a "fiery passion" for this brand. To me, Mercedes-Benz is an employer with unlimited opportunities. The wide variety of tasks offers the opportunity to grow and gain a lot of experience. What more can a young engineer wish for?

You are responsible for international product ramp-ups at Mercedes-Benz. What precisely does that mean?

A production start involves the launch and ramp-up of a new product or a new model series in the plant. The entire process has to be adapted to the new product, which includes the technology as well as a host of technical processes, for example. My job is to see that all necessary qualifications are carried out and ensure the smooth operation.

You are working in the "surface" section. What's it all about?

Surface stands for painting. To me, the most beautiful section in the entire plant. Because this is where our cars are given their touch of color. Ultimately, we are responsible for the customer's color choice, the corrosion protection and the tightness of all vehicle bodies.

When do you come into play when a new model is being launched?

The launch of a new model is highly involved and complex. Before a car ever goes into series production, a multitude of production tests are conducted in advance that are checked and evaluated by all production sections (body shop, paint shop and assembly). After each production test, the results are analyzed jointly and the measures for optimization are initiated. I had the good fortune to be able to support the launch of the new A-Class here at our plant and to witness the quality check as well as the definition of measures with all responsible parties. This involves a precise preparation of the key indicators and documentation of the results.

And why is all of this on an international level?

Well, Rastatt is the lead plant for the compact cars and supports all compact car plants worldwide with qualifications, buildability reviews, and expertise. The international plants include plants in China, Mexico, Hungary or Finland, for example.

This means you also supported the international colleagues in the product ramp-up of the new A-Class?

Yes, precisely. For example, we as a team of eleven traveled to Mexico (Aguascalientes) for two weeks to help the local colleagues with the launch. The trip was very rewarding for me. We validated the buildability of the vehicle together with the local employees, shared experiences from the initial launch and discussed optimization measures with regard to the new product. With our knowledge from the product start in Germany, we were able to share valuable tips and thereby our expertise in Mexico. That is precisely what such trips are all about: knowledge transfer and networking.

How would you describe your job in one sentence?

One of the three nouns is present in my job every day: variety, responsibility, challenge.

An exciting project is the development of an app to reduce the use of paper in production operations. That doesn't sound like a classic engineering job at first. How did you get involved and what exactly are you doing here?

With the "Paperless Factory" project, we want to make a contribution to Industry 4.0. The team comprises six project engineers and aims to make our factory more innovative and efficient. Specifically, this means that we want to minimize the number of printouts and make the processes ever more digital. This also protects the environment at the same time.

How do you proceed?

We look at the processes and develop suggestions for optimization. For example, evaluation sheets are frequently being printed out in qualification units and distributed to employees to be filled out. Then the sheets are collected, scanned, sent by email and the printed forms are destroyed. With a digital solution such as an evaluation app, for example, this process could be improved significantly, both with regard to the work required and the paper use. Such projects seem rather minor at first glance, but are ultimately tremendously important to move our company forward.

Please tell us a bit more about your team and your work. What is the composition of the team?

As a production engineer, it is always beneficial to know many people from different sections. Because my duties are very varied, I work with production employees as well as with other production engineers and managers. We share our knowledge and experience. This is not always a given from my point of view, but that is precisely what constitutes a fantastic team. And I am working in such a team.

What kind of people are you looking for most in your field?

It is beneficial if candidates have experience in the painting sectors or have a general technical degree. However, I believe the soft skills are much more important still. I envision a good engineer in the surface section to be a person who likes to take on challenges, is flexible, has a thirst for knowledge, is a team player, approaches tasks in a constructive manner and whose "heart beats for the star."

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