Meet Frank Plenz - our Production Manager Machining & Welding!
Good afternoon, Frank. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview!
Frank: With pleasure!
Let's start directly with the first question: When did you start at DELORO?
Frank: I remember that very clearly! That was 1987 - an eventful year for me in many respects. I graduated that year and broke my foot playing soccer exactly one day before the deadline for handing in my thesis. My father then had to hand in my thesis to the university for me....
...and how did you become aware of DELORO back then?
Frank: I was in the hospital for a while. My father brought me the Rhine newspaper and said, "Look here...a Deloro company...they're looking for someone". I then immediately handwrote my curriculum vitae in the hospital bed in the worst possible scrawl. The invitation to the job interview from Ms. Godenberg was also curious. I asked if I could come a week later...after all, I would still be on crutches. "No!" was her clear answer, I should come immediately - and so shortly afterwards I walked on crutches through the production together with the then managing director Mr. Reinbacher. At some point, he said to me: "How much do you want to earn?”. “I would like to have 3800 Marks...”. "No! You'll get 3400 and then you'll start next week!"
So it was over with the "professional footballer" career then?
Frank: No, I continued to make sure that the "box" stayed clean as a central defender for SSV Urbar. But when the first official "DELORO baby", our daughter Jana, was born in 1995 and I became the assistant to the then plant manager, Mr. Schmidt, at DELORO, I finally "hung up my soccer boots".
Let's go back to the beginning for a moment: You started at DELORO in 1987! In which position was that and what happened after that...?
Frank: I started in production planning and control. After that, I moved to the inside sales department in 1993 until, as I said, I was offered the position of assistant to the then plant manager in 1995. When the then head of mechanical production, Mr. Pfeifer, retired in 2003, I took over this position - until today. In 2019, I also took over the management of the welding shop.
So you've been with DELORO for 35 years now. Where on the "seniority list" do you currently find yourself?
Frank: I actually thought about that the other day - there should be at most a dozen before me!
35 years is a long time - what has kept you at DELORO for so long?
Frank: Of course, in such a long period of time, you also look around "left and right" - but in the end, there was no potential employer where I could have applied the knowledge from my mechanical engineering studies in such breadth and depth. The new things you can experience here every day...you don't get that anywhere else! Plus, I've always enjoyed working with the colleagues here - they're all people who are also interested and want to make a difference! In addition, I was able to live my life to the full in many areas at DELORO. I personally selected, planned and ordered half of our machinery...
So DELORO is kinda "your" personal big workshop...
Frank: Yes, it feels like it's more or less "my" workshop - I've just built up a very strong connection to everything over the years...and I can tell you for almost every machine what works and what doesn't in terms of production technology.
What position or time has shaped you the most?
Frank: I would say from 1998/1999 - the time when we really got into the automotive business. We bought an outbuilding with land and built a completely new production line there. All the preliminary production tests didn't work out at first - but in the end we got it right! That was a real milestone for all of us! During this time, I was particularly influenced by the then plant manager, Mr. Peter Schmidt. He was one of the people I learned the most from: his self-confident way of approaching things, his courageous and quick decisions - sometimes based on gut instinct! He did not shy away from risk! But also the way he always gave me personally a huge leap of faith. When problems arose, he always said to me: "Plenz, you'll get it!"....and I believed him! For me, he was a truly respectful person who remained charismatic and "human”.
What are you looking forward to when you drive to DELORO in the morning?
Frank: Well, first of all, to get myself a hot coffee - that's my morning ritual and it actually tastes really good here! But what I'm really looking forward to is always getting to know new components and optimizing the processes. That's always a new challenge!
Frank, what drives you?
Frank: To see success in my own actions and that it brings a benefit to the company! Another important point for me is that I try to provide a secure job for my employees in production dept. with my work. If we are successful, the "guys" downstairs don't have to worry about how they are going to feed their families. In return, however, I clearly expect them to do a decent job...!
In general, what is your best memory at DELORO?
Frank: I used to work regularly at DELORO on Saturdays and my children sometimes went along. They would sit outside at the table and play. I came back from the workshop once and my daughter Jana had suddenly "disappeared". She was then sitting in the office of the plant manager Mr. Schmidt, who drew little ducklings for her on scrap paper. I said to her "Will you get out of there!!! The man has to work!!!" but Mr. Schmidt waved it off, "No,no,no! It's fine, it's fine, it's fine!"...and continued painting his duckies. This was really a picture for the gods and one clearly noticed that the man also had a big heart under his hard shell.
During which activities are you in "flow" and completely forget about time?
Frank: Admittedly, that's become a bit difficult nowadays, since I'm now clocked at 30min intervals. But I used to be able to automate a lot of production myself. I would have looked for a problem, designed a solution, and then spent days on a single thing .... until it worked! Privately it is still similar today. I have a large workshop at home with all kinds of equipment, and it often happens that my wife calls me in the evening after 10:00 p.m. to ask if I wouldn't like to call it a day.
Which mastered challenge still fills you with pride today?
Frank: That we have managed to grow in production year after year, to increase productivity in a wide variety of ways, and to expand our competitiveness in a global market.
Why were you able to overcome these challenges or what characteristics helped you to do so?
Frank: I think because, on the one hand, I have a good engineering education and, on the other, I'm extremely motivated to achieve the things I set out to do. I'm rarely discouraged by setbacks - on the contrary: If something doesn't work, I try again and again and again....
From your point of view, how has the world of work changed over the last 35 years?
Frank: Nowadays, there are definitely significantly more release instances, which partly restricts the personal freedom somewhat. But that's okay in principle - after all, DELORO is no longer a small craftsman's business these days, but a professional wear protection partner that supplies the most diverse and sometimes also the most critical industries. To achieve this, it was essential to standardize our processes and professionalize our methods: management and leadership methods are now taught "across the board" in the company, improvements in production are consistently carried out according to LEAN methods, and so on.
When you think about the next 10 years, where do you see the biggest challenges?
Frank: That I have to prepare for my retirement! But joking aside: The biggest challenge is clearly the topic of "digitization". All kinds of production processes have to be digitized and visualized, and all employees have to be taken along in the process. In particular, I also see challenges in the age structure! Theoretically, you can drive digitization to the end of the line - but in the worst case, you won't earn anything anymore! The question is: How deep do we go and in which steps are restructuring measures taken - and all that without overloading the organization! Otherwise, the general shortage of skilled workers is currently a challenge and will probably remain so in the near future.
If you could start all over again at DELORO today in 2022 - what training would you do or what subject would you study?
Frank: I would do everything exactly the way I did it - I never regretted anything!
DELORO builds highly wear-resistant components that you can rely on in the field! Which colleague with this characteristic spontaneously comes to mind?
Frank: Andreas Hastrich - because you can rely 100 percent on what he says! You can only wish for such an employee and he is also one of the reasons why it is fun to work at DELORO!
Our core values at DELORO are courage, credibility and respect. What personal values do you base your daily actions on?
Frank: Loyalty to the company and therefore also to my superiors and ultimately, of course, to my family. Authenticity - simply delivering what you promise. In the end, it's about honesty - that's one of the most important things to me!
What are you proud of in general and personally?
Frank: I am particularly proud of my children. My daughter, for example, has just completed her bachelor's degree and is now starting her master's in Rotterdam. The ambitious way she goes about it - I really take my hat off to that! About my two children, I can say that they have both feet on the ground and I am convinced that they will go their way.
After work - what are your favorite hobbies outside of DELORO?
Frank: I ride my e-bike a lot, play tenor horn in the local music club and tinker with my tractor - a 1955 "Eicher" with 16 hp. I inherited it from my grandfather and it is kept in good shape in his honor. Whenever the opportunity arises, I tinker with it a bit. But if anyone asks: The good piece is absolutely not for sale!
What three things do you take with you to a desert island?
Frank: I would take three books for "hobby mathematicians", i.e. rather scientific literature and no novels. The last books I read were "Measuring the Sky" and "Espresso with Archimedes".
Thank you very much for the interview!
This interview was conducted by Sascha Hannappel on 23.05.2022