Armin Lindholm, CEO Interroll Engineering GmbH

Armin Lindholm, Managing Director, Interroll Engineering, Wermelskirchen, talks about passion, employee motivation and the example of Formula 1 for perfect process establishment.

Mr. Lindholm, let us focus on performance. What does performance mean to you? How do you handle this subject?

When you want to deliver good performance, and deliver it sustainably, then this in my opinion goes hand in hand with having a lot of passion. You can see this again and again in sports, as well as in the working environment.

Of course, a certain methodology is also important. However, when you add the passion, then you are engaged with a task in order to always bring out the maximum.

Motivation has to be learnt


Only: How to you get this passion? How can the employees be infected?

It was a positive experience from the very beginning. Dieter Specht, one of the two founders, really knew how to motivate his team and to approach the employees. When I started here in 1992, severe changes had to be made. I remember that he announced these changes openly—but at the same time he pointed out perspectives for a great future.

To see what is really possible if one addresses things consistently and if one stays focused—this approach influenced me very much at the time and it has accompanied me for a while. Not only products can be developed, but also entire production sequences.

It is always important to meet people on the same level.

Center of Excellence Wermelskirchen
"This is not my company, but if I owned it I woulddo things the same way."

But surely it is not only about the process, but also the people?

Of course. You must live this. Working with employees, one finds that the best means of persuasion is to start with a small core group, and this is how I would always do it. It is hard work bringing everything so far, including a love for detail, while helping the employees see the prospects of success. Of course it is also important to let the employees know that such success does in the end not only benefit the company.

Let's assume that you must hire somebody for your management team. Is there a formula that you can immediately recognize and whereby you can say that he or she must bring along this or that?

We once expanded our team in the area of application engineers. We interviewed a real self-promoter. He could do anything, knew everything—along those lines. During the interview it became clear that he would not fit in with the team. Of course, you need employees who lead, who think ahead. But they must be willing to compromise. However, if you have somebody who pushes everyone up against the wall, then this does not fit.

 

Meet your employees on the same level


Are empathy and integrative quality important?

To be able to relate to other people and listen to them is for me a matter of course. However, all supervisors always met at the end of the business year. This is where we ask where critical thinking is required. As a matter of principle, one has to be willing to listen to the opinion of the people. Only this can produce a complete picture of the situation.

My desk is still upstairs in the open plan office and each production employee can come and see me immediately without an appointment. I walk through the production as often as before when we had to implement significant changes. This is because today I have a good team that carries out the work as I would. I can rely on the team.

It is always important to meet the people on the same level, and to allow them to meet you on the same level.

Sometimes it's just about getting rid of frustration.

Employees
Interroll's origins and its largest plant are found at Wermelskirchen.This is where approximately 6.5 million rollers and RollerDrive are manufactured annually.

This sounds like a lot of commitment and a significant time investment. What does Mr. Lindholm's day look like?

If I am not at a customer's site, then the largest part of my day actually consists of short meetings and discussions with employees. I always try to keep up to date with everything across the whole unit. I would say that this is somewhere between monitoring and showing interest. I could stop doing this because we have established a road map and in one year I could simply ask how the project is progressing. But after no more than three months, the first people would start saying that he has no interest anymore. This would impact the employees and the entire team would feel it. Perhaps this is the sensibility of the crowd, but they would react to it and lose interest themselves.

Is the sponsoring with Sauber an inspiration for you? How does your team take it?

Formula 1 perfectionism is something from which one can draw inspiration. Nobody can be as well equipped as in Formula 1. We are currently working on a project to reduce machine down times to under 30 minutes. This includes concepts, and we draw parallels with Formula 1: Two cars touch each other and the front spoiler flies off. They get to the box, take a complete module, pull the nose down, and fix a new spoiler on — 10 seconds and the car is driving again. We follow the same approach for the machines. This means that we have a kind of mobile pit stop: Carts with the most important module for the machines are always on standby. The modules are also uniform in many respects, everything provided through plug-in solutions, hydraulics through couplings. Remove the units, fix on a new unit, and the machine speeds off again!

Most of the orders include less than 10 of the same types; customization in series is the hallmark of production.

Not only products, also processes can be developed


Formula 1 is premium. Does this also include a certain image transfer?


We also see ourselves as premium with respect to our products—this is a prerequisite. However, it is also important to be tops with respect to our processes, and this brings us back to performance and the things one can observe in Formula 1 that enthuse and inspire. They also have a perfect team.

Last question: What was your biggest mistake? Do you have an example?

I've made many mistakes. Those who make no mistakes have never worked. We have changed the production over the years eight or nine times. One could argue why we did not do it this way when we changed first?

Also, if employees were treated the wrong way, then I would call these mistakes that occurred over the years and that I regret today. I apologize to the person if something goes wrong.

However, I have never told an employee anything that gave them the impression that they would be cheated or embarrassed. This is the fastest way to lose the trust of the team.

Would you agree with Confucius and say that those who love their job will never have to work?

If everything would only be stress, then you would go mad. This is not my company. And if I owned it, I would do things the same way.

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