„And the Winner is…?“

It was a bit like being at the Oscars: “And the winner is ...?” was the question asked again and again by the 15 competing project teams as well as the participants in the Executive Management meeting. You could feel the excitement at this year’s ceremony, where it was announced who would be able to take home the ZF Excellence Award 2017. For the first time, the winners of the internal concept competition were not determined before the ceremony. Instead, the top management of the company voted for their favorites in the five award categories live via tablet.

Each team had four minutes to present their ideas on the stage of the auditorium in the ZF Forum at Friedrichshafen. “Well, I’m really nervous," said Werner Freisler as he took to the stage at the beginning of his pitch. Of course, the chance to give a presentation to the highest ranking executive managers of the Group doesn't come along every day. However, it was worth it for his team from Alfdorf: In the Products and Manufacturing Processes category, Freisler’s Knee Airbag with Fabric Sheathing project had the edge over the others. His team had successfully developed a cost-effective product that – and this is something he is particularly proud of – was originally considered technically unfeasible by the competition in particular.

The Business Processes and Methods category was won by an Active & Passive Safety Technology Division project team from Czestochowa (Poland), made up of Andrzej Mencina and Tomasz Kantoch. Using an algorithm, the two colleagues created a program for determining error frequencies in risk management.

Reducing pollution is at the core of Sam Sasikala's project. She hails from India and works at the plant in Coimbatoire. Her winning team in the Health, Safety, Environmental and Social Affairs category came up with an effective recycling method. Instead of having accumulated oil sludge disposed of, the oil is collected with a hydraulic press and reused, which in turn reduces costs at the plant.

Small projects hit the big time

So much for small projects – “these are big projects!”: These were the opening words of the Member of the Board of Management Wilhelm Rehm, sponsor of the Small Projects category, in his speech honoring Annette Trautmann and Annika Schreier. The duo from Friedrichshafen won the Excellence Award in this category with their “ZF Meeting Portal”. Their new tool allows meetings to be organized faster and more cost-effectively.

In the end, Barbara Dyraga and Sabina Niemczyk secured the award in the "Learning from Each Other" category. They successfully presented their training system, which is used to train employees at the Gliwice plant in Poland. They received important input on this program from colleagues around the world.

Incidentally, the notion of learning from each other permeates the entire Excellence Award: "The competition offers a cross-section view of our employees' amazing creativity and abilities", says Dr. Franz Kleiner, Member of the Board of Management of ZF Friedrichshafen AG and sponsor of the ZF Excellence Award. "The ingenuity that these projects exhibit makes me really excited, and I truly believe that ZF will benefit hugely from them. We now need to make these projects visible and known within the Group and ensure that these innovative ideas become reality", he continues.

Special award: “Best Performing Plant”

In addition to awards in the five categories mentioned above, an additional special award was conferred for the first time at this year’s award ceremony: The plant in Santa Rosa, Mexico received the “Best Performing Plant” award. Member of the Board of Management Michael Hankel presented the certificate to Abiel Villareal, the overjoyed director of the Location. Along with the other five award-winning teams, he also received an invitation to the ZF Technology Day 2018, which will take place in Friedrichshafen in June.

The pitches for the five award-winning ideas were over within 90 minutes. The participants in the EMG meeting found their roles as jurors extremely exciting. Mitja Schultz, head of the Commercial Steering Systems Business Unit, says: “With this interactive process, the grand finale becomes even more suspenseful and dramatic. I think it will also increase motivation to participate in future award competitions.”

As project manager of the ZF Excellence Award, Sven Bohnert offered a positive summary: “With this competition, we have created the opportunity to distribute expertise throughout the entire Group. We hope that this grand finale will inspire our employees and encourage them to participate in the next Excellence Award competition.”

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