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      06-15-2021, 07:16 AM   #765
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Harald Gottsche: consolidating the success of BMW Group San Luis Potosí Plant

In an exclusive interview with the President and CEO of BMW Group San Luis Potosí Plant , we got to know in depth the daily work of a leader who, with a great team of national talent, has successfully overcome all current challenges and is ready to launch the new BMW 2 Series Coupé later this summer.

Ricardo Vivero, General Director of Cluster Industrial and Adrián Martínez, editor of the medium, spoke exclusively with Harald Gottsche , who since December 1, 2020 is President and CEO of BMW Group San Luis Potosí Plant, the most modern plant of the group a global level, and that proudly produces the BMW 3 Series, and, as of this summer, the totally new BMW 2 Series Coupé, manufactured exclusively in our country and that deepens the consolidation of the sector in the state of Potosí and the entire Bajío region.

In order to know how he got here and to understand the work of Harald Gottsche at the head of the San Luis Potosí plant, we must know that this plant 'has a strong relationship with Munich, the leading plant of Series 3; After the launch, at the end of last year, I was asked if I would like to join BMW Group Planta San Luis Potosí as President and CEO. Of course, I immediately said yes. It is a dream come true!' he confessed with great joy.

Regarding his adaptation to the country, Gottsche shares with us that he already knew the people of the plant for 4 or 5 visits and that ' Mexicans make it very easy to adapt to the country, they are very open and friendly . I have found that the people in our team are super motivated, well trained, and there are people with a lot of experience as well. For me, that made it very easy. '

In addition, Harald declares himself a fan and explorer of Mexican culture; ' This country has so much to offer, only in states like San Luis Potosí, you have the Huasteca, the semi-desert, Real de Catorce, so on weekends I like to take my motorcycle and travel around here or go to San Miguel de Allende. There is so much to explore and see, it's very nice . ' Speaking of culture, BMW has supported the Free Music festival in San Luis Potosí, 'I had the opportunity to participate in a concert, although this year it was virtual, but I participated in the Centro de las Artes in San Luis Potosí; this is a great country to live and work . '


With a new plant and workforce, on a new continent, BMW focused on the San Luis Potosí plant in 2019, launching a car that had barely been in production for 3 months in Munich. 'I was then working in Munich and it was incredible for me to see how the team overcame all the challenges, because not only did they launch the plant on time (other plants at that time had to postpone their start of production), they also started complying with all the quality indicators, it was great. '

Arriving in Mexico in December 2020, one of Harald's first responsibilities was to celebrate the graduation of new apprentices and the first generation of the ProLead Meister program , 'similar to the German program, shop floor leaders participate. Seeing the high level of motivation, of experience of those people, having their graduations… For me it was very special. '

Then Harald lived the milestone of producing the plant's 100,000th car . 'It was a great moment for us, having already made 100,000 vehicles in this young plant and just yesterday (May 18) we announced that we will produce the new Series 2 Coupé, which will only be built in Mexico and that is, of course, a great success for us. '

Currently, the BMW Group leads the premium sector in Mexico . 'We are very proud of it because we have maintained that position even in the pandemic and with the changes in the market. We want to maintain that and increase our sales, 'says Gottsche. Regarding production, he comments that 'Mexico is a great place to build premium cars. There is a lot of tradition and the country is now the seventh largest producer in the world, with a great availability of suppliers and a highly motivated and trained workforce. That is an ideal basis for BMW's strategy and balancing production in our markets which are Asia, Europe and North America. '

On electrification in the automotive industry he reminds us that the 3 Series hybrid has already been produced since August 2020. 'Our system is very flexible, so we can basically switch overnight between internal combustion cars and hybrid or electric cars. That is very important because the market for plug-in hybrids and BHEV cars has increased rapidly in Europe and we have been part of it from this plant and will continue to do so. The entire automotive industry will change and BMW has announced that by 2030 it will produce more than 50% of its volume in battery electric cars and, of course, it is a change that will also be reflected in the Mexican industry, 'he says.


'Currently, we employ 3,000 people at the plant and, counting the suppliers, we have generated 32,000 jobs in the state,' says Gottsche, adding that 'for special positions we are looking for experts with specific knowledge on a broader scale, not just in San Luis Potosi. So our workforce also comes from other areas of Mexico, in the Bajío region . '

In Mexico and San Luis Potosí, the BMW Group has trained talents in various programs and has given more managerial positions to local leaders . For example, since April 1, the Vice President of Ensemble is Mexican , when previously he was German. " Now, more than 50 percent of our circle of plant managers consists of Mexican talent , which I think is a very good trend that is only possible because we find many experienced leaders here."

For 6 years, before laying the first stone of the plant, BMW started with educational programs such as the dual program. So far they have trained 418 associates in production, mechatronics, industrial mechanics, among other areas . The dual program, in cooperation with local universities, lasts 3 years, is the basis of their referrals and they seek to continue that way. Each year they recruit about 70 new students to the program and this is one of their strengths.

"We also started the ProLead program to educate the process leader , which in Germany would be the Meister, whose position is central on the shop floor and has between 20 and 50 associates in charge." They started this program two years ago, in 2020 it had 30 participants, and during 2021 there are 10, with the aim of having a constant flow of new talent. It is a very demanding program, people work from Monday to Thursday at the plant and on Fridays and Saturdays they have specialized training at universities to develop leadership skills or learn English . '

In addition, they maintain programs with local universities where they offer professional internships; In the last year they have recruited many positions through these programs. They also have specialized knowledge acceleration programs related to automotive electronics , for example.


The plant's production system is very flexible and was designed from the beginning to be able to integrate other models 'that means we were able to integrate the 2 Series Coupé easily'. Regarding additional investment for the model, Harald confirms that " Yes there was new investment, especially regarding tooling and equipment, but in general we did not have to expand our production lines ." The Series 2 Coupé is fully integrated into existing production lines, assembly lines, bodies, and full vehicle testing. "The investment was not very large because the initial configuration of this plant was already designed to integrate future products."

Just when asking about future investments and developments, the leader comments that: 'If applicable, it would be communicated in due course , but of course there will be news . In production, we hope to be able to increase it in the next year , but this depends entirely on the development of the global market, if it continues to grow as it is now, we can expand our capacity in the course of the following year. '

The plant began production in April 2019 and has produced more than 100,000 units, of these, approximately 98,000 units were exported to more than 36 countries , including countries such as Australia and Japan. As for the production figures for this 2021, they do not have a specific figure, but "it will be above 140 thousand and below 200 thousand units ," according to Harald.


Semiconductor shortages are an industry-wide problem, but the BMW Group has been one of the few OEMs to successfully meet this challenge . Harald Gottsche proudly confesses: ' This plant hasn't stopped for a single day for semiconductors. Why is this so? First of all, the BMW Group never reduced orders during the pandemic . Most of the other OEMs reduced their orders and so the microchip vendors went to the consumer electronics industry and said 'you need chips, here they are'. People stayed home and wanted more video game consoles, smartphones, and so on.At BMW we didn't do that, we placed our orders on time, and that is why we are in a much better position. Our purchasing departments are in close contact with all our suppliers ; Logistics also works very hard on it, and yes, sometimes we have been close, but so far we have handled it very well.

The President and CEO details that this effort is based on A) a very long-term planning, B) a very close collaboration with suppliers and C) a very close collaboration of internal BMW departments such as purchasing, logistics and production . "We plan to continue like this and not have any production stoppages due to microchip suppliers."

On the energy and sustainability side, BMW's strategy on a global scale is to be a responsible partner. ' If you care about sustainability, you must be it economically and socially. Our global customers expect the cars to not only be fuel-efficient or hybrid and electric, they also expect them to be sustainably manufactured . And Mexico has a lot of energy to harness; look at the climate, the availability of sunlight is an excellent factor for the country. '

Speaking of the plant's consumption, 100% of its electricity has a 'green' origin. 'We have around 70 thousand solar panels at the plant and the rest of the energy is produced in a solar plant two hours from here. On the other hand, we use natural gas in our painting plant and we are currently looking for alternatives for this, such as biogas, which would lead us to be a truly neutral plant in CO2 emissions, which is our goal . '

During the pandemic, the BMW Group Planta San Luis Potosí did not fire anyone . They switched to remote work and after the production restart they took care that production was possible in a completely safe way. They doubled the number of buses for the workers to travel to the plant with safe distance, they gave all the necessary personal protective equipment not only to the associates but also to their families . They created secure and flexible offices, where 50 percent of the people could stay at home; These rules were extended to common areas where there are sanitary filters.

' We took all the measures and I am happy that we were considered a role model, for example, by the secretaries of economic development of the Bajío region . After the Christmas holidays we ran rapid tests for all plant employees, suppliers and contractors. We found some asymptomatic positive cases and successfully isolated them. Everything has been for having a safe work environment. We continue to have a daily monitoring of cases and the few that we have had have been external infections, 'he explains.

Regarding community support, " We donated protective equipment to the authorities of San Luis Potosí who later distributed them in hospitals and in August of last year we donated medicines for a hospital in Soledad.

On the subject of vaccination, Harald enthusiastically informs us that, four weeks ago they had the first vaccinated over 60 years old and currently several associates aged 50 or more are being vaccinated with an excellent organization of the authorities, 'this is great news, and we remain in contact with the local authorities, ready to support the vaccination process together with the authorities. '

Finally, Harald Gottsche kindly says goodbye to Cluster Industrial, extending an invitation: 'Thank you again for your time, and of course, you are invited to visit us at the plant to show you the Series 2 Coupé, it is a great product and you will know it soon, so I hope to see you at the plant soon.'

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Last edited by BMWGirlFL; 06-15-2021 at 07:33 AM..
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