At the heart of the action
No-one knows DENSO products better than the people who make them. Ute Longerich has worked in the production department at DENSO for more than 40 years, and has contributed to the technical success of the company's innovations.
In this interview, she talks about her commitment to exceptional product quality.
How did you start your career at DENSO?
Longerich: My parents worked here, so I grew up with DENSO. I started working in production when I was 15 years old and in 1971 I even met the company founder.
How has your role changed in the past four decades?
Longerich: When I first started, there were nowhere near as many products as there are today, and the production processes were different too: There were more employees assigned to each individual work step, and a lot of the work was done manually. Now, we guarantee the high quality of our products using production equipment that is constructed especially for us. But the final checks are still carried out by an experienced employee, just like in the old days.
Is this final check really necessary, given the standardised production processes used today?
Longerich: Yes, because only a human can check that everything has gone to plan at the end of the production chain. Having said that, our machines really are great at everything else! Whatever the product idea that we are scaling up to series production after a test phase, the first step is to create a prototype to gather experience of the product. Our technical team then gets together with experts from the machine construction industry to develop the final system. Thanks to this process, over the years, we've acquired many new machines that are specifically tailored to our production needs. With our order volumes increasing rapidly, we want to make sure that production is as efficient as possible.
And how are you involved in this process?
Longerich: As soon as a machine is put into operation, we aim to optimise the individual work steps, depending on the specific task we're working on. We don't just manufacture standard sealing and corrosion prevention products – we offer our customers products that are tailored to their requirements too. For example, if we're manufacturing rubber seals specifically for a new customer, we need specialist working methods that we have optimised for this project. My many years of experience really come in handy for this kind of work.
In the production department, you're the only female in a team of male employees. Is that difficult for you?
Longerich: No, not at all. I get on really well with all my colleagues and there's a great atmosphere in our working environment. And you do sometimes need to call on the services of a strong man as the machines we use get bigger and bigger!
This isn't really a typical industry for women to choose to work in. Do you like DENSO products?
Longerich: Yes, of course! Especially as we've developed so many innovative new products in the last few years. These new additions make sure that my work stays interesting. We've recently introduced the TOK®-BSW System, which acts like a screen to protect joints in protective concrete walls. We're the first company in the world to make a product like this – and that fact is just as exciting to me now as it was when I started here four decades ago.
How do you apply your experience in your day-to-day work?
Longerich: With our order volume on the rise, it's a great benefit that I know all of the production processes inside out, as this enables me to work more quickly. Our production processes and product properties are continually developing, but our products continue to uphold the same high quality standards. That's why we also enjoy the task of checking the final product before it leaves the company – I see that as a sign of true appreciation!