While carefree après-ski celebrations are still taking place in Europe, Jack Huang is already racking his brains about how to deal with the new coronavirus. As Head of Health Safety Environment for the Asia/ Paciﬁc region, he is responsible for the health and safety of the employees at the more than 25 MAHLE locations in China. A large part of the workforce is on vacation for the Chinese New Year. This makes planning a little easier, but the challenges for Huang are immense: Every day there are new reports about the virus, in addition to ever-stricter guidelines from the government. The Hubei region is completely locked down, other provinces as well. There are countless unanswered questions. How infectious and dangerous is this disease, how does it spread, what needs to be done to resume business quickly? Huang works from morning until late at night these days, cooperating with all members of the Health Safety Environment (HSE) team to develop guidelines for resuming business at all Chinese plants, networking with the Purchasing department to ensure that there are sufﬁcient protective masks available for all employees, and supporting the plants in safely returning employees to work. Huang monitors the situation in the respective Chinese plants and reports back to the China management team on a daily basis. “It was a truly unique time,” he says today.
It is a Saturday. Frank Rohde sets off at 04:00 to pick up his daughter from Frankfurt Airport. It will be the last ﬂight from Thailand before ﬂights to Germany are suspended. In the car he hears the news that the coronavirus situation is getting worse: France is shutting down, Spain is declaring a state of emergency, and in Germany the number of people testing positive is rising rapidly. The head of the Filter Elements and Filter Media department has two questions on his mind. First, how will his department cope with the impending shutdown? Second, what can he and his team do to help ﬁght the virus? Together with his supervisor Jörg Rückauf, he develops the idea over the weekend: “We need to make protective masks. It was clear to me that our ﬁlter media also protected against the virus,” says Rohde, looking back. But as an automotive supplier, how do you build up mask production from scratch? “With a lot of effort through try and error and with the right partners.” For three weeks, a small, powerful team from Austria and Germany devotes itself completely to this development. The ﬁrst templates are created using paper and a stapler; the clip of a bread bag also serves as a makeshift tool. “We know how to ﬁlter air. But developing a protective mask was real grassroots work,” Rohde recalls. MAHLE gains an additional partner: the underwear manufacturer Triumph, which contributes its expertise in textiles and sews masks made of the MAHLE ﬁlter material in its work-shops in parallel with the planned in-house production. “Atemmasken statt BHs (face masks instead of bras)” is the headline in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The ambitious goal of producing 1.5 million masks a month is quickly achieved. “The way we pulled it all off was an amazing and unique experience,” Rohde sums up. The enthusiasm is still palpable today: “There was no template for this venture; everything had to be developed as a team. Success like this brings people together and strengthens the internal and external network and this extends beyond the pandemic.”