This visit to Miele, a large German producer of domestic appliances, was announced even before my first semester at Frankfurt School officially started. I registered for the event only a couple of hours after the announcement – so eager was I to learn new things about the work of a big manufacturing enterprise and to see new places in Germany.
Then, on an early autumn morning, several members of this year’s intake of the Master of International Business program, together with senior MIB students, our program director and student recruitment officer, started our 3.5 hour long journey to Gütersloh, a town in North Rhine-Westphalia, where Miele has its headquarters.
Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed by a member of HR department, and then went to visit the Miele Museum, where the history of the 117 year old company was portrayed in its products, including the very first ones – milk centrifuges and butter machines of early 1900s! We then could observe the evolution of washing machines, vacuum cleaners, ovens and other kitchen appliances that Miele produced, which gave me personally a very valuable insight into the life of people (or, I would say, women) ver the past century. There was even a period when the company made bicycles and motorcars – the fact that might be unknown to most people today.
After the museum visit and a short lunch break we had an exciting plant tour. This Miele plant in Gütersloh is where approximately 5500 people work and 4000 washing machines are produced daily. We have seen the full production process, and namely, how metal sheets are gradually transformed into sides of future washing machines, how they are then assembled and stuffed with a drum and electronics until they are packed up.
As Miele strives to ensure the best quality of the products, each part of a future machine is tested individually for flaws; the drums are tested using a piece of fine nylon to make sure that fabric won’t get damaged during the wash. Our plant guides did not only explain how certain machines and presses worked, but also pointed out that the production process is organized in accordance with just-in-time principle, which means that only a limited amount of raw materials is bought and stored that is required for the next few days or orders, and also only certain amount of finished products is stored at the facilities. The JIT principle was something that I learned just a couple of weeks ago in the Accounting class.
After the production plant tour, there was a presentation by the Division Director of Domestic Appliances International unit. In a very lively and interactive manner, he spoke about the strategy of the company. We learned that Miele, now run by the 4th generation of owners’ families, aims to be a coveted brand of high-end home appliances and concentrates mostly on B2C operations. As quality is an overall priority for the company, it wouldn’t enter a market if there would be no opportunity to offer post-sales services there. There is even a saying that Miele products last a lifetime. Everyone was also amazed upon hearing that Miele uses no external financing such as bank loans at all. Finally, the speaker demonstrated the brand-new washing machine which offers a new way of using detergents no washing machine producer has probably offered yet. In the end of the visit, the representative of Human Resources department provided us with the information about internship, trainee and entry-level placement opportunities at Miele, and after exchanging presents, we left Gütersloh.