We all have ideas. But only a few of us have the courage and the opportunity to implement them. Danijel Miklaucic is a man of action, who likes to change things for the better. Demonstrating endurance, drive and a suitable amount of willpower, he has been able to achieve a great deal at his place of work at Daimler Buses, even if everything hasn't always run smoothly.
I meet Miklaucic outside his office at the venerable Benz plant in Mannheim. Miklaucic, who moved to Germany with his family from their home in Tuzla, now in Bosnia, at the age of three, makes a confident, open-minded impression on me. After a little small talk, we settle in his office, which is not far from the bus production hall. I am keen to hear what the man in the white Daimler shirt has to tell me.
His response to my question about how he came to work for Mercedes-Benz, or rather EvoBus, is perhaps typical for someone of his generation: both his father and his brother were already "working for Benz". One day, when he was still at school, his father said to him: "You must do an apprenticeship at Benz. If you're taken on by Benz, you'll have a job for life." Miklaucic was indeed able to get an apprentice position as a fitter in Mannheim, and thereafter - thanks to the hard work he put in - to seek out a position as a welder. After that he spent a long time in Wörth am Rhein as a supervisor in the body-in-white section.
Not long after that he returned to Mannheim to do rectification work on chassis. But although Miklaucic earned very well in this period, he got bored always having to correct the same defects. Almost every day he would ask himself: "Do you really want to do this every day for the next 20 years?" One day he suddenly decided to write down a ten-point plan on how to improve bus production. He presented it to his manager.
After a few weeks of anxious waiting, his manager came up to him and said, "Miklaucic, come with me!". With mixed feelings, he followed his boss into the office, only to find out that he was not about to get the sack, but that he was going to be promoted. Miklaucic was given the opportunity to make his ten points become reality. Thanks to his experience in rectification work, coupled with a sound portion of common sense, he improved processes in bus production using so-called "handhelds" to such an extent that the defect rate sank from an average of 100 to under 5 per bus. Miklaucic now had a reputation as a man "who gets things done".
Miklaucic had always been a man "who gets things done" when it came to his sport. As a youngster he played football for the Waldhof Mannheim U14 team and was captain of his school team. "I was very good at football, but for some reason I had the feeling I had to be able to defend myself," explains the Team Leader. At the age of 14, by chance, he discovered kick boxing through a colleague of his brother, which at the time was almost an unknown sport. He showed a lot of talent for this sport, was very quick and had excellent reactions. As a result, despite suffering the odd injury, he stuck with full-contact kick boxing. Early on, Miklaucic found he also enjoyed coaching other people. "If the coach wasn't there for whatever reason, I was happy, at the ripe old age of 17, to lead the session," he recalls with a smile.
Not long after that, once he had completed his master craftsman training, he was taken on to support the CITARO project. From then on he was responsible for making things clearer elsewhere, too. Thus, for example, he introduced prototype recons to the assembly lines, and managed the process at the same time. "We just didn't have all that back in 1996 - you simply wouldn't believe it today," recalls the Team Leader with a grin. This was followed by stints in various other departments, in which he was able to prove his expertise at improving production processes.
As the young Miklaucic's career really took off, he let the kick boxing slide. With more and more of his time claimed by his job, at some point he gave up training completely. From then on it was all about the job, and nothing else, for him.
At the young age of 27, Miklaucic was given responsibility for personnel for the first time, in the prototype building section. His boss at the time told him: "We want you to teach us your way of looking at things, how you did what you did in production." Despite his positive image there was some opposition at the beginning. As the youngest in the department and with his background of migration too, he was viewed with skepticism at first. But he was not bothered by this, and had reorganized every process there within two years. This was followed by a series of other positions as a project specialist, in which he proved his clear-sightedness every time and breathed new life into the individual departments.
From 2007 he worked for four years as EPA10 Project Manager in Mississauga, Canada for Daimler Buses North America, in a multicultural land of immigrants, working with teams made up of a real mix of nationalities and educational backgrounds. What, for example, does a Russian, Chinese, Brit or Indian take to mean standardized components? Miklaucic was faced with the real challenge of supporting a process with structure and methodology.
Sport reentered his life when he was 30. After all the years of not training, a return to kick boxing did not seem possible. So he took up tae bo. A form of sport that combines aerobics with martial arts - just like kick boxing - but is completely non-contact. "Tae bo is all about enjoying the moves," he explains. The man from Mannheim, who has an Advanced Trainer License, has been teaching tae bo for several years now to interested colleagues from the Mannheim plant. Although in the same period he has also built himself a house, he has never once canceled a course. He enjoys teaching courses. It enables him to put all other thoughts out of his head. The tae bo course also gives him a great opportunity to get to know colleagues from the plant who are working in a huge number of different areas. Every so often they go out to socialize after a lesson. That strengthens the team spirit.
Miklaucic tells me he has built a house with a flat roof on which he intends to plant a small kitchen garden. It's important to him to know where his food is coming from. He looks for good quality and avoids unnecessary packaging. And he doesn't confine this outlook just to food. "I have just built a table for the kitchen, " the amateur craftsman tells me, full of pride, "and I know it will last a lifetime."
This appreciation of continuity and sustainability is important to him in his work, too. Walking through the production hall at the end of our interview, he tells me that he has recently succeeded in reducing the time he needs to spend on operations to a minimum and so now has lots of time to devote to future projects, such as "the new cross-plant info tools" as part of the Mannheim plant reorganization project. "Without sustainability there can be no long-term development," stresses Miklaucic. Together we inspect the shop floor areas that he set up. Thanks to them, all processes can be managed to the minute, capacity utilization is always optimal and there is no wasting of resources. Everything is standardized, which leads to error-free production processes. The employees' workstations are also laid out according to the latest ergonomic principles. Where they used to have to drag their own tool kits along behind them, now you will find exactly the tool(s) you need on the workstation itself, secured to a magnetized wall.
I am genuinely impressed to see how much change a single person has affected, purely through his drive and initiative. It shows me that it pays off to stand up for your convictions and to be proactive. Seeing yourself as an active part of the whole helps everyone in the end, whether they be colleagues or family and friends.
Text: Yves-André Mahler
Photography: Jens Arnold, Jonathan Wagner
"For the sake of the environment, we put our buses on the road in a way that is environmentally friendly and shows awareness of finite resources. – That is the guiding principle behind responsible production at Daimler Buses. But, what does this actually mean? For us at Daimler Buses, responsible production means that we invest in production and processing technologies that are kind to the environment on the basis of a company environmental management system. High priority is also attached to maintaining compliance with all environmental specifications during production.
Among other things, this involves:
- Reducing CO2 and VOC emissions
- The automation of top coat painting, and
- Improving the efficient use of materials and energy, for example in the field of support rod and parts production, which Danijel Miklaucic is working on.
Our efforts have not gone unnoticed: in 2014, the EvoBus Logistics Center in Neu-Ulm was the first building to be awarded the title of sustainable industrial facility by the German Society for Sustainable Building (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen).