In the following interview Oliver Wohllebe, Siemens Gamesa Covid 19 task force leader, reports how he took over this responsible task and how the wind turbine manufacturer is learning to deal with the new “normal”.
Renewable Energy Hamburg: “How long did it take for Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy to prepare its coronavirus measures?”
Oliver Wohllebe: “At Siemens Gamesa, we already had detailed plans and processes for crisis situations. Aspects such as occupational safety and working from home were important issues for us, even before the coronavirus. In Germany, we had been closely following COVID developments since February. In early March, our discussions became more intense and on 9 March, we decided to almost completely close our offices within two days, including our head office at Berliner Tor. As our IT was extremely well prepared, everything was soon working very smoothly. Since then, our Covid-19 taskforce, which I chair, has been closely coordinating all measures with the Executive Board. A total of 1,200 employees work at our Hamburg site. Plus around 500 colleagues, whose work involves servicing turbines in Cuxhaven.”
Renewable Energy Hamburg: “How did you set up the taskforce? Who are the taskforce members?”
Oliver Wohllebe: “First of all, Siemens Gamesa set up a global taskforce that defines clear safety protocols and hygiene rules worldwide and coordinates the process. During the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, we realised that requirements vary greatly depending on the country and that the impact on our colleagues in Italy and Spain, for example, was very different to our experience in Germany. So we also set up local taskforces.
In Germany, the taskforce has a total of 15 members. Essentially, these are Health & Safety and Real Estate as well as HR and Communication colleagues, who discuss the situation and make immediate decisions, together with the Executive Board, individual business units and the Works Council. This is very similar at a global level.
Right from the start, it was important that we paid attention to our colleagues’ questions and concerns. Everyone was allowed to ask questions at any time, such as during Skype sessions with several hundred participants. No question was ignored. This open dialogue is enormously helpful in developing our ‘new normal’.
In Germany, the integration of Senvion and Adwen is also currently underway. Here too, we’re working closely with the taskforce and jointly implementing actions. From our colleagues’ feedback, it’s noticeable that a very strong sense of unity and great solidarity have developed among employees.”
Renewable Energy Hamburg: “How have you adapted your production processes in light of the coronavirus pandemic?”
Oliver Wohllebe: “We’ve split the teams and established fixed cohorts. Nobody may switch between groups and protocols are used everywhere to maintain social distancing and good hygiene – be it in administration, service or production. All our processes must remain transparent. For the teams on our offshore ships, we introduced coronavirus testing very early on. Everyone is tested before being deployed so that nobody onboard can be infected.”
Renewable Energy Hamburg: “How does Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy in Hamburg plan to return to a ‘new normal’?”
Oliver Wohllebe: “Our office in Hamburg is in the process of reopening. Since 18 May, around 100 staff have voluntarily returned to the office as part of the initial phase. Here too, we’re working in split teams and using different entrances, to avoid infections.
We’re paying a great deal of attention to social aspects; nobody should be disadvantaged in any way.
As far as we can foresee, we expect this special situation to continue until the end of the year. Basically, however, we’re very confident that our return to the office will continue to go smoothly. We’re also speaking to our colleagues around the world on a daily basis, in order to learn from one another.”
Renewable Energy Hamburg: “Finally: how did you become head of the Covid-19 taskforce at Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy?”
Oliver Wohllebe: “I was originally a skilled chemical worker, then studied process engineering and completed an MBA. I’ve worked in project management/sales and engineering at Siemens for 23 years and have also undertaken many deployments abroad. I was used to complex challenges. I was assigned the task of managing the Covid-19 taskforce, because I’m currently involved in another project at the site and therefore have a good overview of the SGRE locations and the situation in Germany. In addition, responsible and challenging tasks appeal to me. The most important thing is to flexibly respond to new circumstances every day.”