Forty years on
A giant of remanufacturing, Rolf Steinhilper has retired from Bayreuth University after a glittering career in the sector which he did so much to shape. Daniel Koehler, his former PhD student, offers an appreciation of reman’s ‘overlord’
This year the remanufacturing industry should pause for a moment to think about a very outstanding personality who is officially retiring from our community (although, unofficially, I hope he doesn’t).
I am talking about Professor Rolf Steinhilper, head of the Fraunhofer Project Group Regenerative Production located at Bayreuth University. He is a scientist, author of classic remanufacturing textbooks, member of the Reman Hall of Fame, past winner of the ReMaTec Remanufacturer of the Year Award (pictured) - also, my PhD supervisor – plus the developer and educator of hundreds of skilled engineers and dozens of reman experts. There are a lot more things about him that I could mention here.
ReMaTecNews has asked me to honour him and his achievements - and to give those who know his name but perhaps don’t know him very well a small insight into his personality. Rolf shaped, defined and developed remanufacturing over his working life of about 40 years – from 1978 to 2018. He has an absolutely extraordinary management style that gives maximum responsibility to the individual and therefore grows it to its maximum. He also has a very sharp eye for skilled people, ranging from his scientists to his employees and students – and also business partners. Hierarchies were never so important to him – instead, he was more focused on the challenge. About his technical skills we do not need to write a lot, as they are outstanding. It has to be mentioned that he always had a global view on any topic.
About his career you can read a great deal in other places. I personally have to say that I am convinced that Rolf was a fast mover - the first in the market, so to say. He recognised the potency, complexity and relevance of remanufacturing - especially in the automotive sector – very, very early. He wanted to harvest what he saw as a small, young plant. But he was too far ahead of the game. The automotive business and the wider industry was not ready for professionalism and science-supported remanufacturing in those days. They had other problems and challenges – they weren’t interested in this dirty, ugly and non-sexy ‘scrap polishing’.
Thankfully, nowadays this has changed a lot. Every company fights in the aftermarket, well-known companies have developed reman lines and brands, original equipment manufacturers have founded joint ventures that create their own reman solution. Consequently, Rolf found good relationships with the companies that took remanufacturing already very serious from the very beginning, and these were the independent remanufacturers.
Rolf, I personally and on behalf of the complete global remanufacturing community, have to say thank you. Well done! Great job! You have left a wonderful legacy for all of us.
As I write these words, I finally understand your name: R.O.L.F., the Reman Over-Lord – Forever!
And I’m looking forward to meeting the Reman Over-Lord at one event or the other event in future for a glass of red wine.