4.0 Playbook

A basketball, football or volleyball is a key element of the yearly strategy session at the Magna Neuenstein transmission plant in Germany, as the team develops game-changers on the road to becoming a world-class smart factory.

Aldo Cirilli, general manager at Neuenstein until February and current general manager at Magna's Mudugno Italy facility, established a process of gathering dozens of managers and employees in a conference room and throwing out the first ball, along with a challenge.

“If you want to ensure your future, prove you are smarter” is a typical prompt.

Whoever catches the ball starts a rapid brainstorming session that may include how to boost efficiency or improve quality, and then throws it to the next person.

At the end of the session, all of the participants sign the ball, a trophy that goes on display at the division.

For this competitive workforce of 1,085, it’s not just about Industry 4.0 or building some of the most complex transmissions in the world for nine customers, including BMW, Daimler and Ferrari. They call it “Neuenstein 4.0,” a vision to “become the best plant in Magna worldwide,” Cirilli said.

“We started three years ago by defining the vision for the plant of where we want to be in 10 years,” Cirilli explained. “The strategy session helps us reach that vision. The idea is to keep the ball in the air and the ideas flowing. You own the ball when it’s in your hands. Strategizing becomes a physical thing. It makes you look in the air at what is in front of you. And when you pass the ball, you have to make sure that your colleague gets it, which means your idea or thought is understood, owned and restated.”

The annual plan goes into a strategy book that is distributed to every employee, even the plant’s security guards. The book includes the four game-changing milestones in the history of the plant and a glossary that makes the document easy to understand for all levels of the organization.

This approach yields tangible results, Cirilli said, including 20 percent higher productivity for a specific product line, as ideas for redesigning and simplifying production tasks are implemented and tests that were not effective are dropped. One idea for a completely new process resulted in shaving 15 seconds off the time it takes to build a certain transmission, something that can be done in under a minute now.

A photographer and graphic artist in his spare time, Cirilli is admired by employees for being a coach, cheerleader – and visionary.

“This plant has the energy to own its future,” Cirilli said. “If there is something that looks impossible to be achieved, the employees are motivated to get it done.”

More to discover …

Aldo Cirilli, former Neuenstein general manager and current general manager at Mudugno


The elite team at Neuenstein is building the dual-clutch eight-speed transmission for the Ferrari SF90 Stradale, a new nameplate set to hit the market in 2020. The 2020 Ferrari Roma, a 612-horsepower V8 coupe, will also feature the new transmission.

In another big win, Neuenstein, and its sister plant in Kechnec, Slovakia, build front-wheel-drive dual-clutch transmissions, including hybrid variants, for the BMW Group, which has awarded Magna its largest production order for transmission technologies in company history.

Neuenstein's Team Powertrain

Neuenstein All Stars

The formula for success at Neuenstein begins with a “team that is really strong in finding solutions,” said Aldo Cirilli, the plant’s general manager.

The main players of the Neuenstein 4.0 projects: Gerd Christ, Jochen Steiner, Ali-Binat Arslan, Tobias Wessely, Elisa Gemmel, Timo Metzger, Rainer Reustlen, Andreas Fiedler, Marco Roll, Ricardo Lamas-Alvarez, Dusan Kremenovic, Klaus Gruener and Turan Karimani. Here is how they make it happen:

Gerd ChrisT

Assistant General Manager


“We believe our employees should have an average free time of 20 to 30 percent a day where they can think about new things. If you are always busy with basic business, you will never have the time to generate new thoughts. This time can be spent on something as simple as discussions on the shop floor between two people.

“Operators need to be involved to keep quality at a high level as we develop projects like ‘online condition monitoring.’ Employees use computers to monitor assembly line equipment, and then suggest solutions or ideas for improvement. This is a new approach to ‘smart quality’ and ‘smart maintenance,’ one that has saved the plant $1.2 million Euros per year.”

Jochen Steiner (left) and Gerd Christ


Project Engineer


“I started here with an apprenticeship in 2003 and then worked as a mechanic in maintenance.  In the past, it sometimes took two days to fix a problem. Now, we are able to plan maintenance so there is no downtime. It’s faster to detect the cause with online condition monitoring of machines.

“Predictive maintenance means machines can tell us when they need to be repaired by sending a message to a maintenance person via email. About 30 machines here can do this, and in the future about 60 will have the capability. This prevents breakdowns and means you can produce more parts.”


Maintenance Planning Engineer

“Industry 4.0 is not a one-man show. It’s teamwork. One person could never achieve what we’ve done. A good example is our new mobile maintenance app for smartphones and tablets used by 70 maintenance people here. This app enables our employees to do preventive maintenance, look up electrical or hydraulic plans, and take pictures or movies of a problem. It saves time and helps the user work on improvements, instead of paperwork.

“Because we work so hard on testing and innovating, I bring brownies to work every Friday. It’s one small way to make people happy.”


Project Coordinator


“We are creating the building blocks of smart factories. If you put them all together, it’s part of the Industry 4.0 puzzle. We’re doing the right projects and creating a lot of data, which is the basis of everything.

“One example is our digital audits. In the past, about 120 checklists were paper-based. We now have all of the checklists in one application for smartphones and tablets. This provides us with real-time information and audit results that are posted on digital smartboards throughout the plant. Employees can access the information and visualize it.

“The digital smartboards save 16,244 pieces of paper a year and eliminate 3,561 hours spent on generating reports and making copies.”


Project Engineer


“This is my first job after earning a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. It’s fun to work with cross-functional teams. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that it takes a team to develop a new project, and the people from the shop floor must be involved.

“We can’t implement quality projects without them. They know the daily problems and we try to solve them together. That’s why we’re on the shop floor every day, talking to them about their ideas for smart machines.”




“Our team came up with a simple way to visualize if a part is bad or good by using smiley faces in our new ‘visual process monitoring.’

“In the past, the timeline of all measurements was located on a machine in paper. A better approach is to use a visual monitor. Operators can see the performance trend with the help of smiley faces on the monitor; green is good and red is bad.

“We installed a prototype on one production machine in 2019. In 2020, we plan to put this new system on 100 machines and expect to reduce tooling costs up to 30 percent.”