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Experience and Insight: An Interview with Harald Wilhelm

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As chair of AIAG’s Quality Steering Committee, there’s no doubt that Harald Wilhelm – head of Quality Processes and Standards, North America at Continental – brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the table. Sitting down for an interview just days after celebrating his 30th anniversary with Continental, Harald shared his thoughts on the importance of getting involved, staying informed and keeping up with industry news. 

Why do you think it’s important to come together at AIAG and participate in events or volunteer?
My experience is that you really have an excellent networking and exchange platform for the automotive industry – specifically for the Detroit area – here at AIAG. In the steering committee there are other suppliers and OEMs, so there’s always a lot of good discussions. In a lot of cases with these meetings, many of the exchanges are in the hallway, before the meeting, or after the meeting, which gives you an opportunity to have a discussion with peers, customers, and suppliers on relevant topics. It’s very relevant for the industry, what AIAG is putting out there.

How do you keep up to date on what’s happening in the industry?
I definitely attend events, but I think reading is also a key element – and not paper books typically because changes occur so quickly. Whatever your specific topic is, you have to keep up to date with the developments by reading online publications, whether through traditional outlets or whatever new media forms come up. That’s a little bit of my personal taste, but I think it’s absolutely necessary to read daily, and to get little increments of information.

Based on your years of automotive experience, what current or emerging trends do you think are most urgent for the industry to prepare for?
With all the trends that are coming, what they all have in common is an absolute need for a focus on quality. No matter if you’re talking autonomous driving, driver assistance systems or even electrification services, the acceptance with the broader public can only be there if the quality is right from the beginning. So, the focus we have with the Quality Steering Committee, but also as an industry, has to be a ‘quality first’ mindset.

What advice would you offer to those who are just starting out in the automotive industry?
In my opinion, the whole way we are teaching and learning has changed a lot. When I was in grad school, subject matter knowledge counted – and now it’s become, for lack of a better word, useless, because anybody can Google it. What you really need is a structured problem-solving approach and the ability to learn. That is much more valuable than the knowledge itself.

Are you an AIAG member and interested in volunteering for an AIAG work group? Please contact us at quality@aiag.org.



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