25 years of Diakonie workshop at Freudenberg

Weinheim, November 28, 2013. Counting Simmerrings, welding them into packages and gluing labels to boxes. About 100 people with disabilities work in the Diakonie workshop at the Freudenberg Group facility in Weinheim. The Group itself is the major customer of the workshop. This is certainly a success story: Freudenberg has co-operated with Diakoniewerkstätten Rhein-Neckar for 25 years. Cooperation is one of the many examples of the way in which the value-oriented family company shoulders its social responsibility at its various locations. The objective is to connect the workplaces of people with disabilities as closely as possible to the world of industrial work.

Freudenberg has been supporting people with physical and mental disabilities since the Second World War. At that time it was mainly people with war injuries who were employed. In 1948, Carl Freudenberg established a workshop for the disabled for the machining of Simmerrings near Schweinfurt. The first workshop for people with disabilities at a Freudenberg facility, with 26 employees, was established in 1988 by Diakoniewerkstätten Rhein-Neckar at the Müllheimer Tal plant. One of the workshops has been located in Weinheim Industrial Park since 1995.

“I am so happy to have a job,” says Sabine Kohler, who has been employed in the workshop for 10 years. “I sat around at home for years, watching TV and writing applications.” She shows us how she packs candles in wooden boxes and ties b,pows. “It is really important to have a job,” says Andrea Schweigert, who is also packing candles. Occupational therapist Elke Bissdorf is standing in the middle of the workshop. “The work enhances motor skills and social competence,” she says. “I make sure that people with different levels of ability work together in the same team. We rotate jobs to make sure that work does not become monotonous.” Will it be possible to integrate the people who work here into the conventional labor market in the long term? “I hope that this will be the case for some of our employees,” says Bissdorf. “But the modern world of work has not yet reached this point.”

On the floor below, machinery is whirring in a large factory hall. Simmerrings for Freudenberg Sealing Technologies are packed here. “We have targets to meet and we package a specified quantity within a certain time,” says Gabriele Müller from the employee representative body. “We are proud to be able to do that together.” Wooden counting boxes enable the employee to pack the correct number of parts. A large Simmerring is referred to as an elephant while a small ring is referred to as a mouse. Signs with drawings of animals are positioned on the conveyor belt to help employees recognize the correct product. A young woman is standing by the line, counting Simmerrings.“Good,” she says when asked if she enjoys her work. Then she laughs. This is a special feature of the workshop. Many employees have difficulties expressing themselves, search for words or appear to be difficult to communicate with. But suddenly, they take your hand, put their arm around you and smile at you. They are different and build relationships via emotions and contact. It is the same with their work: they work with their hand and their heart.