Sustainability Report 2022

Report 2022



Dear Readers,

Writing a sustainability report means drawing a balance of where we stand. What did we achieve in the year under review? What do we need to focus more on in the future? When we wrote our first sustainability report two years ago, we knew that it would only be the starting point for engaging in an open and challenging dialogue on the environmental and social impact of our business activities.

The industry in which we work is in the midst of transition. An environmental turnaround in transportation can only succeed if private transport – a major carbon emitter – shifts to alternative drive technologies. As a close partner to the automotive industry, we consider creating the conditions for sustainable manufacturing and logistics and proactively developing solutions as our responsibility too. To this end, we are involved in research and pilot projects relating to the life cycle of battery-powered vehicles.

On top of that, we keep a constant watch on our own emissions – as the quality and efficiency of our processes is key. To reduce CO2 emissions, we also use electric pool cars and industrial vehicles. Many of our branches also have efficient LED lighting and energy-saving heating systems. But we also want to report here on the limits on and factors involved in our environmental activities.

In order to live up to our claim of operating responsibly as a company, we have focused in the past two years on our most important resource –the skills and motivation of our employees. For example, we have launched an employee app to create important means of business participation. We have also opened up new job opportunities for junior staff via training programmes and cooperation with colleges and universities.

Against this backdrop, we do not feel any need to gloss over the balance we have drawn of our accomplishments to date. We are proud to transparently and clearly present in this Sustainability Report our efforts and successful achievements towards more sustainable automotive logistics, and remain open to constructive criticism for further improvement.

We know that sustainability is an on-going challenge that can only be mastered by combined effort. In this sense, we hope you find our report insightful and look forward to hearing your comments!

Dr. Marcus Ewig and Thomas Bernhardt,
Managing Directors of Rhenus Automotive SE

Logistics and

The "invisible" Logistics Provider

The logistics industry is visible everywhere one looks. Lorries rolling along roads, delivery vehicles hauling items across cities and towns, freighters floating down rivers and cargo planes flying through the sky. Goods are transported along the various stages of the value chain, as finished products to retailers, and ultimately making their way to customers for purchase. This is logistics in action on the front stage – large-scale movement of goods in the sense of transport.

Rhenus Automotive – a subsidiary of the Rhenus Group – operates in a different and narrower sense of logistics, performing a more nuanced role. One that is less visible, but much closer to the product.

The core business takes place on the factory premises

Rhenus Automotive provides intralogistics, the optimal supply and delivery of all required goods and materials and their installation in the production processes – just in time and just in sequence. Stated another way: wherever automobiles or automotive parts are manufactured, the right components must be available, installed and processed in the right sequence at the right time in the right place. Rhenus Automotive’s core business comprises the activities performed between delivery of material to and removal of empty load carriers from the factory gate. Rhenus Automotive’s own services are provided predominantly on the factory premises.

Such a specific logistics role results in a much closer connection to the customer – the manufacturing company. It becomes interconnected with the customer’s own value creation, with its processes and requirements. This type of logistics provider can actually relieve the automotive manufacturer of related tasks enabling the manufacturer to concentrate on its finished product.

Efficiency and precision – but no waste

In complex manufacturing, efficiency and precision in collaboration constitute operational business factors as well as drivers of sustainability. Every trip, transport route and minute saved equate to saved energy. And every bit of energy once spent on production is better invested the fewer breakdowns and damage there are and the longer the life of the end product is.

This is the essence of Rhenus Automotive’s corporate environmental responsibility to support customer processes as efficiently as possible and in a way that conserves resources. That is the fundamental obligation. The special skill demanded on top of that is understanding the customer’s needs beyond the contractually agreed cooperation and developing sustainable solutions to its problems.

Production logistics: just in time and just in sequence

Both production and logistics concepts are oriented to the manufacturing cycle and are aimed at delivering the right quantity of a product at the right time without building up inventory. The difference between ‘just in sequence’ (JIS) and ‘just in time’ (JIT) is that JIS takes into account the sequence in which components are processed in assembly.

In the automotive industry, where custom configuration of a car is becoming increasingly important, JIS pairs the sequence of delivery to the station with the sequence of production, thus reducing floor space and condensing routes. This lowers throughput times and makes overall production is leaner; there is less bound capital.

In turn, JIS production requires very precise coordination and communication as well as a stable infrastructure between the suppliers and logistics providers and the vehicle manufacturer.

and Climate

Sustainable Management:
Between wanting to and being able to

If you think about climate protection backwards, the complex aspects often become a lot clearer.  In order to slow the global rise in temperature and thus avoid the ecosystem’s crossed tipping points, greenhouse gas emissions must be significantly reduced – CO2 is the key.

The maxim: Be better than the legal requirements

Identifying the main impacts in our own business activities and addressing them bit by bit, while always striking a balance with economic sustainability, therefore make up the guiding principle underlying our climate strategy.

The entire Group is therefore gradually working towards the joint objectives of reducing the environmental impacts that arise in the course of providing services and achieving savings. Each individual business unit is urged to make its own contribution to this end. A steering committee comprised of managers and “green enthusiasts” from each business unit coordinates efforts and exchanges experiences.

For Rhenus Automotive, the focus is on  emissions generated by its own operations. CO2 emissions are an environmental and very real cost and therefore under serious consideration and assessment in investment decisions and projects. The power and heating infrastructure is a major source of emissions.

The company’s carbon footprint is uniformly reported via a platform and consolidated at Rhenus headquarters in Holzwickede. The results are then translated into measures that are implemented step by step.

For emissions that are unavoidable, the UN Carbon Offset Platform’s Gold Standard can be applied to offset projects, which will help Rhenus Automotive to close the gap to climate-neutral business activities in the future

Minimising impacts, pulling the right levers

The key challenge in corporate climate and environmental protection is that Rhenus Automotive’s own emissions are relatively low compared to the indirect impacts in the manufacture of automotive products. The environmentally relevant impacts of the office buildings are manageable, the forklifts and industrial trucks used are electric, and the electricity mix is gradually being converted to renewable energy sources.

More significant factors and greater leverage lie in the consumption of materials, the energy infrastructure of the factory premises, and transport back and forth between locations – all these are then on the side of and in the hands of the customer. Rhenus Automotive’s scope for exerting influence is limited and action can only be taken in reliance on and agreement with the automotive company.

Sustainability management of Rhenus Automotive is caught between only having an indirect influence on the environmental impact of the customer and its economic consideration on the one hand, and its aspiration to effectively implement improvements on the other hand.

Stefanie Müller

In her function as Head of Corporate Social Responsibility of Rhenus Automotive, Stefanie is responsible for and coordinates SCR and heads the Rhenus Group Steering Committee.


The SDGs: climate action, decent work and economic growth, good health and well-being, and industry, innovation and infrastructure make up four areas of action that form the core of Rhenus’ sustainability strategy and in which the company strives for improvement.

Goal 3: Good health and well-being
We are committed to providing a safe working environment and promoting good health and well-being for all our employees. This ranges from regular training and health offerings for our employees to ergonomic and safe workplaces and conditions.

Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
We collaborate with research institutions and start-ups and are involved in scientific projects to build a resilient infrastructure, improve integrated and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation. Our goal is to create safer and more efficient logistics and a better infrastructure worldwide.

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
As a family-owned company and internationally operating logistics service provider, we take our social responsibility very seriously. We aim to provide a safe and healthy workplace environment for all our employees. Our pragmatic approach enables us to act quickly in any economic situation.

Goal 13: Climate action
As a logistics service provider, we offer our customers the most sustainable transport and supply chain solutions possible. In addition, we operate sustainable logistics facilities and investigate alternative drive technologies.




As a master's degree student in the Environmental Logistics program with Professor Dr Andrea Lochmahr at the Stuttgart Technology University of Applied Sciences, Alina wrote her master's degree thesis entitled “Design of a calculation model for forecasting CO2e emissions in Rhenus Automotive SE projects”  in cooperation with Rhenus Automotive.

From Measuring to Managing to Improving

Alina, as part of your master’s thesis, you developed a forecasting tool for project-specific CO2 emissions in logistics. What was the main question you wanted to find an answer to?

Summed up, it goes something like this: How can CO2 emissions or CO2-equivalent emissions be calculated and forecast as accurately as possible for projects that have not yet been awarded and will only be carried out in the future? After all, always determining after the fact what level of emissions was generated does not help to effectively manage projects and achieve reduction targets. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

And at the same time, the CO2 tool ought to be user-friendly with a high degree of accuracy, so that it can be used without any special prior knowledge and without great effort.

What were the biggest challenges?

In the conceptual design, first of all, that there are no uniform and mandatory compliance standards in the calculation of emissions. System boundaries need to be set and reference frameworks defined. In the Rhenus Group, the Green House Gas Protocol applies to accounting, but this relates to emissions that have already been generated, which brings us to the next challenge.

A forecast always involves additional uncertainties. Instead of using estimates, I wanted to work with data that was as close to reality as possible, so I immersed myself in the practice. I looked at the various projects at Rhenus Automotive, classified them and compared them in detail to the energy management system and also studied them on site at the premises. The questions I asked myself were: What causes CO2e emissions? What are the energy sources used?

I also analysed data from completed projects to generate historical values and use them to create reference values for all areas that emit CO2. These are stored in the tool. In this way, even without substantiated data for planned projects, good approximate values can be obtained, on the basis of which decisions can be made.

What observations did you make during your investigation with regard to sustainable logistics?

Rhenus Automotive is on the right track, but the decarbonisation of logistics is subject to external influences, which makes it complicated. There are unavoidable CO2e emissions generated by the business; emission sources that can only be addressed by or with the customer, and very complex supply chains. I see potential for improvement primarily in investing in solar energy and sourcing green electricity so that the energy for the already electrified industrial trucks is even cleaner.

Leverage Points for Sustainability 

Energy management at the sites
Rhenus Automotive has set up a central energy management system (EMS) that is ISO 50001-certified, into which the consumption of all sites and branches can be entered and tracked. The EMS helps to clearly record energy sources, to implement energy efficiency measures in a targeted manner and network sites with regard to possible approaches. Rhenus Automotive also operates an ISO 14001-certified environmental management system at some of its sites and performs standard and needs-based audits with the aim of having a measurable basis for the evaluation and further development of measures.

Where diesel vehicles used to predominate, electric forklifts and electric tow tractors have long been standard at Rhenus Automotive.

Logistics centres

Rhenus Automotive normally operates in its customers’ logistics facilities, and is therefore dependent on their power and heating infrastructure. In the case of particularly long-standing business relationships or if Rhenus Automotive uses its own premises, it can work towards sustainable improvements.

An example for electricity: use of energy-saving LED lighting / switch to green electricity / photovoltaic systems at Rhenus Automotive’s own facilities

An example for heat: Rhenus Automotive’s own facilities are insulated to provide better heat retention / they feature high-speed doors to reduce energy loss when vehicles are moved in and out / innovative heat fans optimise vertical heat distribution

Joan-Philip Wedemeyer

is one of Rhenus Automotive’s central quality and energy managers. Together with the local energy managers of the sites and branches, Joan-Philip monitors the respective consumption and uses centralised data and scenario checks to implement energy efficiency measures.

The warm air that has risen to the top is drawn in by large, slowly rotating ceiling fans and distributed back down. This raises the temperature at floor level without having to use more heating energy.

and Innovation

AN Entire Industry in Transition

The decision has been taken to end the combustion engine era and a definite time limit set on when this will be. The ban on fossil fuel cars will apply to newly registered vehicles in Germany from 2035. Even if the desired outcome of which technology will come to the fore as practical and sustainable is not that clear  – electric, hybrid or hydrogen vehicles will prevail on the market – the automotive industry is now under immense pressure to change. The entire industry is in the midst of a total transformation driven by disruptive forces. Everything is being turned upside down.

Production sites, supply chains and manufacturing processes dedicated over the years to perfecting production of combustion engines and transmission systems throughout all work stages must now be converted, expanded and supplemented. After all, many components in the manufacture of the end product – the automobile – will no longer exist in ten years. In the current phase of transition, automotive manufacturers and suppliers are even often operating several production lines in parallel. Existing production structures for conventional drive types are having electric cars integrated, which makes material procurement and cycles, production itself, and logistics more complex.


In the transformation underway in the industry, we also see our responsibility, in reducing complexity and developing lean solutions for our customers. Our focus is on logistics and the interfaces to upstream and downstream processes so that our customers can concentrate on their facility and their core product. This also requires flexibility on our part. We know that ultimately if a customer cannot successfully transform, that customer will cease to exist – and then we won’t have that customer either.

Frank Neirich

Frank Neirich

As Sales Manager in Sales & Engineering at Rhenus Automotive, Frank’s responsibilities include new tender projects, maintaining existing customer relationships, project forecasting – also for resources  and service components offered, and calculating costs.

On the one hand, Rhenus Automotive is only indirectly affected by the changes. Components will continue to be moved and installed between production steps. But on the other hand, it’s the details that count. It makes a big difference to us – as a JIT and JIS logistics provider that not only delivers goods in the right quantities at the right time but that also syncs the deliveries with the assembly sequence – whether or not,   instead of the highly resource-intensive logistics processes for manufacturing engines and transmissions, we will only be required to support the much leaner battery production in future.

Part of the solution: develop business opportunities

And fundamentally, Rhenus Automotive does not see itself and its role in the industry as that of a passive spectator. Rather, it considers its task to be anticipating early on how customer requirements and Rhenus’ own range of services will shift, which solution offerings are viable for the future, and how existing gaps can be meaningfully closed for customers.

For Rhenus Automotive, changes also generate opportunities. For example, the opportunity to rethink business models and expand the existing portfolio of services.

Closing the Loop Together

For electromobility to actually harness sustainability’s potential, the electricity used must be green –  i.e. generated from renewable energy sources –  and, above all, the battery problem has got to be solved. 
The ‘battery problem’ is this: What actually happens to electrically powered vehicle batteries when they reach the end of their life, become defective or when accidents occur? How can these batteries be reused or their individual components recycled and valuable raw materials reused? And what factors must be ensured for their environmentally friendly storage and transport?

The Battery Lifecycle Company GmbH (BLC) was founded by sister companies Rhenus and TSR with the aim of providing an integrated recycling of batteries along the entire value chain. From its site in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, BLC handles all the processing steps for lithium-ion batteries, most of which come from the automotive industry: Functional batteries whose performance is no longer sufficient for use in vehicles are prepared for reuse in new applications. Batteries that are irreparably damaged and no longer usable are discharged and dismantled.

Extending the battery lifecycle
This is precisely what Rhenus Automotive is investigating together with its affiliated companies that know all about recycling – partnering with TSR in the newly created joint venture ‘The Battery Lifecycle Company’, and with Remondis in a research project along with the Fraunhofer Institute and other research partners, and with Mercedes-Benz. The aim is to pool the complementary expertise and experience in different parts of the value chain in order to close the battery loop with sustainable recycled raw materials and thus reduce reliance on primary raw materials.


Automobile manufacturers focus on core production and only on the battery until it leaves the factory with the vehicle. But, when rejects are destroyed, raw materials go unused, and the batteries are not recycled in an environmentally sound manner. This helps neither the environment nor the carmakers. Consequently, there is no point in us as Rhenus Automotive optimising battery storage and transport at the factory premises but turning a blind eye to everything else. Instead, these issues can only be solved if we look at the entire production cycle – and the best way to do that is jointly, with the experts in the different cycle steps.

Florian Karlstedt

Second life and second use
Technological developments focus on safety of battery storage, handling, transport and reuse. This ensures that the energy used in production is utilised as long as possible and thus sustainably. For example, old batteries could be used to store electricity in power plants or in logistics, giving them a second use. To date, around 10-20 per cent of batteries in automotive production are treated as rejects and disposed of due to defective components. This wastes potential and detracts from their value. In the end, the value lost from a car battery to a power storage unit is considerable.Treated appropriately, batteries can also be reused for their original purpose as car batteries. The energy and time investment required for this confirms that remanufacturing, refurbishment or repair is worth it, both in terms of cost and sustainability. Nevertheless, this rarely happens. What does happen instead of repairing batteries is frequent treatment as economic write-offs because of the high initial investment required and the lack of expertise.


Automobile manufacturers have their work cut out for them at the moment assessing and converting their production processes for the new end product – the electric car. So they often fail to look at downstream processes or those not considered priority or not part of their core business, which creates blind spots. We see it as our responsibility to remove such blind spots where we can and to think of solutions for the needs of our customers – in the spirit of sustainability.

Florian Karlstedt

Transparency and take-back obligation

For automotive manufacturers, extending the battery life cycle is a step that makes sense both economically and in terms of sustainability –  regulators have also made it obligatory. The German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (LkSG) and extended producer responsibilities oblige distributors to practice transparency about raw materials and respect their take-back policies. It is therefore in the interest of and an obligation for automotive manufacturers to indicate which elements have been installed and used, and to secure access to recycled materials in order to meet recycling quotas.

For original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), investing time and resources in developing battery expertise – safety in storage, transportation and handling and in technological measures to extend their life – is risky and unprofitable at this time. Rhenus Automotive is closing this gap and investing in the know-how and the capacities to design and implement safe and efficient battery life cycles.

Besides specialisation in batteries, Rhenus Automotive, Remondis and TSR can share this additional advantage. As a JIS logistics provider for several OEMs at a variety of different locations, Rhenus Automotive can combine decentralisation and short distances – both key requirements for the safe and sustainable handling of batteries – with high volumes and thus operate economically.

In the Innologbat research project (Innovation Laboratory for Battery Logistics in E-Mobility), the cooperation partners – the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML, the University of Leipzig, Remondis Industrie Service GmbH, Rhenus Automotive SE and Mercedes-Benz Energy GmbH – are developing a recycling management system for the entire lifecycle of a battery in electric mobility, thus creating the basis for the battery logistics of the future. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research with €4.3 million.

Florian Karlstedt

is Project Manager at Rhenus Automotive and Managing Director of  The Battery Lifecycle Company joint venture. He is particularly committed to developing and expanding battery expertise in automotive logistics and, in collaboration with research and practice partners, to holistic, sustainable battery life cycle management.

Writing the New Chapter
of the Automotive Industry

Stephanie, why is the battery head unit Kamenz a special site for Rhenus Automotive?

Kamenz is Daimler AG’s largest battery site. The Daimler subsidiary Accumotive manufactures drive batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles for car brands Mercedes Benz and Smart here. The plant is extremely important for the OEM, as the majority of the Group’s batteries are made in Kamenz. The company’s own stated mission is to help shape the future of the automotive industry here in Kamenz. The plant itself conveys this aspiration – simply by virtue of the 80,000 m2 of production area and the extensive open space surrounding it. At this site, you have the sense that there is plenty of room for growth here.

What does this mean for Rhenus Automotive’s work?

As a service provider, we share the OEM’s mission of helping to shape the future of the automotive industry. This requires two things: experience in plant logistics and the willingness to rethink logistics and chart new territory. We are high-profile as an experienced service provider in plant logistics anyway, but our power of innovation was also a major reason for being selected for the site.

Stephanie Wuchrer

is  Kamenz site manager.  In the east of Saxony, 80 kilometres from the Czech border, Rhenus Automotive is responsible for the plant logistics of the battery head unit of Accumotive, a 100% Mercedes-Benz AG subsidiary.

What are the special logistics challenges for this battery head unit?

The production of batteries differs from that of combustion engines in a number of ways, and these differences are accompanied by specific challenges. First and foremost, working with batteries harbours a greater potential for danger. The cells are live; short circuits can occur; and in the worst case scenario, the batteries can ignite – so more comprehensive safety measures are required. For example, the trailers that transport the batteries to the plant must be cooled continuously – even when they are on the plant premises, of course.

The plant is also highly automated in order to minimise risks to employees – in other words, most of the transport on the plant premises is carried out by driverless transport systems. What is more,  potential delays due to battery incidents must be taken into account in planning operations. The plant has its own fire department for such incidents. Also, employees and managers have to be regularly instructed and trained in handling hazardous materials. So far, there have not been any long-term empirical values to rely on in addressing all these challenges.

How did you specifically address these challenges then?

I am convinced that the best way to deal with a disruptive change like this is to take a disruptive approach. So the main thing we did was put together a Scrum team for Kamenz management. Colleagues from different areas and from different Rhenus Automotive sites  met in Saxony to share their specific skills set for the benefit of this location. This was a novelty for us, but it proved successful. For one thing, it ensured that we got the ideal combination of skills needed for handling the logistics at Kamenz. And for another, taking this approach also sent a message to the OEM: We have the courage to change and dare to try something new when the previous solutions are no longer an optimal fit. In my opinion, the OEM should not underestimate the impact of such messages. They confirm that Rhenus Automotive is the right partner for this important site.

How else did you indicate this?

We have mastered the complex and often unanticipated developments that have affected the battery industry in the past two years. For example, working time models changed very quickly in some cases due to the coronavirus pandemic, and there were also supply bottlenecks for semiconductors. We too clearly felt the pressure that the OEM was under. However, the Rhenus Automotive team at the Kamenz site has demonstrated time and again that it can withstand  such pressure to change and find solutions.

We don’t want to give the impression that we are purely reacting to change. On the contrary, we are consciously driving transformation forward. For example, we have a 100%  electric vehicle fleet here at the site, which I believe is logical for a battery site. We support the OEM with state-of-the-art technology at all times. Just one example of that – we recently upgraded our scanner technology, from classic handhelds to ring scanners. And we never give the impression of sitting back and taking it easy.

Improvement is a Continuous Process

Swen, how does a lean manager contribute to sustainability?

Quite simply, in that we devote ourselves to our core task – optimising processes and providing colleagues with the right tools and methods for them to improve processes independently. As a logistics service provider, Rhenus Automotive is characterised above all by the quality of its processes – and this depends very fundamentally on how lean those processes are. After all, if there are no unnecessary steps, there is no unnecessary consumption of resources, no unnecessary emissions, and so forth.

What is the basic idea behind CIP at Rhenus Automotive and how does it work?

The continuous improvement process, or CIP, is based on the Japanese business philosophy of kaizen and is the practice of continuous improvement of everything by everyone. An improvement process is therefore not something that is centrally controlled and completed at some point, but is based instead on collective intelligence and iterative development. In my work as overall CIP coordinator, this means ensuring that every colleague feels called upon to make suggestions for improvement where they think it makes sense – whether it concerns saving time, communication, maintaining order and cleanliness, energy consumption and environmental protection, or safety matters. And it is my responsibility to ensure that the CIP site coordinators process and implement these suggestions following clear guidelines, and to monitor targets and quotas.

How do you go about this? What is important to you?

It is also important to me to constantly assess and optimise our own processes. CIP is therefore on my radar screen all the time. There are two key factors  to optimising the CIP. One is maintaining the lowest threshold  possible to submitting a suggestion and the other is ensuring that processing, systematising and implementing suggestions  are as uncomplicated as possible.

Digital tools are extremely helpful in tuning both these factors. To submit a suggestion, we have a QR code that directs employees to a user-friendly submission form. Then, after submitting their suggestion form, the employee receives a new individual QR code they can scan to track the implementation of their suggestion and see what reward they get for it.

After improvements have been effectively put into practice, they are evaluated by Performance Management in our CIP app especially developed for this purpose. Particularly noteworthy improvements and/or improvements with added value for other branches are entered in the CIP database, which CIP coordinators regularly review. The aim is to use the know-how gained across all branches. In short, we have set up the CIP to be fully  digital, making it a lot leaner and faster.

Swen von Laufenberg

is Lean Manager and overall CIP coordinator on the central Performance Management team. He is responsible for the CIP process, shop floor management and 5S. Swen also leads Lean trainings at all Rhenus Automotive sites in Germany.

Is there a current example from the CIP that particularly comes to mind?

A particularly valuable suggestion for improvement is one that adds value for other sites as well and optimises processes there too. A promising current suggestion that comes to mind in this regard is one submitted for a digital tool that can be used to report damage to trailers and vehicles and arrange appointments for repair. We have a large number of vehicles at each site, so damage is bound to occur during operations. Reporting damage, making appointments with the garage, and transporting vehicles to and from the garage has been a fairly fiddly process so far, involving numerous interfaces and different means of communication. The improvement suggested pooling all these separate steps on a platform that all parties can access. So, we are now at work on an app which can map the entire process and be accessed via smartphone. Starting with the photo taken for reporting the damage to the vehicle, to making an appointment with the garage, to picking up the repaired trailer or vehicle – everything can be handled online. No one has to call anyone and jot down an appointment. If the system proves successful at one model site, we could implement it for the forklift fleet throughout the company. This would save us huge amounts of work.

and Work

Shaping Change, Creating Meaning,
Increasing Satisfaction

As a logistics service provider, Rhenus Automotive’s value creation primarily comes from the people who provide these services of warehousing, picking  and assembling individual parts, and also planning and checking workflows and processes.

As the automotive industry changes, each of these activities is changing in its own way –  and with this the demands on those who perform the tasks. On the one hand, increasing automation is simplifying individual steps, but on the other, the shift to globalisation and digitalisation –  in short, to Logistics 4.0 –  also requires higher technical and IT skills in order to meet customer requirements.

As an employer, Rhenus Automotive is aware of its responsibility to actively and diligently shape these complex dynamics of change in order to ensure a good and healthy work environment for its employees. And it has been rewarded for its successful efforts – those who have started working for Rhenus Automotive usually stay for years. Nevertheless, in times of skilled worker shortages, such a good and healthy working environment is only a basic but not a sufficient condition to inspire and attract people to work for an employer. The declining number of applicants in all areas of the company has challenged Rhenus Automotive to take a close look at its role as an employer and to develop it further.

As a result, Rhenus Automotive has drawn up a number of different guidelines and launched projects over the past two years that hone its profile as an employer and have further professionalised and digitised its HR management processes.

Innovation Begins with a New Perspective

As regards sustainability, Rhenus Automotive’s basic principle is that  the efficiency of logistics processes is one of the key factors in sustainable business. This is where decisions are made about the optimal use of resources – or about their unnecessary consumption.

In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that each individual employee can influence the efficiency of work processes in their respective environment by their actions. Relying on what they specifically know and taking a critical look at their own work environment, each employee can contribute to improving processes and thus making Rhenus Automotive more sustainable.

For this to happen, certain conditions must be met. One is that employees must have a good understanding of the larger context in which they carry out their own tasks. Another is that they must be motivated and have an interest in contributing to and advancing the company. And they must also dare to question what is taken for granted and come up with alternatives. In short, it takes participation, identification, motivation and creativity to rethink logistics.

A Click Away From a Job:

The Online Application Portal
With its landing page, Rhenus Automotive is breaking new ground in facilitating industrial employees’ access to jobs at the company. The conventional process of a written application form has always been a hurdle for this group of employees – and an unnecessary one at that, since a pack of application documents provides little information about the prospective employee’s qualifications for an industrial job.

So, Rhenus Automotive offers the option of applying via its landing page for a job in production, driving a forklift or working in the warehouse.  Interested parties can indicate online which job and which locations they are applying for, their previous experience and which shifts they would like to take on – all with just a few clicks.
QR codes on printed products make the landing page accessible in a few simple steps, thus paving the way to a job interview. 

A Culture of Participation
for More Sustainability

Responding adequately to the current changes in the automotive and logistics industry is a complex process. It requires a different mind-set, a new corporate culture that cultivates more independence, innovative spirit and creativity. A culture in which especially those people with a flexible mind-set who want to help shape change feel at home. A culture that allows and even encourages agility and curiosity.

Stefanie Diefenbach

is Head of HR Development at Rhenus Automotive in Mannheim. Together with her team, she oversees the “Neologist – Rethinking logistics” campaign,  which conveys to employees the meaning and the context of their work and boosts their sense of factory pride, as well as encouraging them to challenge processes and structures to which there previously seemed no alternative.


According to an internal and external survey, Rhenus Automotive is perceived as reliable, very stable and traditional. But there’s more to us than that – we are also curious and hungry, and thus carry the power of innovation within each one of us. We want to communicate this message more confidently to the outside world in the future.

Stefanie Diefenbach

About two years ago, Rhenus Automotive began to further develop its own self-image as a company and as an employer, as well as to refine its corporate culture. What the process revealed was the need for a target image, one that employees could identify with, a positive point of reference for their own behaviour and their dealings with one another. Rhenus Automotive  immediately rose to this challenge of creating such a positive identity by coining a new word “neologist” – and actively shaping the corporate culture so that all employees of Rhenus Automotive consider themselves as neologists and are proud to be one.

The NEO-App

Starting in 2022, Rhenus Automotive is offering all employees NeoApp – a digital tool to improve the flow of information within the company. The app is the gateway to the intranet. It can be used to view the current shift schedule and track changes to it in real time, thus supplementing the traditional bulletin board in the plant. The app also displays all current announcements by company management as well as from the company’s own site. This is a huge gain in information, especially for industrial employees, as this group of forklift drivers, order pickers and others manufacturing specialist employees do not have work e-mail addresses and therefore no access to Rhenus Automotive’s intranet. All information is now available to them on the app, and they can also submit suggestions for improvement via the company suggestion scheme, and sign up for benefits, such as a company-leased bicycle.

Options to register for further training and e-learning as well as participation in surveys and maybe even online reward shops are features under consideration for future app versions.

Creating Prospects and Promoting Development

Lena, what are the goals of the Talent Programmes department?

In recent years, fewer people have applied to Rhenus Automotive than before. This decline in applications is a general trend not only affecting the logistics industry. We are consequently faced with a two-fold challenge – firstly, attracting people to a job at Rhenus Automotive, and secondly, ensuring that they stay with us for the long term. The Talent Programmes department has been further expanded to meet these two demands.

How are you specifically addressing these challenges?

First of all, the idea is to create more apprenticeships. This may sound counterintuitive, but it is logical if you think about the large number of sites we have. There are definitely people interested in working at certain sites, but sometimes these sites cannot fully offer everything included in the outline plan which is the prerequisite for apprenticeships. In this case, we talk to the sites and together look at which options and sites could be considered in order to fully meet framework plan requirements.

We are also improving access to training at Rhenus Automotive in a number of different ways. For example, we often offer apprenticeships to employees who started with us as lateral entrants and have since proven themselves. We also want to step up our visits to schools and advertise our apprenticeships at Rhenus Automotive there.

And – we are increasingly going digital, because that is important to the younger generation in particular. We are active in social media; we are working with a training management system where, for example, report notebooks can be processed online; and we are converting more and more HR processes so that they can be bundled and managed via an app. We are also planning a landing page to make it even easier to apply for an apprenticeship. Like the landing page for industrial employees, this new page will make it possible to submit online applications without any paperwork.



Lena Jenisch

Since completing her traineeship, Lena has been working in Talent Programmes in Human Resources development. In this function, she supports Rhenus Automotive’s sites in training the current 56 apprentices.

How are applicants and apprentices responding to these initiatives?

They have responded very positively to our  concept of creating prospects. This means, for one thing, our offer of apprenticeships to career-switchers and at schools of different ways to get started in employment at Rhenus Automotive. For another, it means the many different and sound career paths possible after completing an apprenticeship, like further training to become a master craftsman, business administrator or economist, and lots more.

In my opinion, creating prospects also means increasing flexibility within the company. Those who have trained at several different sites have a better insight into company structures and are generally better connected within the overall company. These employees are more likely to transfer to other positions within the company when they are looking for a new professional challenge, instead of leaving.

Supply Chain
and Due Diligence

Sustainable Procurement

The German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act is making headway. After a representative survey of companies by the German government found that only a small proportion of companies were complying with their voluntary commitment to human rights due diligence, it was enshrined in law.

This law establishes a duty of care. This means that it does not require companies to guarantee that human rights violations will be prevented in every case. However, companies affected must demonstrate that they have done everything in their power to prevent human rights risks in the supply chain, applying the principle of reasonableness. This includes risk assessment and management, definition of responsibilities, regular risk analyses, and anchoring relevant preventive and remedial measures and control processes, and  adoption of a policy statement.

For big companies affected by the law, this also means responsibility for ensuring that suppliers can provide the required evidence; otherwise they could be excluded from the supply chain.

Holger, what does the law change for Rhenus Automotive?

Since we established a comprehensive supplier and risk management system at Rhenus Automotive several years ago, we are well positioned for compliance with the requirements ahead. Previously, it was the sole responsibility of the factories to source and review their suppliers For several years now, these activities have been bundled, centralised and partially automated at Rhenus Automotive.

The law on due diligence therefore primarily changes how we report our risk analysis.



Holger Leschinski

is Head of Procurement at Rhenus Automotive. Together with his team, Holger is responsible for the different procurement areas in the automotive sector, both in DirectedBuy and in indirect purchasing, as well as for coordinating the supply chain for automotive customers. He is also responsible for expansion of the purchasing organisation, supply chain and risk management, and compliance.

What options does Rhenus Automotive have for auditing its own supply chain or that of its car-maker customers?

We use two main monitoring and analysis tools. Risk Methods, a risk management platform that allows us to monitor supplier financial and local risks in real time, as well as track disruptions throughout the supply chain. And with Integrity Next, a second complementary platform, we manage suppliers by their classification, with a particular view to issues relevant to collaboration. Companies have to answer assessment questionnaires, for example, on minimum wage and equality. Relevant certificates must also be uploaded. If questions are left answered or are answered inadequately, we follow up with audits performed by our own competent staff. We assess a total of more than 1,600 suppliers with regard to country risk for the country in which they operate and the goods in question.

What are the supply chain’s biggest challenges?

In structural terms, one challenge is that we have no influence on the selection of suppliers in DirectedBuy. By this I mean that the customer transfers responsibility for a functioning and sustainable supply chain to us. In the event of a conflict, however, we as Rhenus Automotive are not at liberty to decide the consequences and to respond by terminating the supply relationship as a last resort. What we can do instead is, first of all, point out the grievances to the automotive manufacturer and mediate them. In terms of the risks themselves, particularly supplier relationships in countries where, for instance, child labour occurs and monitoring bodies are less established, tend to be potentially problematic.


Rhenus Automotive
at a Glance

Supply Chain Act (LkSG)

Responsibility for people and the environment

Our social responsibility does not stop at the factory gates or national borders. As a global logistics and assembly service provider with complex value-added services, acting lawfully and prudently along the entire supply chain is one of our core values.

On the basis of the Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains (LkSG), we have defined specific focal points that are particularly important for the work of Rhenus Automotive itself and its cooperation with suppliers. In this way, we ensure that human rights are guaranteed in our supply chain or that the risk of violations is identified.

In our policy statement, we set out our human rights strategy and explain how we have designed our internal processes and defined responsibilities in order to fulfill our responsibility for supply chains and human rights.


You can download the Rhenus Automotive SE policy statement as a pdf.

You can download the Supplier Cod of Conduct of Rhenus Automotive here.


Here you have the opportunity to make complaints in accordance with the Supply Chain Act (LkSG).

You can download the details of the complaints procedure here:


You can download the LkSG report for 2024 to BAFA (Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control) here – only available in German language.