Continental Tyre South Africa (CTSA) has appointed Olaf Kreis as its new Plant Manager for the Gqeberha-based operations, which is the German company’s only tyre manufacturing plant in Africa. Kreis brings a wealth of automotive industry experience and a people-centric leadership style to his role thanks to his extensive background spanning 32 years in the industry, including 20 years at GM and 12 years at Continental.
Originating from Kirchhain in Germany, Kreis is a qualified mechanical engineer, and began his manufacturing journey at a vehicle plant in England where he served as a maintenance, engineering and production manager. This was followed by a stint as press shop manager at GM Europe’s main plant in Germany.
Kreis joined Continental AG in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2012 as a Director of Quality Management and Processes, overseeing 15 plants globally and managing safety-critical brake components. In 2015 he was appointed as GM Vice President for Hydraulic Brake Systems in China. During his four years in China, Kreis took on the role of General Manager for the region, which included three plants and over 4 500 employees, where he achieved profitable business growth. Additionally, he oversaw the construction of a new plant in China, where he also took on the role of Plant Manager.
In his most recent position as Global Segment Head for Electronic Suspension Systems, based in Hanover, Kreis led a turnaround and restructuring project that transformed the business unit into a profitable one.
“With his extensive experience, people-centric leadership style, and commitment to quality control, employee engagement, continuous improvement and sustainability, Olaf Kreis is well-equipped to lead CTSA’s plant towards greater success and is a great addition to our team,” says Matt Livigni, MD of Continental Tyre SA. “Under his leadership of our manufacturing operations, we are confident that Continental will be even better positioned to thrive while adapting to industry changes and embracing innovation.”
Passionate about working directly with people in the plant, Kreis was attracted to the position of Plant Manager at CTSA, as he thrives in the manufacturing environment and looks forward to continuing what he loves most in his career. “The best experiences in my career have always been in manufacturing and working directly with the people on the shop floor,” he says. “At 55 years old, I made the decision to pursue what truly brings me joy: leading as a plant manager. I understand the challenges and the around-the-clock commitment required for this role, but it is where I have excelled in the past, and I wanted to continue doing what I love.”
The manufacturing industry is undergoing significant transformation, including political changes around the world and digitalization. “To address these challenges we must focus on our strengths, such as our products and our people,” Kreis says. “Digitalization is a key area where we need to adapt and have highly educated individuals supporting us. I believe in fostering a positive mindset within the organization, encouraging open discussions and innovative thinking. It’s important to embrace these changes and leverage technology to enhance our processes and get more competitive every day.”
Kreis believes there are three main focus areas to ensure the future Gqeberha plant: quality control, employee engagement and operational efficiency. “Quality control is essential to further build our high reputation in the market, so there should be no compromises in that area. Employee engagement is crucial, and I encourage an open-door policy where everyone feels comfortable speaking to me. I want to foster a culture of ownership, where employees take responsibility for their areas and contribute to the company’s success.
“Operational efficiency is a priority, and I believe in continuously improving our processes through lean manufacturing principles,” Kreis says. “This also means reducing the amount of waste generated, optimizing energy consumption and implementing sustainable manufacturing processes to contribute to a greener future while improving our overall efficiency. Every day we should aim to make improvements happen and strive step by step for a better future overall.”
Outside of work, Kreis prioritizes spending time with his family, which includes three children, and enjoys mountain biking and running. “My family and I love camping and engaging in outdoor activities, which is one of the reasons why South Africa appealed to us,” he says.
Continental Tyre South Africa is a member of the SATMC.