Milestone 6: The Rotax spirit is reinvigorated


The new millennium also sees the beginning of a real culture change in the company. Increased demand for engine production and development – from the customer side, from politicians and from the competition –lead Rotax to a fundamental overhaul of its entire production system. The goal is to set new standards for safety, quality, productivity, staff development and cost-effectiveness. And the aim is to achieve this through the introduction of the Rotax-Quality-Production-System – RQPS. The starting signal sounds in the second quarter of 1999 and a company concept is developed under the leadership of then CEO Rodger Lewis, taking familiar lean management/production principles as its basis. It aims in particular to design leaner, more flexible and more efficient production processes. Rodger Lewis brings his experience as a senior manager at Toyota and General Motors to bear on the project. And he takes a no less ambitious approach to the restructuring of Rotax in Gunskirchen: “Our goal is to become a world-class operator in a wide range of areas. The first of these will be safety and health, the second will be quality, the third organization and staff development and finally productivity, i.e. investment in processes. (...) Lean Management is not concerned with reducing staff numbers, it is concerned with promoting teamwork and letting the workers themselves make decisions,” Lewis says, summarizing his aims.


The concept of the RQPS and its successor BRPMS takes two different approaches to ensuring the long-term success of the company. On the one hand, it puts cultural issues such as a quality mindset and teamwork on the agenda, and on the other it introduces methods such as lean production, including changes to process management, workplace organization and a suggestions scheme, to encourage active employee involvement. The central tenets of the organizational and production principle known as lean management are to make production output clearly plannable, and for the company and its workforce to seek continuous improvement. Plannability also means operating in a structured and organized manner – especially on assembly lines, where one-piece flow strategy works on the basis of sequential assembly.  

A further central element of RQPS concerns the supply roster for materials and parts. A pull system stipulates that parts are only delivered when they are needed, thus avoiding the need for interim storage.  

New standardized processes, modern problem-solving procedures and a commitment to increased quality cannot be successfully introduced from one day to the next and not at all without intensive training of the 1,170 or so employees in Gunskirchen. Collective success means that everyone must internalize the principles of RQPS. And from the first announcement of RQPS, teams and training sessions specializing in production system processes aim to introduce each member of staff to the new company culture from the outset. 

Bold steps, whose implementation is initially undertaken and constantly evaluated by the Pilot Hall – a beacon section for the development of new RQPS features – before the measures are rolled out in production model shops.  

However, Rotax’s modernization of the Gunskirchen site also involves construction initiatives. A new logistics center improves material flow inside and outside the works. The same year, 2001, the Center of Excellence opens, providing a hub for in-house training and staff development. One year later, this is joined by a state-of-the-art measurement center, and the heating and ventilation systems in the production halls are modernized, so as to improve production conditions.  

Another essential feature of RQPS is active problem-solving in the form of a staff suggestions scheme, which allows every employee proactively to put forward their own suggestions for improving and optimizing processes. “The works suggestions scheme is a fundamental principle of RQPS: The aim is for employees to propose and implement potential improvements and ideas themselves,” explains Thomas Goeritz, who is responsible for Regulatory Affairs. As of 2019, around ten suggestions per employee have been implemented, a total of over 10,000 improvements since RQPS was introduced. 


The procedures and productions introduced in the context of RQPS continue to be considered one of the key turning points in the company’s history. In an interview, Wolfgang Rapberger, General Manager BRP-Rotax / Representative of the Management Board, Vice President Global Sourcing & Operations Powertrain, remembers the transition at the turn of the century: “It was probably one of the biggest changes in our history. A few years later we were a leading lean enterprise practitioner. But the process is not over: We are still continually making improvements.” Rotax thus plays a pioneering role within the BRP Group and RQPS becomes the model for the SPPR (système de production des produits récréatifs [recreational products production system]) lean production system introduced at Bombardier in 2001 

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