The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

Lifelong learning
Teamwork – Commitment

Learning for the digital future

Lifelong learning. The industry of the future will operate on a networked and digitalized basis. Staff therefore need to change their mindset and further their training. The Friedhelm Loh Group offers numerous qualifications so people and machinery can work hand in hand.

Text Tobias Take ––– Photography

Digital transformation is something Alexander Koroljow has coped with for quite some time now. On shift at the Rittal plant in Haiger, he uses a touchscreen to monitor the system that manufactures doors for enclosures. It’s just an ordinary working day for the 45-year-old. The production facility was opened in 2018 and is fully aligned with highly efficient Industry 4.0 structures. The fact that Koroljow is so comfortable with all these new technologies is certainly down to his sense of curiosity, but also to the training his employer offers. In 1997, he started at Rittal as an unskilled worker but, over time – around 50 Saturdays in fact – he completed an in-house course to become a machine and system operator. Today, he is part of a digital manufacturing process in a smart factory. It is an achievement he attributes at least in part to the fact his employer will take staff who are willing to learn and open to change and integrate them into the digitalization process of industry 4.0. After all, the aim at Rittal, a subsidiary of the Friedhelm Loh Group, is for machines to work hand in hand with people – not replace them. “Given all their experience and know-how, staff play a decisive role – one that is only going to become more important. Equally, requirements profiles will also change,” explains Gero Düweke, Project Leader Qualification in Haiger.

From day one, employees have been involved in the transformation process that is bringing digital and networked working practices into production. “Yes, there are changes, but if you want to be involved and are open to new things, then Rittal will give you the opportunity,” says Düweke. Transparency is important to the 49-year-old. Staff who want to be involved in changes receive, among other things, on-site training directly at the production site.

Lifelong learning is integrated into day-to-day working life, since employees need to keep pace with the digital revolution and industrial transformation. Both are changing the world of work at a rapid pace, with new requirements constantly being added to the mix. The Friedhelm Loh Group creates the necessary training offerings, has developed them largely independently and implements further training for staff to good effect. There has never been a standard blueprint or ready-made how-to guide for giving employees digital skills.

LOOKING AT THE BIGGER PICTURE

“Staff are brought up to speed and brought on board. We need to provide guidance, support them and give them the skills and knowledge they require, since a lot of them are having to adapt to completely new production operations,” explains Düweke, outlining the lifelong learning approach at Rittal. Maxim Böttcher is always ready to tackle new requirements in his daily work, too. Aged 41, he is a system operator at the Haiger plant and was one of the first to train in Industry 4.0. He has a thick folder full of training certificates earned on completing numerous courses. He can now work with robots on a daily basis and is intending to learn how to program them in one of the next seminars. For him, digitalization is the future and he is clearly proud to be one of the first to work in Industry 4.0.

The company’s training for digital working practices in production takes place both directly on site and externally. Staff complete seven basic modules that explain what digital working means and are conducted at the production site itself and the company’s own training station. New content is then put into practice directly on site. “It’s easier for staff to put what they’ve learned into practice if learning is integrated into their normal working day and is required to operate the systems,” points out Düweke, explaining this progressive approach. Continuous knowledge transfer among staff is also vital for the digital processes themselves to become ever more intelligent. This is why it is crucially important for Rittal to invest in the professional development of its workforce. It makes no difference how young or old an employee is – the only requirement is a sense of curiosity and an interest in the digital revolution, an area where the company itself leads by example. “We need to arouse curiosity, but also make it clear that change is essential. Of course, employees need to be willing and motivated, too,” Düweke clarifies.

On-site training courses are not the only element of lifelong learning, though, as staff can also further their skills and expertise at the “Loh Academy”. The subject matter they study is geared specifically toward issues that are relevant to the Group.

EXPERTISE MADE IN HAIGER

André Ippach, Team Leader of the fully automated AX production line at the Haiger plant, is one of the employees who has benefited. The qualified engineering mechanic supervises the robots that assemble and pack AX compact enclosures. The 31-year-old has already attended approximately 20 training courses and also trains new staff on the digital technologies in production. These staff induction courses are carried out on various systems and are organised using the flexibility matrix. A printed copy of the matrix is displayed in the production workshop in Haiger so Ippach can always see which of his colleagues can handle which systems. “The matrix tells me how well-trained individual team members are. I can then train them on additional lines and systems so they can ultimately operate multiple systems.”

Flexibilitätsmatrix Rittal

Flexibility. The flexibility matrix is another tool that integrates lifelong learning into day-to-day work at the Haiger plant. The circles indicate whether a staff member has been trained on a system or is still training on it. When a circle has been filled in, the staff member can be deployed flexibly to the relevant system.

This concept ensures staff can be deployed on a flexible basis, which helps the company safeguard vital resources at production level. You could call it ‘expertise made in Haiger’. “We nurture our staff and that means we can rely on well trained people,” says Project Leader Düweke. Alexander Koroljow, Maxim Böttcher and André Ippach are three such people who have trained continuously and are now ready for the future in Industry 4.0.

  • Starting early

    Rittal Foundation – digital encouragement

    Interview with: Friedemann Hensgen, Chair of the Rittal Foundation

    The Rittal Foundation has been supporting education in Central Hesse for nine years. What exactly does your support focus on?
    Since we started our work, we’ve been supporting educational concepts that promote lifelong learning from pre-school through to retirement. At the same time, we are supporting social work in schools so we can break down barriers to education. A new focal point for us is digitalization as part of school education. The consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated closure of schools show just how important it is to promote digital skills and ensure students – and most importantly teachers, too – can exploit digital education options.

    What support can the Rittal Foundation offer educational establishments when it comes to digitalization?
    It varies depending on the ages involved. We provide pre-school nurseries with financial support so teachers can participate in IT seminars. We are running a pilot project in primary schools in which we are providing a class set of Calliope microcontrollers as a fun way of giving students their first taste of programming. When it comes to older students, the focus usually shifts to robotics – and in some cases 3D printing – as an extracurricular but recognised activity or one of the subjects they can choose from.

    Digital skills are essential in working life, too. How do children and young people benefit from getting support early on?
    In terms of STEM subjects in particular, digital media is useful as an effective, motivating and interesting means of imparting knowledge and passing on skills. Companies are grateful when apprentices and trainees already have digital skills and take a digital approach to their tasks. Hopefully, we are also helping to motivate teachers and parents to engage more with digitalization. That is the only way we will improve social acceptance for innovations and relieve peoples’ anxieties, which primarily come down to a fear of the unknown.


    Read more
    Find out how the Rittal Foundation promotes lifelong learning and digitisation in schools: www.rittal-foundation.de

     

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