‘Legends don’t grow on trees, they’re born in the workshop’ is one of the slogans for the MANN-FILTER brand. Young engineers take their first tentative steps in the MANN+HUMMEL training workshop under the watchful eye of Armin Holzinger. For my series of blogs entitled ‘What is the actual role of …?’, I (Arne Bauer) am accompanying the training supervisor in Ludwigsburg.

What does a training supervisor in Ludwigsburg actually do?

The training workshop in Ludwigsburg is swarming with apprentices. Whether apprentices or students, alone or in a team – there is drawing, filing, milling, drilling and building going on. Holzinger develops the required manual skills of his protégés on the machines ‘from scratch’. ‘The dual studies students don’t have to be able to use a milling machine perfectly, but they do need to come into contact with materials so they understand how it all fits together’ is Holzinger’s motto. For him, it is important that apprentices and students actually see the results of things they later design on their Computers.

Before the training workshop comes to life in the morning however, Holzinger, who is responsible for mechanical topics, liaises with his colleague Nils Kranich who covers the electronic section. Transitions are smooth, the mechatronics engineer, for example, moves between mechanics and electrics. Every training section has its own programme. The training supervisors are not only physically present in the training workshop, they are also switching back and forth between different courses, subjects, options and tasks. ‘It’s definitely not boring’.

Once Holzinger has entered the training workshop, he only leaves it again at lunchtime. Until then, the apprentices bombard him with questions, he provides assistance and tries to maintain a general overview. ‘You’ve clamped that too tightly’, he advises a busy apprentice. At the next machine, the key is inserted although the motor on the machine is not operating. Holzinger quietly points out the safety implications here. At the PC terminal in one corner of the workshop, apprentices are diligently working on their technical drawings and Holzinger is discussing various options with them. In the afternoon, he carries out reviews with his apprentices, openly addressing strengths and weaknesses.

‘If something goes wrong, I call the whole training group together’, explains Holzinger. ‘This is not to show an individual up, but to enable us to learn from mistakes as a team’. You come across different personalities, abilities and previous knowledge in the workshop. As Holzinger knows, ‘They help each other’.  Even in the introductory week, the concept of teamwork is stressed, sharing experience being ‘an effect we always welcome’. Holzinger only relies on traditional classroom-style instruction when there is no other suitable option. Rather than be a teacher, he prefers to be a coach, training his students to be independent and responsible, but putting them in their place where necessary. ‘Of course, I try to understand the different types of people and build up a relationship with them’.

The training workshop is the starting point for various departments in the company. These departments regularly assign projects and production of specific components to Holzinger and his team. They continually explore possible limits, solving technical problem really is great fun, he says. The training supervisors pursue an overall objective: ‘They get to know the ropes here, understand where the material comes from, how expensive it is, what the cost structures are, what is feasible and what is not feasible’. Looking beyond the horizons of one’s own specialist competence and considering wider contexts is something that is very close to Armin Holzinger’s heart.

Last but not least, the training supervisor wants to awaken interest in operational issues: ‘Constructive criticism is allowed. I don’t simply want to launch projects, I want to develop them creatively together with the apprentices’. Whether you are a mechatronics engineer, industrial mechanic or electronics technician – ‘it is important to look forward to coming in to work. That is 100% the case with me’. At 3 p.m., the apprentices and students start cleaning up in the workshop. There is still time for Holzinger to exchange e-mails with the teachers at the vocational college or consult a hefty reference book to find answers to a complex question.