My personal journey with Microdyn-Nadir began almost 15 years ago, long before the company became part of the MANN+HUMMEL group. MANN+HUMMEL took over the company – a technological leader in the manufacturing of membranes and modules for micro-, ultra- and nanofiltration as well as reverse osmosis – just at the beginning of 2015. Back in 2006, the Wiesbaden-based company was a small but high-quality manufacturer that was still producing many of its products in manual lines. However, continuous expansion meant that the company had to start thinking more in terms of automated production processes, which required the appropriate investments to be made. A colleague from university made contact with the company and so I provided support over the weeks that followed, acting as an external advisor. My first task back then was to prepare precise specifications. They were to cover all parameters required for setting up the automated production lines that were needed. This was followed by a series of further assignments, and I never lost contact with the company, meaning I was able to witness the positive developments at Microdyn-Nadir from up close.
Of course, university professors are, first and foremost, university professors. We teach our students and pass on the knowledge they need for their subsequent professional career. For us here at the University of Applied Sciences Bingen, however, this also means placing particular emphasis on the application side of science. Theoretical knowledge is an good basis for professional success, but this should always be complemented through its practical application. With this in mind, we require our students to complete practical projects, which are often run at various companies in the area. We also like to collaborate with companies for bachelor’s and master’s theses, and they provide the students with assignments and support.
From master’s thesis to the world of work
What I have in mind is a perfect example involving Microdyn-Nadir which began in 2014, when we were discussing the situation at the Singapore location, which had been taken over in 2011. Evidently, the conditions on site were not quite what those in Wiesbaden had imagined. We were discussing the possibility to send me to Singapore for a few days in order to get a quick overview of the situation on site. I felt the proposed time period was too short, but I had an idea: at the time I was tutoring a very promising student who was still looking for a subject for his master’s thesis. Seeing an opportunity, I suggested that he could write it at Microdyn-Nadir by taking a closer look at the production processes at the new location.
And that’s exactly what happened: Alexander Ubl spent six months at Microdyn-Nadir, with four months in Singapore, writing his master’s thesis during that time. His work there not only involved examining the status quo but also optimising production processes and compiling a comprehensive compendium with specific recommendations for action. It is therefore no great surprise that he ended up staying at Microdyn-Nadir. He is currently lending his expertise to the Incube programme in Silicon Valley.
Back then there was still a little persuading to do for this kind of collaboration. Today, students from the fields of mechanical engineering and industrial engineering also have outstanding job prospects. The reason for this is the much-cited skills shortage. For the companies, this means that they need to start looking for talent as early as possible in order to avoid getting left behind. For this reason, companies are increasingly approaching universities in order to gain more direct access to promising candidates. At the universities however, more and more opportunities have been created to bring companies and students together. This is, of course, also the case for us here in Bingen, although we may have slightly different priorities.
Often, HR representatives are sent to universities to speak to the students. As a technical university, we like to invite those who work in the field an who can share their experience. As an example for my field of work, I could mention our industry seminar, which we launched back in the summer semester of 1996. The guiding principle remains the same today as it was back then, namely ‘integrating industry into teaching’. The seminar complements the range of courses on offer for the degree programmes in mechanical engineering and industrial engineering with practical contributions from industry.
The seminar topics deal with industrial developments, processes and products but also job characteristics and operational procedures from the various fields of work related to mechanical engineering and industrial engineering. In the seminar, we touch on all fields from construction to production, sales to marketing, right through to continuous improvement process (CIP), controlling, implementing an IT environment (CAD, FEM, ERP) and project management. This gives the students a great opportunity to get in touch with people on a professional basis with their different personal profiles and presentation styles. The seminar has thus become a forum for technical discussion, which gives the students valuable professional guidance, and gives companies the opportunity to present themselves in-depth from a practical perspective.
Of course we have had representatives of Microdyn-Nadir as guests. Gabriel Cil recently gave a presentation on the subject ‘Investment controlling using the MANN+HUMMEL group as an example’ alongside his colleague Stefan Knippelmeyer. And that’s not all: they also brought facts and figures with them, which the students in attendance could use to calculate costs whether an investment was worth it or not from a practical perspective. Naturally, this was well received by the attendees. And, I’m sure that many contacts were also made, which should help our students to find a job they find genuinely interesting and Microdyn-Nadir to unearth some real talent.