Out into the wide, wide world with Across Borders: different countries, different expectations

Ramona Schwindl, Christoph Bittig, Drazen Stankovic, Ramona Feigl, Martin Danner und Martin Loistl

Have you got friends or family abroad? Then you can probably tell us a thing or two about how telephone calls, Skype conversations, or continual contacts using WhatsApp can be pretty strenuous in the long run. Spontaneous meetings are impossible, and visits involve a lot of planning work.

Nor are things all that different sometimes in your job – it’s only that the project partner involved is perhaps sitting at the other end of the world. 

Across Borders

Email contacts, time differences or even language barriers don’t exactly make international cooperation any easier. Across Borders is a programme that counters precisely these impediments – and brings colleagues together. Because irrespective of whether it involves personal and professional development of the employee concerned or strengthening international cooperation at Krones: posting some colleagues to our worldwide facilities for several months achieves both these things. Eight German participants were able to work on projects on the spot, to lend their regional colleagues a helping hand, and above all to gain plenty of new insights themselves: right in line with the motto of “different countries, different expectations”, the programme is based on exchanging different experiences and solutional approaches in an international context.

A few of them have told us about their experiences, their projects, and what it was like to work in the culture of their host country:

Ramona Schwindl – São Paulo – Brazil

“My remits here resemble those of an interior decorator – performing calculations, taking measurements, creating layouts, and thus ensuring that the Krones lines finally fit neatly inside the space available at the client’s facility. As a line designer, l’m responsible for Brazil and the whole of South America. Although I had always worked closely together with my colleagues in Brazil, it was an obvious option to take a look myself at how our clients operate over there. Thanks to the six months I spent in São Paulo, I got to know the needs of our clients and my colleagues even better. When the collaboration extends over different continents, you see, you mustn’t simply forget about the cultural differences. Punctuality, in particular, is a bit tricky – Brazilians are chronically unpunctual. So I got into the habit of always arriving a bit later than agreed – “try to fit in” was my watchword. Only once one of my colleagues presumably put his trust in our German punctuality – and so unfortunately this time a Brazilian had to wait for ME …” J

Finally, there was even a “happy end”: before Ramona’s departure, Krones do Brasil landed two new orders. She is now handling these from Neutraubling again. But thanks to her visit and her new contacts, she can look forward to even smoother collaboration in the future.

Martin Loistl – Franklin – USA

“As a container designer in Plastics Technology, it’s particularly important to keep up with new developments – throughout the entire global market. At Krones Inc. in Franklin, I have a colleague in the field of container design: during the three months I spent in the USA I actively supported her in her daily work, and familiarised her with the tools and databases that we use in Neutraubling but she was not yet familiar with. At the same time, I benefited enormously from this direct collaboration: my colleague possessed experience in fields that were sometimes entirely new to me. One realisation which shows me that our subsidiaries often have to contend with bigger obstacles than we in Germany do was that the USA constitutes an enormously critical region in terms of patent law: every new design has to be ultra-meticulously scrutinised and researched – because over there anything new is patented immediately. Any violators will be prosecuted immediately, and will be punished with enormous fines.”

And what impressed him the most? The can-do mindset: our American colleagues are receptive to new ideas, and always optimistic. They tackle a solution directly, without any long-winded planning phases.

Ramona Feigl – Nairobi – Kenya

“Here in Neutraubling, I’m responsible for selling new machines and retrofits to East and South Africa, particularly for Kenya – I draw up quotations, and organise both the consignments and the dispatch of our products. After qualifying as an industrial clerk and then gaining an MBA at Krones AG, I wanted to finally gain some experience abroad. So I talked to my manager about it – and shortly afterwards I got the go-ahead for Kenya. My remits in Kenya were old friends: I was working on the same projects as I had already been in Neutraubling – but for the first timeI could actually sit round a table with my project team, which took our collaboration to a new level. In addition, I held training courses for my African colleagues on new processes, and created mutual receptiveness to our different modes of working. This, in fact, impressed me a lot in Africa: during working hours, there’s almost no talking; everyone wants to get on with their tasks. In the morning, everyone stocks up on snacks before they start work. Then they don’t leave their desks from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – they don’t take time off for eating.”

When in conclusion I asked Ramona about her craziest experience, she just laughed: “Everything’s crazy over there – especially the traffic: if you brake, you lose.“ But then she remembers one of her most venturesome moments: together with her colleagues she trekked up Mt. Longonot – an extinct volcano that even today recalls its active times with a gigantic crater.

Martin Danner, Dražen Stankovic and Christoph Bittig – Taicang – China

Martin, Drazen and Christoph come from entirely different parts of the company and ended up in Taicang together – as a project initiator, a line planner and an IT specialist.

Martin: “I did things more or less back to front: I applied for the Across Borders programme – and together with my manager started looking for a suitable project. When the decision was taken to begin with local sourcing for the ErgoBloc LC filling system in China, I seized the opportunity and joined this project team. A few months later, I was already in Taicang, to provide on-the-spot support to the local purchaser, clarify technical questions, and progress local sourcing of components for the still-water filler. Since working in China, I’ve been exploring block technology here in Neutraubling as well, while continuing to assist my colleagues in Taicang. Talking of exploration: in China it’s quite common to travel to work on an e-bike. We were provided with an e-bike from the very first day as well – but the first journey home turned out to be more difficult than we expected, because Taicang is a planned city where all the streets look the same, so it was quite difficult for us to find our way around.”

Christoph: “I can definitely confirm this: you see, you can’t just say “turn left at Müller’s Drugstore” – even if there was a sign saying the equivalent of “Müller’s Drugstore”, you wouldn’t be able to read it anyway. And trying to describe the Chinese characters? We pretty soon gave up on that. But back to the essentials: in Neutraubling, I work for the IT Data Center Service. My mission for China was primarily to bring my colleagues from Taicang up to speed so that in future they can look after our five Chinese subsidiaries – including Hong Kong – on their own. I ensured the requisite transfer of knowledge, and provided assistance wherever I could. And you always benefit yourself too: now I understand the sort of problems our subsidiaries have to contend with – and how we can solve them.”

Where would China be without the Great Wall? So of course the three of them seized the opportunity to walk along it during their stay. What happened to them the next morning was rather unusual: “My boss shook my hand and congratulated me,” relates Martin. “When I asked him what for, he simply answered: “Now you’re a proper man.” As an ancient Chinese proverb puts it: if you haven’t climbed the Great Wall, you’re not a proper man.”

In this spirit: “不到长城非好汉– bú dào cháng chéng fēi hǎo hàn”