Project seminar: Krones

Every student is familiar with project seminars where you’re tasked with formulating solutions for fictitious problems. This is (in most cases) fun, of course, but motivation levels are significantly higher when you know that the work involved is actually assisting a real company. 19 students from the first and second semesters of the master’s degree course in “Intercultural Company and Technology Management” at the East Bavarian University of Applied Science in Amberg-Weiden were able to do just that here at Krones last semester. After our office received more and more glowing reports from colleagues about the project and the results achieved, I resolved not to miss the final presentation, of course, and I also talked to students from the three project groups.

The seminar, from the “Leadership & Management Skills” study module, was jointly organised by Prof. Dr. Schäfer (OTH) and Holger Kahlert with colleagues (Krones), and designed not only to ensure successful completion of the project, but also and primarily to organise the individual groups for maximised autonomy. The whole thing, finally, was to be carried out as agile projects, and provide the students with maximised scope within the group environment. Each of the groups had its own task, which they were required to complete on their own initiative within a few weeks.

Lukas Schmid and his team collaborated to identify the right structure for training courses at Krones, and thought up for this purpose what is called a Q-Card. “The idea of the Q-Card came to us during conversations with fellow-students. We thought this was a great idea right from the start, ideally suited for solving our problem. It displays an employee’s training and remits in terms of his/her qualifications, thus enabling it to support the level system in place at Krones and increase staff motivation for advanced training options.” The card accordingly offers for the staff themselves, but also for their managers (e.g. when a post needs a new hiring), an overview of how committed the employee is and what sort of knowledge he/she can actually contribute.

The second group addressed the methods employed for internationalising training courses. They finally opted for a Quizapp, as Christian Wegerer relates: “Since within the group, we had gained different degrees, we tackled the subject with different backgrounds and cognitive approaches. Brainstorming within the group then swiftly led to some initial ideas for a solution. The idea with the app then took shape during the course of the project, not least because we came across the Bayer Career App. In its current status, of course, our app is merely an initial prototype, and first needs some more development work. But since the programming of apps is meanwhile quite far advanced, we’re confident that a Quizapp of this kind could be implemented and deployed at Krones.”

Roxanne Ziegler’s group, as the third team, was tasked with designing a tool for identifying and rating best-cost countries for international strategic purchasing, in order to see which countries might (in future) be attractive options for the purchasing people. “For this purpose, we used research, our own experience, and shared brainstorming to single out various thematic emphases of importance for Krones’ purchasing operations, each with quantifiable criteria. It was also vital here to base our data for the criteria involved on dependable, official sources, which are updated every year, since after all the procurement markets are supposed to be rated on an annual basis. In all, we finally had 18 criteria by which the suitability as a procurement market can be quantified. Of major importance in this context are cost factors like wage and transportation costs, but also the possible existence of embargos and the trade relations with Germany. We coordinated these criteria with Krones, weighted them and then evaluated them.”

So the project was run in all its various aspects in close collaboration between the students and Krones. Besides continual consultative coordination with the contact persons, several presentations and discussion sessions were held either at our facility in Neutraubling or at the East Bavarian University for Applied Science in Weiden. “We felt truly appreciated and taken seriously by the Krones staff and Holger Kahlert, and sensed that they really respected our work. Practical projects are always a brilliant opportunity for us students to put our theoretical knowledge into practice,” says Christian in conclusion.

Dr. Bernstein (Krones), in his role as the proactively involved organiser and originator of two out of the three task categories mentioned above, was especially appreciative of the results: “In agile group work, conceptual methods and initial structures for the future training of engineers at Krones were presented. This succeeded within a relatively short timeframe, and thus with enhanced efficacy, which is particularly attributable to the students’ exceptional commitment. They deserve plenty of praise.”

So the seminar was all in all a definite success – the students were able to gain experience in collaborating with a genuine company and solving real problems, and Krones received some interesting new food for thought. And perhaps sometimes it’s true to say after all: you learn things for living, not for university.