A developer on his everyday work at Weiss Technik
Christian works at the Schunk Group since 2012. After various national and international jobs within the company, the Refridgeration Systems Engineer is Head of Development for environmental simulation systems at Weiss Technik. In this interview, he speaks about his everyday work and the challenge of having good ideas on demand.
Christian, how do you get good ideas?
Mostly from conversations with colleagues and customers. And also at trade fairs, presentations, or meetings. Through our membership in certain standardization committees, we also learn about changes to standards early, allowing us to upgrade or redesign our products in advance. Other than that, ideas occasionally come to me while I’m driving or taking a shower.
How does teamwork function?
Each developer has his or her own focal point, which adds to the scope of the team. Only rarely can anybody solve a problem alone. We have a lively exchange of ideas and problems and help one another out. Regular meetings with all team members are important. Many good ideas and solutions have been generated this way, including from colleagues who aren’t involved in the current project at all.
How does an idea become a finished product?
First we ask ourselves: what’s the benefit for our customer? Can his production then work more simply? Does it make us more efficient or more future-proof? Can we implement this idea, and would it be successful in the marketplace? What is the cost-benefit ratio? Then we do a preliminary study and carry out patent searches and look at what our competitors are doing. If this preliminary study gives a negative outcome, we have still gained valuable experience. And if the outcome is positive, we go ahead with the project. When, finally, there is a printed brochure and a customer buys the product, this provides the team with strong motivation.
Are there any outstanding projects?
We are currently making fundamental changes to various series, including a climate test chamber – and this is surely one of our most extensive projects. For me personally there were other good projects, such as redeveloping the Salt Event corrosion testing chamber. The chamber has been examined independently by the Fraunhofer Institute, which has confirmed that we have outstanding performance data – an advantage over the competition.
How do you go about finding ideas?
Primarily we use interaction with as many of our colleagues as possible, for example in workshops, and try to tap into their experience. Here we draw on experiences gained from previous projects. I myself often use mind maps.
Do customers also come with requirements for which solutions are currently being developed?
Yes, that happens a lot and is very valuable to us. This helps us understand the developments being made by customers and which tests are really relevant. The potential for improvement is often something we discuss with colleagues from the service department, and this is helpful. We also sometimes send prototypes to customers, who then use them and test them for a given period under real conditions.
Has there ever been a project that never worked at all?
Sure, that happens. Sometimes customers want a product that is simply impossible to physically realize. An example was a test in which half a kilo of dust had to be held in the air without ventilation. We have also had solutions that were good but technically complex, and that would not be easy to sell.