6 minute read
thyssenkrupp – Investing in new talent to drive innovation to new heights
Dr. Benedikt Meier, thyssenkrupp Elevator’s Head of Global Project Management – and a visiting Professor at the University of Northampton – discusses how in a challenging marketplace, engaging and empowering graduate talent early is vital to unlock innovation and enhance business growth.
In the modern business world technology is increasing the pace and scope of new ideas, and innovation is no longer a buzzword; something companies say they do to sound contemporary. It is now firmly ingrained as an essential part of any business strategy, and organisations both big and small need to genuinely embrace and harness innovation if they want to remain relevant.
However, stimulating innovation within a business is easier said than done. It is linked so closely to creativity, and not everyone is creative. Moreover, how does one find the balance between fresh ideas, industry experience, and sound business? One way is to bridge the gap between the minds of tomorrow, i.e. students, and organisations with the wherewithal to experiment with original ideas, thereby unlocking a genuinely innovative culture.
Interns, working students, and apprentices – many of whom later become employees – are often some of a company’s greatest assets. Able to view the business through fresh eyes while also bringing in their experiences from the outside world, these individuals can offer a unique perspective on what new initiatives could work and help to grow the organisation.
At thyssenkrupp Elevator, we have certainly found this to be true. We are a comparatively young company in our industry operating among much older, more established firms. Our success through the years and position now as one of the major players in our sector is largely down to our continuous drive for game-changing innovations that address customer needs– stimulated in many ways by the young talent we bring into our organisation. The challenges of urban mobility are so complex that solutions cannot be found in isolated settings, and we have seen our Intellectual Property increase greatly as a result of the close collaboration between our Research and Innovation Centres (RIC) and several universities.
It is vital to attract bright and engaged young people into our industry
Because we see it as vital to attract bright and engaged young people into our industry, we invest heavily in sponsorship and collaboration packages at several universities across the world. England’s University of Northampton, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Memphis University in the US, and Oviedo University in Spain are just a few of the institutions we work with. After their initial apprentice period, many of the graduates from these institutions are granted permanent roles in our organisation and bring a global perspective to our operations. This is a huge benefit to us in terms of knowledge transfer and recruiting new skills, but also enables graduates to see the innovations they work on as theoretical subjects through to fruition in the real world.
Simon Bojarski is just one of many former students who have made the transition from apprentice to full-time employee. Originally hired as a thyssenkrupp working student in 2011, Simon honed his skills in the product development team while studying for his MA in logistics at Dortmund University. Now as Project Lead Europe, he oversees thyssenkrupp’s lead escalator and moving walk projects in both, the Innovation Center in Gijón and the Product Design Center in Hamburg.
Simon says: “thyssenkrupp is a well-known and respected company, but what attracted me most was the level of responsibility given to me even as a working student. Being so intrinsically involved in developing new processes from day one was amazing, and a real sign of the confidence the company places in its young talent. I love working at such an international business; the team feels really diverse and dynamic and no day is the same.
“We’re always striving for the next innovation to improve the way we work and the way our cities operate; it gives me a buzz every day. I’m now working on the game-changing ACCEL moving walk project; a really exciting development with huge potential to enhance urban mobility. I’m really looking forward to seeing it grow and take hold in the marketplace.”
Kathrin Grempel studied science in management and economics at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, and was hired as a thyssenkrupp Elevator working student in 2012. Through this programme she learned a great deal about major global trends such as urbanisation and smart cities, and the technologies being developed to help urban landscapes cope with modern day challenges.
She comments: “My father started his career as an intern at thyssenkrupp, before then spending more than 25 years at the firm, so I was already very familiar with the company. However it was only when Dr. Heinrich Hiesinger – CEO of thyssenkrupp AG – visited my university that my eyes were really opened to the ground-breaking innovations the company has been bringing to market. It was really inspiring to see how the company was contributing to cities of the future, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
Kathrin is now a manager in the company’s Project Management Office in Essen, Germany, responsible for ensuring that projects in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy are on time, scope and budget. She continues: “One of the great things about my job is the travelling. I’m often out at different sites, building relationships with colleagues across the world and learning more about the work taking place on the ground in different regions. It’s a great way to keep feeding my imagination and encourages me to always look for new ways of doing things to help enhance the business.”
Mechanical engineers at thyssenkrupp are given a particularly broad remit. Tré Watts was inspired to join the business by two engineers who visited his Mississippi State University. Having always been curious about how things worked, Tré was keen to turn his hobby of picking things apart into a career and hasn’t looked back since. He began a thyssenkrupp Elevator internship at the company’s Memphis office in 2011 and three years later started working at the thyssenkrupp RIC in Atlanta.
Tré comments: “The working environment at thyssenkrupp is very fast-paced; my role as mechanical engineer sees me undertake a wide variety of jobs, which I love as it continuously pushes me out of my comfort zone. At RIC Atlanta we are constantly scouting for new disruptive technologies; off-the-wall ideas and exciting new fields to work into the elevators of tomorrow. With mass urbanisation taking place across the world, it’s a really exciting time for me to be working in this industry, and I feel like I’m really helping to make a difference in creating cities fit for the future.
Commitment to staff engagement and empowerment
The exposure and responsibilities that these colleagues enjoy so early in their careers is testament to thyssenkrupp’s commitment to staff engagement and empowerment. By working on these ground-breaking innovations alongside industry veterans, they have the freedom to experiment and test the boundaries of possibility in urban mobility. The projects they are working on now are not only crucial to the company’s success and growth, but also to the future of our built environment.
The decline of Kodak and Blockbuster is proof of the consequences for companies that fail to stay ahead of the curve and look for new trends. By focusing on bringing the best of the best into our business, and harnessing their skills, passion and talent early on, we can continue inspiring innovation across the board and driving sustained commercial success. The development of our cities and the mobility challenges they face are not going to slow down, and thanks to the talent of our staff, neither will we.
Our office environment is very much like a community
“Our office environment is very much like a community – we all have a real thirst for knowledge, and there are always professors, researchers and CEOs of various startups coming through the office, which helps to feed our inspiration. We are encouraged to collaborate with our colleagues and there are opportunities for me to travel across the country to work with our research partners and attend conferences showcasing the latest and greatest in the tech world. It’s a really engaging working environment and through impromptu brainstorms has inspired a number of projects, such as the Elevator Health Check App we are currently developing; a new iPhone application used to collect vibration and ride quality data in elevators to quantify how smooth your elevator journey is and troubleshoot any problems.”