Looking ahead by tradition

Industry 4.0 and dig­i­ti­za­tion: Machine devel­opers are not alone when it comes to meeting new chal­lenges. The deci­sion-makers in Human Resources at Harro Höfliger face the task of recruiting employees at an early stage to meet future require­ments. In order to bring the sought-after spe­cial­ists on board, they pursue sev­eral strategies.

A friendly “hello” here, a “good morning” there or a smiling nod from afar: Who­ever visits Harro Höfliger in Allmers­bach im Tal imme­di­ately notices the friend­li­ness of the employees. “Respectful inter­ac­tion with each other is part of our cor­po­rate values. This includes greeting one another in our growing com­pany despite the increasing number of col­leagues,” explains Uwe Amann, Man­aging Director of Human Resources at Harro Höfliger. But anyone who thinks of “values” as “stuffy” is mis­taken: “Our employees feel com­fort­able here. We focus on their indi­vid­u­ality and foster their strengths. This has worked well for us in the past few decades. A strategy we would like to con­tinue, no matter how much we grow.” Thomas Weller, CEO at Harro Höfliger agrees: “We learned early on how impor­tant it is to secure the best tal­ents who also fit in on a per­sonal level. With such employees, we can achieve anything.”

(Illus­tra­tion: Bernd Schifferdecker)

Set­ting the course

Finding these highly spe­cial­ized employees remains a chal­lenge. Like all high-tech com­pa­nies, Harro Höfliger faces a shortage of skilled workers, and that will not change in the fore­see­able future. On the con­trary: The increasing degree of dig­i­ti­za­tion and net­working at our cus­tomers’ pro­duc­tion plants requires even more qual­i­fied devel­opers and experts on topics that may still be visionary today, but may well be the key to a company’s suc­cess tomorrow.

“It is impor­tant to find out where our cus­tomers are heading in order to pro­vide them with assis­tance.“Fabian Elsässer, Head of Cen­tral Electrics and Soft­ware Development

Dealing with new ideas and thinking out­side the box is a tra­di­tion at Harro Höfliger. This explains why topics such as Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Big Data as well as the ques­tion of how to har­ness these tech­nolo­gies for our cus­tomers, now appear on meeting agendas. Fabian Elsässer, Head of Cen­tral Electrics and Soft­ware Devel­op­ment, explains: “It is impor­tant to find out where our cus­tomers are heading, and to make sure at an early stage that we have the nec­es­sary know-how in order to pro­vide them with assis­tance. To achieve this, we need to find ambi­tious and moti­vated employees in pro­fes­sions that have not been the focus of our atten­tion thus far, but will become increas­ingly impor­tant in the future. We will need soft­ware engi­neers and data ana­lysts who can cope with the com­plexity of future productions.”

Fos­tering talents

With the goal of instilling interest and enthu­siasm for the com­pany in these highly sought-after spe­cial­ists early on, the HR man­agers go directly to the source. Uwe Amann: “We have always worked closely with voca­tional and sec­ondary schools. A com­pletely new example is the part­ner­ship with the Alb­stadt-Sig­maringen Uni­ver­sity which spe­cial­izes in IT. In a very short time, we were able to recruit a new employee there. A Busi­ness Ana­lytics stu­dent will write her master thesis at our company.”

“Every employee should be able to develop their full ­poten­tial according to his or ­her abil­i­ties and should be ready to take respon­si­bility.“Uwe Amann, Man­aging Director of Human Resources

In addi­tion, Harro Höfliger relies heavily on the dual system, which has been a suc­cessful model in Ger­many for years. The high degree of prac­tical rel­e­vance is con­sis­tent with the company’s training phi­los­ophy in many respects. Fabian Elsässer: “The Bach­elor and Master theses of our stu­dents pro­vide insights into aspects of the future. If we iden­tify topics that might be of poten­tial interest to our cus­tomers, we are already devel­oping employee skills in this direc­tion in order to be strong and effec­tive at the appro­priate moment.”

As a fur­ther advan­tage, the young people get to know the com­pany from the ground up during their intern­ship semes­ters and are involved in everyday pro­fes­sional sit­u­a­tions. “Our employees enjoy many free­doms. Everyone should be able to develop their full poten­tial ­according to his or her abil­i­ties, but also be ready to take respon­si­bility and make deci­sions at an early stage. This also ­applies to our new­comers,” explains Amann. Elsässer adds: “As a sup­plier of spe­cialty machines we deal with a con­sis­tently large number of pro­to­types. Our cus­tomers trust in our know-how. To ensure this, we rely on self-con­fi­dent employees and foster their respec­tive tal­ents. In addi­tion, we pro­vide every new­comer with a mentor, who not only helps him or her to find their way around the com­pany, but also quickly and pro­fes­sion­ally helps them reach a supe­rior level of knowledge.”

(Illus­tra­tion: Bernd Schifferdecker)

Devel­oping ideas

Dig­i­ti­za­tion and Industry 4.0, glob­al­iza­tion, demog­raphy and shifting values bring about changes that we must adapt to. That is why Harro Höfliger experts are exploring ways to make it easier for their cus­tomers to work in the changing world of pro­duc­tion and labor, finding solu­tions right here within the com­pany. “Increased net­working is making the man­u­fac­turing envi­ron­ment more and more com­plex, and our machines are placing ever-increasing demands on the oper­ator,” explains Elsässer. “We have to take the pres­sure off them by designing our machines to be easier to operate.” High usability HMI sys­tems are one way. Ser­vices that sup­port cus­tomer pro­duc­tion processes are also becoming increas­ingly impor­tant. As an example, pat­tern recog­ni­tion to iden­tify oper­ating errors or aug­mented reality solu­tions where oper­a­tors can adjust a machine using an app on a tablet computer.

“In an envi­ron­ment of trust, any­thing is pos­sible.“Thomas Weller, CEO

Working with these and other sys­tems today and in the future requires close coop­er­a­tion between experts in new tech­nolo­gies and expe­ri­enced mechan­ical engi­neers. It is a chal­lenge for the man­agers at Harro Höfliger, but one that they are happy to face. Thomas Weller: “In an envi­ron­ment of trust, any­thing is pos­sible. Spe­cial­ists of dif­ferent dis­ci­plines learn from each other, and dif­ferent ­gen­er­a­tions com­ple­ment each other. We sup­port this by offering a wide range of qual­i­fi­ca­tion pro­grams, trying to include everyone. Ideal con­di­tions for gen­er­ating future-ori­ented solu­tions that help us and our cus­tomers to get ahead.”

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Illus­tra­tion: Bernd Schif­fer­decker, Photos: Janine Kyofsky