In Sight KTR Podcast Episode 11: Old hand vs. trainee – KTR then and now

Julia Ures: “In Sight KTR is back. Welcome and good to have you with us for a new episode that today is about apprenticeship. Namely with training in the past and today and with what has happened in the meantime. And I have two quite exciting guests that I am very pleased to have. Today here in the studio at my side, Manfred Hüls, is now, dare I say, a pensioner. He is the old hand who is quoted in the title of today’s episode. He used to work in export sales and has been with the company for 49 years. Mr Hüls, it’s good to have you here again today.“

 Manfred Hüls: „Yes, gladly!“

Julia Ures: “And then we have Max Schlüsemeyer here today. He is currently in training to become an industrial clerk and is still relatively fresh, namely in his second year of training. Mr Hüls, for you today is a return to KTR. How long has it been since you were last here and how does it feel now that you are back here at KTR today?”

Manfred Hüls: “Three years ago was the last time I was here and it feels like I was here yesterday. I know where the entrances are and so on. So you immediately feel at home here again.”

Julia Ures: “How is your life actually going right now without KTR?”

Manfred Hüls: “Of course, due to Corona, I’m a bit limited. But I bought a motorhome and of course I use it and I’m very, very often on the road with the motorhome. I was also in Australia last year or two years ago, sorry, for five weeks.”

Julia Ures: „Wow!“

Manfred Hüls: “Last year we were planning to go to South Africa, had the whole thing booked and everything, but unfortunately it was cancelled again because of Corona. So I’m very often on tour.”

Julia Ures: “If we go back 49 years plus 3, your first day at KTR, do you still remember it? And how did that go?”

Manfred Hüls: “Of course! That was 1 August 1969. We were received by the, I don’t know if there was a human resources manager at the time. We were shown through the office, through the small warehouse. And my first impression was: My God! What are the parts needed for, used for? Because, to be honest, you thought of couplings as something else, for a scooter, for a car, but not these mechanical couplings.”

Julia Ures: “That surprised you at first then?”

Manfred Hüls: “Surprised, exactly. And everyone was very nice, very friendly. We started with ties and collars. That was the custom at the time. We didn’t have sleeve protectors, as was so common at the Tacke company opposite, but otherwise it was relaxed, casual, so very pleasant.”

Julia Ures: “That means that even back then, the bosses were still really persons of respect, or were they also approachable?”

Manfred Hüls: “Yes, at least the first managing director, Mr Melching, was a figure of respect, I must say. All the others were like you and me, I’d say. Of course, department heads were also on formal terms, that was the way it was in those days.”

Julia Ures: “Max, your first day wasn’t that long ago, a year and a half. How was that in comparison?”

Max Schlüsemeyer: “We were welcomed here at the head office, we were greeted, the rough procedures of the day were explained to us. Then we were given a short tour of the office, we saw everything first. And the first day was actually a lot of organisation and we were shown our workplace. And then we actually went to our workplaces with some introductory activities. So not the big agenda yet, but first a little tour.”

Julia Ures: “First you have to get your bearings and find your way around.”

Max Schlüsemeyer: “Exactly!”

Julia Ures: “Can you still remember what your first impression was, what the atmosphere was like or what kind of aura the company had on you?”

Max Schlüsemeyer: “At that point I had seen KTR twice, once at the interview when I was here and then on my first day. It was already much bigger than you imagine. I had the impression that the assembly, the warehouse, the production, that everything on the campus seems much bigger than I had imagined. And the open-plan offices also seem very big, of course. So that was really surprising.”

Julia Ures: “Was that a bit overwhelming for you at first, or perhaps pride in being part of such a big company?”

Max Schlüsemeyer: “Of course, you were proud that you had made it here, so to speak, I would say. I wouldn’t say you were knocked off your feet. So you felt like that on the first day, when you were welcomed, shown around, like the new person who is now starting here, and you were warmly welcomed. It was definitely not a feeling of being overwhelmed by the impression.”

Julia Ures: “How does training at KTR actually work today? Are there certain stations, certain procedures? Can you describe it roughly, which might also apply to the different training programmes?”

Max Schlüsemeyer: “Personally, I started in the warehouse, so first we go through the industrial areas as industrial clerks to get to know the product in the first place. I think that when you start here and hear “coupling”, “ROTEX“, “RADEX“, etc., you don’t get much of an idea. And in the warehouse, in assembly, in production, you had the parts much closer in your hands and only then understood what was actually behind them. That is, first we walked through the industrial areas and then came to the office and then, of course, to each department for a certain time. By now I’ve seen all the departments once, at least once.”

Julia Ures: “Is there actually any kind of exchange with the other trainees from other areas?”

Max Schlüsemeyer: “Since we have open-plan offices, I definitely know or we definitely have contact with the industrial clerks, who also sit in our office. In the same office, there are two office buildings. The technical drawers are in the other office building. And we also have technical training courses for a month, where we also sit with the technical drawers to gain a little insight into their technical understanding. And then we definitely have more to do with the technical drawers. And apart from that, I would say it’s a good relationship. We know each other well, we have a lot to do with each other. Sometimes we had lunch together before Corona, also during the breaks. So it’s really the case that you have quite a lot of contact with the other trainees.”

Julia Ures: “Mr. Hüls, Max now gives us a glimpse into training at KTR today. What was the training like back then, in 1969 and then at the beginning of the 70s?”

Manfred Hüls: “Similar, exactly what the colleague said. We also had to go through all the departments, whether it was the magazine, it was called magazine at the time, and not logistics, no one knew that. There was no marketing.”

Julia Ures: “At least it wasn’t called that, right?”

Manfred Hüls: “No, there wasn’t. I don’t know, the mailroom sent out catalogues and that was it. There was still a calculation, of course sales, purchasing. But apart from that, maybe I spent two weeks at our central office and two weeks in the secretary’s office. But that was it.”

Julia Ures: “In the almost 50 years you have been with the company, what has been the most distinctive change for you?”

Manfred Hüls: “The most striking change?”

Julia Ures: “Perhaps the biggest change for you personally, that you realised that you had to change yourself as well.”

Manfred Hüls: “Not really. It was all so gradual. It wasn’t all of a sudden, it was all gradual. And we had constant growth rates, there was hardly any standstill over the years. In other words, there was a steady increase. And it didn’t happen in a sudden burst of any big cuts. Okay, SAP was introduced, but we had enough time to prepare for it and so on and so forth. So from that point of view, there were no serious cuts, I’d say.”

Julia Ures: “Now, of course, you have a very, very broad overview of several decades. Max, do you also already somehow notice changes in the time you are here now, even if it is only a relatively short time?”

Max Schlüsemeyer: “I don’t think I’ve noticed such a big change yet. Maybe there are small projects that I have accompanied to a certain extent with my time here or where I have seen how they have grown. But I don’t think I’ve noticed the big changes yet.”

Julia Ures: “The nice thing about “In Sight KTR” is that we can take up your questions that you send us by e-mail or also on KTR’s social media channels, by e-mail to socialmedia@ktr.com, for example. And one question reached us, it refers to this, we have built in a verse in the title “Old hand versus trainee”. The question came up: When should the old hand, which is what you stand for now, Mr. Hüls, actually let go of the reins and let the younger generation take on the challenges and perhaps hand over the sceptre, so to speak? What do you think, Mr. Hüls, does it work at KTR that the many long-serving employees also let the younger ones take the decisions?”

Manfred Hüls: “Yes, for sure. I see it from my point of view and I was also very happy to pass on the knowledge to my successors, to my employees, to my young employees, possibly to show them some tricks and so on and so forth. I don’t believe that there are so-called castle builders here, who keep their knowledge and don’t let anyone touch it. And that, I think, is still the case today.”

Julia Ures: “How difficult was that for you to then sometimes also realise, the younger ones have ideas that are perhaps sometimes at least as good as your own?”

Manfred Hüls: “Yes, that’s good. It’s good for the company, it’s good for me. It always strengthens the well-being of the company. And in that respect it’s very, very positive.”

Julia Ures: “Max, how do you experience it, are the younger ones at KTR also given credit? You mentioned it earlier. How does that show?”

Max Schlüsemeyer: “Definitely! In the departments, in the office that we go through, in the different departments, there are always projects that are launched, where we trainees also work, where we are involved, where we are brought on board. So we are definitely allowed to bring in our own opinions, ideas for improvement, and these are then taken into account, incorporated. And I think theory and practice are two different things. One is the way it is often done in practice, and then theoretical suggestions on how it can be implemented. And we are definitely taken into account there.”

Julia Ures: “What do you actually enjoy the most in your training? It can be tasks, it can be topics, it can even be the lunch break. What is the best thing about the training?“

Max Schlüsemeyer: “I think the diversity. We go through so many departments in the area of industrial clerk. That was also the decisive point why I chose the apprenticeship, that you have this variety. We go through all the departments, from order entry to logistics, where the parcel is then sent. And I think the variety is what makes the whole thing so exciting.”

Julia Ures: “Now we are slowly coming to the end of our episode today. Mr. Hüls, what is for you perhaps the most beautiful memory of KTR? What was perhaps also the most memorable thing during that time?”

Manfred Hüls: “That is the team spirit, the team spirit of the employees. In the past, when it was someone’s birthday, the whole company was invited. Just to have a beer at Rosario. And that’s how it has evolved over the years. It was very exciting for us, too. We were invited three times by a supplier in Berlin, so the whole company went to Berlin by bus over the weekend. The bus wasn’t even full, half full at most, that was the whole company.”

Julia Ures: “There would be a whole fleet on the road today.”

Manfred Hüls: “That would be a whole fleet. Exactly! And there too, there are such great stories. That was simply the solidarity. Or an example of that, the company, I think, burned down here in 1990, it was a big fire. And that was on a Friday afternoon and on Monday morning we employees all stood here with our bucket with dishcloths and so on and cleaned the place ourselves, as an example of that. But everyone came and everyone did it. Not with any reluctance or anything, it was really done with pleasure.”

Julia Ures: “Because the identification with the company is also great, isn’t it?”

Manfred Hüls: ” You identified yourself with this company. Exactly!”

Julia Ures: “How difficult is it to find something new to identify with afterwards? So now the keyword is retirement.”

Manfred Hüls: “After all, I knew that 49 years ago that I was going to retire.”

Julia Ures: “It was predictable.”

Manfred Hüls: “From that point of view, it was relatively easy, I must say.”

Julia Ures: “I have one more thing with regard to a possible anecdote, a cue has been brought to my attention. What is it about the confessional?”

Manfred Hüls: “With the confessional?”

Julia Ures: “There is said to have been a chair, or your chair.”

Manfred Hüls: “Ah yes, good. Of course, many a colleague came to me and confessed something, more or less in the private sphere or from the private sphere. And I was their confessor and listened to them and at least gave them good advice, at least I hope so.”

Julia Ures: “Of course, good advice is perhaps the keyword at the end. What advice do you perhaps give Max for his training and his future at KTR?”

Manfred Hüls: “There I would just say, identify with the company, accept all the things, also gladly accept the innovations and then you will make it.”

Julia Ures: “Max, retirement is still a long way off for you, of course. What do you wish for the near future at KTR?”

Max Schlüsemeyer: “First of all, of course, that I successfully complete my training. And then I’m still keeping my career open. Let’s see where it goes. Of course, I hope that I will somehow stay in touch with KTR, that I will be employed here. And let’s see what the future brings.”

Julia Ures: “Thank you very much for being our guest today, both of you, Max and also Mr. Hüls. It’s nice that you once again made your way here to KTR …”

Manfred Hüls: “Yes, with pleasure!”

Julia Ures: “… and reported from 49 years here in the company at KTR. If you are interested, what are the current career opportunities at KTR? There is a website I would like to invite you to visit: ktr-karriere.de. There you can find the vacancies, and of course also the vacancies for apprenticeships. Feel free to have a look and of course recommend our podcast and video cast “In Sight KTR”. And be there again next time when we call in from this studio or maybe from the home office and take up your questions that you have for KTR here at “In Sight KTR”. All the best and see you soon!”