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    15. February 2021
    11:35 min.
    Andreas Müller and Dr. Christian Philipp take a look at short-term makeshifts and long-term developments of the Krones Academy.
    • Dr. Christian Philipp (left), Head of Academy Projects and Products, and Andreas Müller, Head of the Krones Academy

    Mr. Müller, we had actually planned this interview for April 2020 – and then Covid-19 hit. To what extent has this global state of emergency affected training operations at the Krones Academy?
    Müller: To a crucial extent, I can definitely say that. In normal circumstances, approximately 1,500 training participants per year visit us here in Neutraubling alone. And in March when the coronavirus crisis started in Germany, this number saw a massive slump. That changed our day-to-day business, sure, but it also gave us some basic food for thought as to what we needed to do in order to remain viable. 
    We’ve had to make changes, right down to how we coordinate training: it has become imperative to coordinate each training event afresh, those for our own service technicians and for our clients’ staff alike, to match current restrictions. What makes things difficult is that the relevant regulations just keep on changing. We hold crisis talks on a daily basis, to ensure swift response and appropriate coordination. Our colleagues in charge of managing this are doing an admirable job.

    Can you give us an example of how the Krones Academy is coping with the current situation right now?
    Müller: Our improvised room solution is a vividly illustrating one. Many of our rooms here at the Academy in Neutraubling have been dimensioned to accommodate eight to ten training participants – at present, though, only three people are permitted per room. But we don’t have training groups as small as that. So we’re currently unable to use 80 per cent of our rooms, but we found a fit-for-purpose makeshift: “outdoor training rooms”, which we’ve set up in the training hall. What’s more, for the severely reduced number of visitors we’re currently hosting here for in-person training, we’ve implemented ultra-stringent cleaning protocols – even more strict than in other areas of our facility.

    Article 25058
    Andreas Müller took over as Director of the Krones Academy in June 2019 – since then, the relevance and availability of information has gained ever greater importance.

    These are measures you’re taking out of necessity, to tide the Academy over until the end of this exceptional situation. But are there also changes which you may wish to stick with for the future?
    Müller: Two questions are of long-term interest here: how are we coping with this new reality, and what type of business model have we devised for it? At the end of March, we said this was the right juncture to finally implement some things we’d been planning for quite a while. For the time has come to move training into the digital world. The coronavirus crisis has turned out to be the breeding ground and catalyst for this, forcing us to pursue an issue that had been on our minds for quite a long time: online training events in the virtual classroom.

    That means these online trainings are not a short-term measure to tide the Academy over but will in future be an integral part of its portfolio?
    Müller: Exactly, they are not a flash in the pan, but will become an additional main pillar to supplement our conventional training. You see, this online option is also attractive for our clients since they don’t have to send their employees to us for every training session, thus saving costs for travel and accommodation. So the online variants are a modular supplement, available on demand. Mind you, depending on the subject matter, they cannot replace in-person training 100 per cent.

    What sort of mood do you currently perceive among clients – is their attitude towards advanced training changing? And to what extent are they prepared to book online trainings?
    Müller: That varies widely from customer to customer – some are using the forced break for training whereas others are saving on training costs now more than ever.

    Philipp: You see, our clients first of all need us to sell them on the idea of “online training”: how can such a virtual training actually work, what is the value added?

    Müller: To give you an example: many people think online training is the same as a webinar, a YouTube tutorial or the open university. But the distinctive feature of our online training is that we’re creating the same sort of interaction that we would have when holding in-person training sessions here on site.

    Article 25057
    Dr. Christian Philipp has played a key role in the development of new training formats.

    What sort of experience have you gained so far in this regard? Is genuine interaction actually possible in virtual training?
    Müller: It works better than we thought! We’re predominantly using Microsoft Teams for this, which offers us a good range of functionalities. However, just as with in-person trainings it will only be possible to achieve meaningful interaction if we limit the number of participants. You see, an instructor can only see whether everyone has got the message and understood all of it properly with a manageable group size, and that goes for online training just as it does for conventional courses. This is precisely one of the salient qualities of good training and a good instructor: following up on certain points and explaining them again in more detail as soon as the instructor notices that not everyone has fully understood everything.

    Krones held its first online training sessions in June. The Academy was ahead of the curve, wasn’t it?
    Müller: Yes, we did in fact get some feedback from a large international player in the softdrinks sector, telling us we were the first to offer virtual training. What helped us here no doubt was that we quickly found some clients who were prepared to test the online variant together with us – and that we got some encouraging feedback from key accounts quite early on.

    Philipp: At the same time, we’re noticing that clients are grateful for the alternatives we’re proposing: when they depend on such training events, we offer them an option for actually holding them.

    This means that frequently the client hasn’t approached Krones and asked for training but rather Krones is proactively offering them a solution?
    Müller: Exactly. For existing orders, particularly, which we’re now unable to execute as ordered, we reach out to the customer and offer a solution, such as an online training. And many clients are grateful for this.

    I want our clients’ staff to take home with them the self-confidence of having the knowledge and insights they need to meet and master any requirements and challenges they might encounter in their daily work routines Erwin HächlDr. Christian PhilippHead of Academy Projects and Products

    Current travel restrictions mean it’s not always possible to deploy highly qualified staff to the places where they are needed. Has this changed the perceived importance of having qualified employees right there on the spot, both for clients and Krones alike? Does this affect the Academy’s activities?
    Müller: No, not really; it’s rather a confirmation of something that was on our agenda anyway. As part of our internationalisation thrust, we’ve for quite some time now been working on enabling the larger ones of our global subsidiaries, for example in China, Thailand, the USA, Brazil, Kenya and South Africa, to cover a variety of training events for their respective regions autonomously. Nor has it so far been the case that we’ve kept the relevant information and options in just one location, here in Neutraubling. We’re aiming to have qualified associates all around the globe, offering equivalent trainings in their own right, in the near future. That was already our strategy.

    Philipp: It’s only thanks to our international network, which we’ve purposefully reinforced over recent years, that we are now in a position to respond with such flexibility.

    Müller: In the medium term, we won’t be holding online trainings exclusively from Neutraubling for the whole world. We set up a train-the-trainer concept some time ago, which we’re using to enable suitable staff in our locations worldwide to conduct online trainings themselves. That has quickly proved its worth because, for example, Chinese clients will generally not want to book English-language training.
    So, the international training locations must be fully equivalent – because it can be expected that Neutraubling will not remain the only competence centre for all products and content. The obvious option will then be to hold initial training for a certain specialist field at a subsidiary, whose instructors then train the trainers at other locations.

    Article 25055
    The Krones Academy's worldwide locations

    How will you ensure that the instructors worldwide will teach the content at the same high level of quality?
    Philipp: What’s crucially important here is mutual feedback and that the trainers maintain a close connection to their regional markets, and of course with each other. We’ve drawn up online trainer guidelines for client training events so as to guarantee comparable standards and a consistently high level of quality all around the globe. It’s essential that we give our trainers the technology and the methodologies they need – especially when it comes to digital communication of content. Only after we’ve checked and assured that is the case will we be able to guarantee a consistently high level of quality worldwide.

    Müller: Speaking of consistency: this is a major issue for us all across the board, not just in regard to specific training content. For example, we’re currently working on standardising all German training locations and the entire portfolio of our courses to better effect. We want training design and structure to be seamlessly integrated, across all facilities and all technologies

    So training competences are being expanded in the various regions. Does that go for the facilities themselves, too? Or to put it provocatively: how important are training centres and in-person training options at all in an increasingly digitalised world?
    Philipp: There are limits to what sort of knowledge and techniques can be communicated online. For example, whenever interaction with machines is necessary, we’re currently managing quite well with learning films and the like, but when it comes to hands-on mechanical exercises for the training participants we have hardly any digital alternatives at all. Our wish for the future is to use appropriate digital learning methods more, for instance with the aid of augmented or virtual reality. But at present we’re only just beginning to explore the options available – and that goes for the requisite IT infrastructure as well.
    Even the best digital training method cannot always fully match a true hands-on learning experience, which is why local training centres with in-person training options will continue to be necessary.

    The trend towards digital solutions is also manifest in the changes that production processes are undergoing. How do you respond to the developments towards more and more automated technologies? Since they ultimately mean that fewer highly qualified operators are needed?
    Müller: These trends are nothing new. It has always been a challenge to motivate clients to invest in their staff’s expertise. We’re noticing that clients are more readily willing to invest more money in upskilling their qualified staff – building up a fund of expertise here. For their operators, by contrast, they often opt for a maximally efficient approach, not least because they see more turnover there. This does, of course, have its effects on the requirements posed for the training courses we offer. Especially as far as basics are concerned, clients do not want to have to train their operators at six-month intervals.
    But in the process of advancing the substantive content of the Academy’s portfolio, we also place a major emphasis on in-house subjects from the field of corporate research and development – for instance, from the keynote issue of Connected Line, we’re distilling vital requirements for trainings to do with completely networked client lines.
    At the same time, digital media open new avenues which we’re using to meet our clients’ needs and to render our business model fit for the future. But we also find that different customers have disparate ideas and wishes. Therefore, we cluster the requirements posed, also incorporating our own input, and implement the issues with the highest number of hits.

    So for certain members of a client’s workforce, the format of the future will not be an off-the-rack training with content from which they will later need only a small fraction, but increasingly a fit-for-purpose framework for making relevant information available to precisely the person who needs it at precisely the right moment. Erwin HächlAndreas MüllerDirector of the Krones Academy

    So you’re working on both new training content and new training formats?
    Müller: Exactly. In the long term, we will offer not only training events as such, but likewise a new type of coaching for our clients – focusing even more meaningfully on enabling clients to help themselves in their daily production routines and in trouble-shooting, too. I like to illustrate this with an obvious example: when some device breaks at home – no matter whether it’s the washing machine, a bicycle or a lawn mower – the first thing I do is check YouTube to see if there’s a tutorial for it. And why should it be different for our clients? With this idea in mind, what we’re aiming to do is to make all the requisite information available for our clients, so they can retrieve it fast and easily share it with their employees. For this, of course, you need the documentation as such – this can be sketches, photos, mobile-phone videos, and even content for smart glasses.
    Our first prototypes are designed above all to offer a fit-for-purpose framework. We have to put the preconditions in place for providing easy and fast access to the relevant information. For, you see, the operators at our clients’ plants know how to run the lines, but the expertise for resolving a variety of unforeseeable situations encountered during production is often vested in just a few experienced members of staff. So when the operator himself has to solve a certain problem, it’s crucially important that he can tap into the knowledge and solutions of experienced colleagues – which is likewise one of the basic ideas behind the IIoT plattform. This means that for certain members of a client’s workforce, the format of the future will not be an off-the-rack training with content from which they will later need only a very small fraction, but increasingly a fit-for-purpose framework for making relevant information available to precisely the person who needs it at precisely the right moment.

    In this context, the and service level agreements offered by our Lifecycle Service also play a major role for us: the overarching goal is to make available to each of our clients solutions and information tailored to his needs in an all-inclusive package. The customer will then benefit from a transparent pricing structure and 100 per cent relevant content.

    Krones Lifecycle Service - Krones
    Article 25072
    Augmented reality

    In the not too distant future, however, the Krones Academy will continue to offer subject-specific training events. What is your intention here – what sort of feeling and knowledge do you want participants to take home with them from such a course?
    Philipp: I want them to take home the self-confidence of having the knowledge and insights they need to meet and master any requirements and challenges they might encounter in their daily work routines, of knowing that they’ve got what it takes to hold their own in any situation that might crop up at work in the future.

    Müller: In addition to the general goal that Christian Philipp has just described, we have course-specific learning objectives we’re checking up on after every training event. This relates to customer and in-house trainings in equal measure and enables us to evaluate our training options and keep on upgrading them.

    15. February 2021
    11:35 min.

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