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Applications Engineering

The Applications Engineering and Product Management departments are staffed mainly by flooring technicians and interior fittings experts. Most of them have many years of experience in laying floors. They provide customer support in case of technical queries, test new developments and already know today what our customers are going to want tomorrow to ensure their continued success.

Interviews

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Jens Bader, Field Technician Applications, Uzin

What do you do, what are your responsibilities, and how long have you been with the company?

I have been working for Uzin Utz here in the Applications Engineering department for 8 years. My main responsibilities are customer training, product testing, advising customers on site or over the phone, and going out to building sites on customer request to show people how to use our products. Last year, around 1000 customers attended our training courses here in Ulm. We introduced new products to them and showed them some tricks of the trade. But really, I spend most of my time developing new products together with the developers, or improving existing ones.

What does such a product test look like, exactly?

The laboratory develops an adhesive or a leveller and makes a sample batch up in the laboratory. Once they have run their final tests, they send it to us with a request for testing, to see whether it works in practice. We then test these products on a small scale in our department. If the result is positive, we release the product for test production by instructing the production department in writing. This is the point in time when a first proper, larger batch of the product is produced. We then inspect the test production batch again before approaching selected trade customers for on-site product testing, and these trade customers then give us feedback on the product. So when we run that kind of test, we really look at the product together with those who actually use it to see whether it really meets their needs.

What did you train as?

I trained as an interior fittings technician but then I became increasingly interested in timber, so I did some further training to become a certified master parquet flooring fitter. So that is why I am now also the first port of call for adhesives testing for parquet flooring. Last year, I also went to evening classes to get a degree in business administration for master craftsmen to complement my vocational qualifications.

Why did you move from practicing your trade to an industrial environment?

My father was a craftsman as well and had his own workshop, which is where I did my apprenticeship. I was always on some building site or other with my father so I basically grew up with Uzin tubs all over the place. I always found it fascinating that whenever he had a problem, he'd put a call through to Uzin's Applications Engineering department, and a technician would come along and sort it out for him. So this is my dream job, really. I knew I wanted to do something like this ever since I was a kid.

What exactly does the customer liaison process look like?

Customers usually call our department from the actual building site when they encounter a subfloor or flooring problem. There are always two of us on duty who will then first of all try to sort out the problem over the phone. That usually works. But sometimes, it is still necessary for a field technician to drive out to the site so he can get a picture of the respective conditions. Our Applications Department works closely together with the fitters and flooring technicians on site. Our main job is to make their job easier.
We even prepare fitting suggestions in writing if a customer has a building that needs flooring. He will then explain to us what the subfloor is like and what the conditions are exactly. We will then draw up some suggestions specifically for this project, and the customer can proceed along the lines suggested by us. We basically provide a total care package and deliver the products in a way that makes it possible for the fitter to do his job properly and without reason for complaints.

How many people are there in your team?

There are nine of us working from the Applications Engineering office here in Ulm The team spirit is brilliant, working here is a lot of fun. Everyone helps each other out, we stick together, just like a very big family. And that is what I really appreciate, the solidarity and family atmosphere within the team. But that also applies to the whole company. We also have that kind of close relationship with the departments we cooperate with, the communication channels are very direct, not long-winded, and that's great.
What skills does someone who wants to do your job need?
You need to be really in tune with the products in order to spot even the tiniest changes during the practical testing stage. This aptitude is a precondition.

What kind of feedback does Uzin Utz get from the fitters?

Those in the trade really appreciate our company as they know that we will help them straight away if they encounter a problem. For many of them, that is one of the decisive criteria for buying our products. Many fitters also really appreciate the up close and personal contact they have with us through the customer training courses, or through working with us on test building sites. It leads to ongoing close relationships. The fitters call us, we talk about the products, what they think of them and what we can improve. This gives us incredibly important feedback which we can pass on to the developers straight away.

Anything else you would like to add?

I feel proud to be working for a company like this. I enjoy going to work every morning, I really love my job.

Thomas Schneider, Head of International Product Management

What do you do, what are your responsibilities, and how long have you been with the company?

I have been with the company for almost five years now, I was originally employed as a trainer but after only nine days, there was some internal restructuring; after that, I was able to spend half of my time running and increasing the number of training courses, and the other half I was lucky enough to be allowed to lend support to the engineering department at an international level.
And at some point in time, the position of Head of International Product Management became vacant, and ever since then, I have been responsible for the engineering side of things for 50% of my time, and for international product management for the other 50% of my time. Both areas are closely connected to each other.

Which countries are you responsible for?

The Uzin Product Management department looks after 23 subsidiaries all around the world. In terms of applications engineering support for our colleagues abroad, Frank Zaumsegel and I are the ones who are mainly responsible for that.

What does engineering mean in this case?

Engineering means on the one hand, providing the countries with the requisite technical expertise through product presentations, to support them with training courses, and to lend a helping hand during the tests on location.
Engineering also stands for encouraging the dialogue between technicians so they can exchange experiences. Each subsidiary has a sales technician. I have established a close technician-only network of 20-25 people. We meet, exchange knowledge and agree things.

What does international product management mean?

In international product management, we literally 'internationalise' our products, we modify them according to the respective conditions in different countries. The packing units, for example, have to be adjusted to country specifics; in some countries, they are only allowed to use 20 kilogramme bags whilst in others, it's 10 litre tubs. And they might prefer low viscosity adhesives in one country, but high viscosity ones in another. So we try to strike the right balance.
In part, we also create new working substances which we are totally unaware of here in Germany for other countries, and group them. We invite the foreign technicians to Germany and tell them to bring their reference materials, and then we work on the materials and working substances together here in Ulm to ensure that when they are launched, they really do meet international requirements as well, rather than being developed just from the German perspective.

You originally trained as an interior fixtures and fittings technician, why did you decide to do something completely different by applying for the trainer's position at Uzin Utz?

After 15 years as a certified master technician, I simply wanted to try my hand at something completely new, and that was exactly what the company offered me. Within a very short time, I moved from trainer to product manager and into international product management and engineering. And there are still open doors, there is still a lot of scope to do many more new things.

What do you think are the advantages the Uzin Utz AG has over your previous employer?

You can't really compare a workshop with an industrial environment. They are like two clockworks running in completely different directions which nevertheless do meet in the middle at some point. I think it is really exciting how we, as a major manufacturer, still manage to retain this close contact with the people who actually use our products, the fitters, even though we work in completely different spheres.

You also run training courses, what kind of feedback do you get from the fitters about the company and the courses?

They appreciate the fact that the company is still run like an old-fashioned family-owned business, and that we still have this close relationship with the trade. Sometimes, people do scoff, 'you are only the manufacturers, after all', meaning once you get back to the building site, things look completely different, and that our training courses have little to do with their everyday reality. But by and large, wherever we are in the world, we actually get to hear what a great and above all customer-focused company we are.

And is there any one country that you prefer to work in?

No, I would be lying if I said I there is! It is fun wherever I go, because all over the world, the people I work with are not just colleagues, they are like friends that I'm visiting. The great thing is, you don't just go there as a tourist and barely scratch the surface, but you get to meet their families and get access to places you wouldn't normally go to. Regardless of whether that happens to be Russia's deepest interior, or somewhere near the Arctic Circle, or the prairie around Denver.

Anything else you would like to add?

I really do feel very passionately about my job, it is incredibly exciting, and I can also sense this passion in all my colleagues.