Economy & Politics

InnovationFesto Didactic: Business Education

The Festo Automation Center in Esslingen-Berkheimimago images / sport photo pack

Germany’s most innovative company: and Statista have filtered 442 innovation drivers out of almost 1,800 candidates. In our series of articles we present a selection of the award-winning companies. Our infographic shows an overview of the complete evaluation

If you look at Hans Jörg Stotz’s career, you would hardly think that this man would teach other technology. Philosophy and art history are subjects in his curriculum vitae – nothing that would suggest a qualification in the high-tech sector. And yet Stotz heads a kind of school for technical further education: the Festo Didactic. The company is a subsidiary of the automation technology manufacturer Festo, which specializes in modernizing machinery.

The company from Esslingen understood early on that upheavals such as the use of robots or – more recently – artificial intelligence mean that the people who work with the new machines have to be trained. This gave rise to the didactics division in the 1960s. Today the company is active in 60 countries and claims to be the world’s largest provider of education in industrial automation. 50,000 teaching institutes work with Festo.

“We try to incorporate new techniques into the didactics as quickly as possible,” says Stotz. Companies can book the training courses and get their staff on track. Customers include groups such as Siemens, Daimler or Volkswagen.

“Everyone moves forward as if on eggs”

Festo has standardized the training courses with a trick: The range includes complete learning systems with real technology that can be put together in building blocks. The companies can then use them in their training rooms. “It’s like fishing equipment,” says Stotz. “Only with real industrial components.”

In concrete terms, this can mean that the employees of a company in a simulated factory are supposed to produce a product using a real robot. The time pressure may then be increased or the requirements may change so that the students have to react. It is still important to take away the fear of technological change from people. “We want to move people from the fear phase into the curiosity phase,” he says.

Digitization, which has also hit machine and plant engineering with full force, requires quick reactions. The job profiles are changing rapidly, the innovation cycles are shortening. At Festo, they have therefore not only changed the learning content, but also the methods. There is hardly any frontal teaching anymore, the teams have to develop their new skills more often – under the guidance of engineers, but preferably independently. It’s often about learning how to respond to the unexpected.

The companies know that the change is taking place, but Stotz says: “Nobody can say exactly where it is going:” Everyone is moving forward like eggs. “He wants to change that. In March, Festo Didactic received the “Digital Transformer of the Year” award for its work.

The Study on the most innovative German companies was published in 03/2020. Important note: The investigation was carried out before the outbreak of the corona pandemic. Methodology: This is how the most innovative companies were identified
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