Roth Smart Factory adds greater practical element to apprenticeships - Apprentices gain additional qualification

In order to prepare apprentices for the modern working world, Roth Industries has developed a project called the Smart Factory. The digitalisation of working processes across companies as well as the use of digital applications in production (Industry 4.0) is developing rapidly. Keeping pace with these developments is an enormous challenge for the work force.

“This is why it is so important to raise awareness right from apprenticeship level and develop individual skills at the same time as the technology advances,” explains Michael Donges, Head of HR at the Roth family company. “In order to teach the new digital methods of working and ensure that they can be applied in practice, we have created an innovative training concept called the Smart Factory. On top of that, our apprentices get to experience autonomous cross-divisional working processes at first hand and see how their skills grow through self-organised learning,” Donges continues.

Smart Factory: a company within the company
The Smart Factory training concept was created in spring 2019 under the leadership of Hartmut Heck, Head of Central Training, and Dr Michael Schröder, Chairman of the Idea Management Committee, as well as the Head of HR. They put together a team of eight apprentices from four different apprenticeships from the first (juniors) and second (seniors) years of training, who formed a company within the company. The group is made up of electronic technicians, industrial clerks, industrial mechanics and technical product designers. Their initial investment was a 3D printer for additive manufacturing with the objective of acquiring, processing and managing orders for 3D-manufactured products from the different Roth companies and divisions in the most economical way. The apprentices built the 3D printer themselves under the supervision of Hartmut Heck and put it into operation. The Smart Factory team manufactured replacement parts for production lines, prototypes of products and small parts for entire assemblies. In doing so, they had to manage the entire operational process – from the feasibility analysis to cost calculation, processing the order and the quote and the manufacturing stage itself, through to financial accounting and strategic decisions such as yielding a return for future investments profitable to the company. The interdisciplinary work promotes the development of professional, methodological and social skills right from apprenticeship level and prepares the future work force for their career.

The next generation has already begun
Working in the Smart Factory is an additional qualification teaching digital skills and self-organised learning within a team under the management of Roth trainers. The project will continue seamlessly during 2020. The juniors will take up the roles of the seniors and a newly appointed generation of juniors will familiarise themselves with the work. The seniors moving on from the project – Mareike Bülte, Fabio Freund, Felix Paplauer and Jannik Schmidt – have been inspired by the Smart Factory. “We have transformed a pilot project into a small company structure and put theories into practice. There is a clear focus on promoting independence, team work and cooperation,” says Jannik Schmidt. Mareike Bülte was impressed by the project, asserting that “The Smart Factory was a fantastic opportunity for further professional development. We were able to improve our skills in self-organisation, dealing with challenges and time management.”
Fabio Freund comments: “We mainly focussed on the assembly, operation and digitalisation of 3D printers. In my opinion, this topic will play an ever-greater role in the industry in the future. Collaborating with the different professional groups was exciting because you could, as an industrial apprentice, gain interesting insights into the work of commercial apprentices. I think the project has been a great success and I can definitely recommend it to any apprentice.” 




(From left to right)
Simon Hippenstiel, Jennifer Hambel,
Fabian Buckler and Marcel Seeboth
present some of the parts
manufactured by the
Smart Factory Team. 


Picture caption above:
The team members of the Smart Factory training project look back at a successful time and say goodbye to the seniors Felix Paplauer, Fabio Freund, Mareike Bülte and Jannik Schmidt.