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Episode 17: Training and webinars - learning with and at KTR


Text of the current episode:

Julia Ures: Hello at "In Sight KTR"! We are glad to have you with us today as we go to the KTR training centre. Our topic today is training and webinars and, as you already know, we have 20 minutes in this podcast and videocast, 20 minutes in which my conversation partners here in the studio are confronted with questions they didn't hear before. So, this is the absolute jump into the cold water. And I'm very pleased that you two are getting involved. We are on a first-name basis today, we have already agreed that we will address each other as "Du" today. I would like to welcome Melanie Gunka, marketing specialist, who has been with KTR Systems for 23 years. You have also done your training here at KTR.

Melanie Gunka: Yes, exactly! So, it's KTR's own growth if you like.

Julia Ures: The situation is very similar for René Edelbusch. He is the industry manager of Indoor Material Handling, has been with KTR for eight years, and did his training as a cutting machine operator. That was the start of your career.

René Edelbusch: Exactly! But my career started at the Kurze company, not at KTR.

Julia Ures: I see!

René Edelbusch: Well, at the end of the day, it's a big supplier or one of the most important suppliers for KTR. So, I know the products inside out, so to speak.

Julia Ures: With you two, as I already said, today we are talking about training and webinars. So, what is actually on offer there. For a manufacturer of drive technology, brakes, coolers, and hydraulics, you wouldn't think of training courses at the very first moment. Melanie, what is the training centre? Maybe you can bring us up to date here first.

Melanie Gunka: The training centre was created in 2014. At that time, the tenor of the technology and sales departments was that our subsidiaries and colleagues from abroad were coming to the company individually and receiving training. At some point, this gave us the idea that we should bundle them together and use that to create an offer. At first, this was really only intended for internal use. Of course, we also looked at the fact that there are different levels of knowledge, which means that we also looked at how to set up a programme that is somewhat geared to the levels of knowledge. That's how a step model came into being, which includes the "Basic" step, "Professional" and "Select" training. And we have actually adapted this for our dealers, for our customers. As I said, the basic level is really oriented towards technical basics, physical basics that need to be learned, and even torque adjustment, so everything is included.

Julia Ures: René, what is your task in the training centre?

René Edelbusch: Since 2018, when I joined the training center together with John. At the end of the day, we are the main contact for the training participants. It's an international audience, as Melanie said, our subsidiaries, our dealers worldwide. We have trade representations worldwide, partners in place. When they get new colleagues or colleagues who want to specialise in a brake, in hydraulic systems, but especially in drive technology, which is what we do here in Rheine, of course they have to acquire this specific expertise somewhere. John and I are the moderators, i.e. we accompany the training from the first to the last day and are always there. We have a bit of an eye on making the training interactive and lively. It was very important to us that we don't sit in a room and plough through PowerPoint slides for eight to ten hours a day, but that we also pick up a calculator or a coupling. We've come up with a little something.

Julia Ures: Melanie, we can already see you nodding when we watch this videocast right now. For those who listen to the whole thing as a podcast, I can describe that you were nodding very diligently when it came to these illustrative examples.

Melanie Gunka: Exactly!

Julia Ures: What are your tasks in the training centre, what do you do there?

Melanie Gunka: I'm responsible for the whole organisation, for looking after the participants, from booking the training to when a taxi is needed or when, hopefully or thank God, it hasn't happened very often, a dentist is needed in between.

Julia Ures: Oh dear!

Melanie Gunka: Yes, if there is an acute toothache. For the taxi organisation. The side programme, I wouldn't call it a side programme at all, because I think that's a very important part, the so-called socialising. In the evenings we also go out for dinner with the participants or go bowling, or we have already done swing golfing. I think that is also an important part of the training centre, that you get to know the contact persons, also in the office. That means getting to know the people you deal with on a daily or weekly basis.

René Edelbusch: But that's not just really by-play, that's really super important.

Melanie Gunka: Exactly!

René Edelbusch: Because when you have a little Fanta without ice in the evening with the respective contact person, you can of course also have a beer, ultimately you get a completely different bond, a relationship is ultimately built up. The next time you talk on the phone, you have other topics, you quickly get to know each other. I think that's a very, very important aspect of the whole thing.

Julia Ures: Of course, it's easier to learn and you might also be much more aware of the concerns or needs that prevail there.

René Edelbusch: Exactly!

Julia Ures: You diligently send us questions to For example, René, why should you actually do a training at KTR?

René Edelbusch: Well, why should you do that? Of course, you should have a certain interest in a coupling or a brake, in hydraulic equipment. Finally, of course, the question is always: What do I do with the product? If I am an office worker, I have to acquire basic knowledge. That's why we have the basic training courses, where we start from the bottom up: What is torque? How do I calculate  torque? What are vibrations? What are displacements, axial, radial displacements? All these topics are actually standard technical terms that you should know when dealing with coupling design. In professional training, it's really like this, an assembly table, we built it. Maybe we can talk about that again in a moment. Finally, having a coupling in your hand, assembling a coupling. I always like to use the example of the magnetic coupling. A magnetic coupling is a product that needs a lot of explanation. I transmit a torque with magnetic force. And when you assemble this coupling and see and notice how much force this magnetic force exerts at that point, it's really cool to see how the whole thing works when it's assembled. I think these are very, very good reasons to attend a KTR training.


Julia Ures: Now you've just mentioned it and I'd already heard about this famous assembly table. Is it possible to completely simulate the real use of your products or even actually manufacture them? Or to what extent is that possible?

René Edelbusch: In the end we did it, that was about three years ago, together with a trainee who had drawn the whole thing. So, it was KTR's own project. We got ourselves a motor, the trainee then drew the whole thing. And on the output side we took a pump. Ultimately, of course, it can be any application, because a backlash-free coupling, for example, is not used for a pump. But for me, the most important thing was that we have two shafts, input, and output side, we can produce a radial and an axial displacement, we can produce an angular displacement. And there we can assemble our couplings. The training participants and their colleagues really have the coupling in their hands and can see, for example, what assembly advantages this coupling offers with a ROTEX SPLIT. I insert a spider into a coupling. With a backlash-free coupling, I notice how tightly the coupling can be joined, for example. All these aspects that you usually see on YouTube with some kind of exploded view or illustration, this haptic aspect, was extremely important to us when we developed the training table. But the feedback is also corresponding. When we talk to the training participants, but also to our colleagues, we really get super feedback. Because it didn't really exist before. And we wanted to create something, to get rid of this PowerPoint slide topic, sitting for eight hours and just listening, to some extent. So we really wanted to incorporate a practical, haptic part.

Julia Ures: Melanie, now we're talking about trying things out, about perhaps also going through work processes in a targeted way, about touching things. Most recently, you have expanded the offer to include webinars.

Melanie Gunka: Exactly!

Julia Ures: Is it conceivable that at some point these online offers will replace on-site training?

Melanie Gunka: No. It is a very, very good addition, and also indispensable in times of the pandemic. Which is why we created this offer. But it will never be able to replace that in completeness. It will always be flanking. I do think that in the future, I don't know yet when next year, but next year it will be possible for us to offer physical training again. And the personal contact, to see it here on site, to hold a coupling in one's hand, we only get that across partially with a webinar. But it is definitely a very, very good and important addition. It will remain so. Even if we can offer the physical training again, the webinars will definitely remain.

Julia Ures: René, now we have heard that there will be two tracks in the future. How do you see the future of the training centre in general? Maybe if you look a few years into the future.

René Edelbusch: Actually, I'm with Melanie on this. I think the most sensible solution here is a hybrid solution. So ultimately the training, as Melanie said, the personal conversation is irreplaceable. I think we all realised in the pandemic that social contact is super important at this point. But if you think about webinars, and we are discussing how we can develop them further, we have the same issue. Sitting in front of a screen for two, three, four hours, looking into a camera, at some point you just get tired. And in the long run, that's not as much fun as physical training on site and having a beer in the evening. That's different from sitting in front of the computer for eight hours and then not having a social programme in the evening. But there, too, as I said, we are thinking about how we can enhance the whole thing. But of course, it's super practical to have colleagues from Chile, Brazil, and Asia here on screen for just two hours. This is of course a super alternative via teams or other platforms, the webinar platforms, to quickly get something going when you have new products, and we've had a few of those lately. Of course, it's great to be able to get something up and running quickly. But as I said, there's no substitute for a face-to-face meeting.

Julia Ures: That fits in exactly with the next question we received. You have already answered it. That's why I'll pass it on to you. What do you enjoy more, real, or virtual? And what do you enjoy most about working in or with the training centre, Melanie? What is it with you? Because we've already heard it from René.

Melanie Gunka: Real, definitely, because of the personal contact. In marketing, we don't necessarily have customer contact, or at least not as often as in sales, of course. But I really enjoy getting in touch with the participants and acting as a contact person. That's what I like best, and the exchange of ideas.

Julia Ures: That means that you also go to the personal training sessions, and you can then close the circle, so, we spoke on the phone, we emailed or something like that?

Melanie Gunka: Yes.

Julia Ures: You also get to know the people personally?

Melanie Gunka: Definitely! By the fact that the registration, when they register for the training - or we also accept requests - so at this point I would also like to say that clients can also approach us with topics. So, we are also open. And that's how I know the participants in advance. Then it is of course more pleasant when you get to know them personally.

Julia Ures: Now you have talked a lot about this personal aspect. I can imagine that there are sometimes funny situations, René. Do you have a funny story in mind that happened in connection with the training centre? I don't know, maybe ...

Melanie Gunka: I don't come off so well there.

Julia Ures: Ah okay!

René Edelbusch: There are two or three.

Julia Ures: Yes, okay?

Melanie Gunka: Yes, tell them!

René Edelbusch: I can tell you some of the ones where I was involved. The other one you can tell by yourself. I just say bicycle tour. In the end it was actually ...

Julia Ures: That's the side programme then.

René Edelbusch: What?

Julia Ures: That's about the supporting programme.

René Edelbusch: Yes, exactly! Something went a bit wrong at that point. Melanie can tell you about that later on. In the end, a colleague was forgotten. I won't say by whom. In the end, because a hotel was booked up and a colleague from England had to be rebooked in another hotel, so to speak. It was no problem at all, and we had arranged to meet for dinner in the evening. And at some point, we asked ourselves: Where is David?

Julia Ures: Where was he?

René Edelbusch: He was still in the hotel. Of course, because we said we'd pick him up at the hotel at seven o'clock...


Julia Ures: I see!

René Edelbusch: ... but of course it was stupid at that point that not everyone was in the same hotel. That can happen. But in the end no one was angry, and everything was fine, we had a really nice evening afterwards and that was fitting.

Melanie Gunka: Sorry, Dave!

Julia Ures: I mean, at least you noticed, there's someone missing.

Melanie Gunka: Mhm. Yes.

Julia Ures: And the second story, it's about the bike tour?

Melanie Gunka: Yes, exactly! That was one of the first trainings we had. We had foreign guests there from our subsidiaries. And I mean, we as Münsterlanders, as Westphalians, are quite experienced in cycling. We were a relatively large group and the field split up at some point. So that a front group rode in front and I was relatively far behind with a colleague, because he wasn't quite as confident on the bike. However, the way has forked then sometime. In the midfield there was another colleague, who has then lost the connection to the front and has not seen us. I then took a different route than the colleagues at the front of the field, arrived at the restaurant, and a colleague was just getting back on his bike and just said: "We've lost a Chinese.

Julia Ures: Oh no!

Melanie Gunka: That means, he then drove off the side that they drove along, and I of course as well, if you organize that. So, in the moment, meanwhile I can smile about it, I hope the person in charge, too, - but in the moment you just feel responsible. And that's not nice. I then drove the other way and then really - the Rheinenser will know it - drove along in Bentlage and approached people and asked if they had seen a Chinese on a bicycle. And that was exactly the reaction, I got laughter back. Thank God the story ended well. The colleague then found the participant, thank God. He waited there dutifully and then we were all reunited afterwards at dinner.

Julia Ures: Earlier in the conversation, we also came to the by-play relatively quickly, which means that even if there are breakdowns, you will continue with it?

Melanie Gunka: Of course, we will continue with it. I also noticed that you can organize a lot of things, but once in a while life just happens, I would say.

Julia Ures: I think everyone understands that things can go wrong. And then you also handled it very, very well.

René Edelbusch: No one was angry in the end.

Melanie Gunka: No!

René Edelbusch: You don't do that on purpose.

Melanie Gunka: No. For God's sake, no! That was not planned.

Julia Ures: René, now we've talked about customer training. How do you personally deal with the topic of continuing education? What are some topics where you might say, "I'd like to get some more training"? On the one hand, this can be somehow technical, professional, but perhaps also private in completely different areas.


René Edelbusch: That's a good question. Ultimately, my grandfather, he worked in a sawmill and he said: You haven't finished learning until all your fingers are the same length.

Julia Ures: That's a bit macabre, but also quite funny.

René Edelbusch: Ultimately, there is some truth to it. I think that is everyday life at KTR, you learn something every day. We have quite a CRM project in front of us right now, which is really demanding at this point. I am currently on the road as project manager. And the exchange with the various departments, we also have a lot of contact with Melanie, with marketing, sales, our subsidiaries, internal sales, field sales. So, I'm actually in daily exchange with all departments. It's really exciting and I learn something every day. That is a very specific topic right now. I don't have any specific goals in mind right now where I say I want to study again or go to school.

Julia Ures: Melanie, what is that for you? People always talk about lifelong learning. What do you still want to learn?

Melanie Gunka: Exactly! I studied, in times of Corona still, that was such a mini continuing education, Nano Degree actually it was called, digital transformation. That's something that really keeps us very busy here in the company. That's what I've been involved with. And I like to learn languages, I like to travel a lot, so I think Italian is probably the next thing I'm going to learn.

Julia Ures: I'm in the process of doing that, too. But so far, I've only got enough for Buon giorno! and Buona sera! and stuff like that. Thank you very much for your interest and of course a big thank you to you here in the studio, René Edelbusch and Melanie Gunka. It's nice that you were the guests today and that you told us a little bit about how the training centre actually works and what we will have on offer in the future regarding webinars and trainings at KTR. Your contact to us,, feel free to write us your feedback, your questions, your suggestions for upcoming topics. And I look forward to seeing and hearing from you next time. Thank you and bye!

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