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Episode 3: IT and mechanical engineering – a strategic decision


Text of the current episode:

Julia Ures: “Episode three of our videocast and podcast In Sight KTR. Nice that you are with us and interested in today's topic, because episode three today has the heading "IT" and here with me in this studio, in the virtual booth, which is actually an analog one that has also been digitized, are two experts on this topic. Namely Olaf Korbanek, Head of IT and Organization, since six years at KTR. Before that, he already worked as Head of IT in other companies, for example Hengst Automotive and Wessels and Müller. Therefore you also know, from Wessels and Müller you also know the second guest, Andreas Küffner-May, Account Manager at the specialized sales for IT infrastructure of pco GmbH. He has been with this company for 20 years and is therefore an external partner of KTR. One of two or three strategic partners of the company. Primarily employed in the field of network and security. Now I have already mentioned that you two have known each other a bit longer, when and how did this cooperation start?”

Olaf Korbanek: “We first got to know each other at a breakfast club, an event that pco organizes regularly to provide information to customers and potential customers, and then very intensively when I was head of IT at Wessels und Müller, because there was a very strong focus on pco.”

Julia Ures: "You don't know the questions in today's format, that's part of the nature and character of In Sight KTR. Questions are submitted that the experts and the partners do not know. That is also the case with you. We will come to these questions in a moment, but perhaps one more in advance, Mr. Küffner-May, to you. In the preliminary discussion, you indicated to me that you feel particularly comfortable in the commercial area because you like working with people. What do you like about people?"

Andreas Küffner-May: "I have to say about my vita, I've even worked as a social worker for 10 years and then switched to IT, so to speak, with an apprenticeship and I still just really enjoy exchanging ideas with people, as well as, I'll say in sales, just convincing people of things and also working together in a reliable way for years, because I'll say business is still done through personality and people."

Julia Ures: “You have submitted questions to us via and I cordially invite you to continue to do so also for all further episodes and I would like to start, Mr. Korbanek, with the first question we have received. With IT you are leading an area at KTR where many SMEs have quite a hard time. You nod. How did you nevertheless manage to turn IT into a success factor?”

Olaf Korbanek: "First of all, I hope it's a success factor, that's for others to decide. I think it's very important to realize where you stand. We're relatively small, we're surrounded by things we can't influence, and in that respect we have to perform really well, at all times. That means we have to have top systems in place, we have to have top people, we have to have top partners and we have to aim for maximum automation because we can't, we can't do 24*7 support for example and those factors are absolutely important to me. Either you have that or you don't. So either you can guarantee that and then you have to take care of every aspect or you say I can't do it, then you might as well outsource it."


Julia Ures: "By the way, if you hear noise in the background, we are here on the premises of KTR and of course there is busy work going on around us. Right now, though, it sounds like there's a rainstorm going on as well. So don't be surprised, we are working here under very real conditions and are recording this format where work is also being done and that's why there may be one or the other noise around us, but that shouldn't bother us any longer here.

Mr. Küffner-May, cybercrime is a topic that you see very, very often in the media, for reasons, of course. According to Bitcom, cybercrime causes more than 100 billion euros in damage every year. How do you actually ensure the security of IT at KTR?"

Andreas Küffner-May: "That's a very good question. On the one hand, we are as a system house, we must of course always be up to date with the latest technology, because the solution that we want to implement with our customers, so to speak, must always be a bit faster than basically the cybercrime. But that's usually not so easy, and first of all we always try to get to the bottom of the customer's business, to really advise the customer holistically, so that what we want to offer him afterwards is of course also suited to his subject matter, because it's a difference whether I'm running a retail company or a hospital or a production facility, where there's a lot of, I'll say, value created behind it, and an entire company can suffer if security incidents actually take place."

Julia Ures: "You have diligently submitted questions to us via, for example a question to Mr. Korbanek. Internet of things and Industry 4.0 are constantly cited by politics, businesses and, last but not least, the media. You really do hear and read a lot about it. What do you actually think of the constant discussion about the terms?"

Olaf Korbanek: "I keep it a bit like Helmut Schmidt: If you have visions, you should go see a doctor. I think it' s overused. So many of the things, if you work in IT, have been done for a very, very long time. My entire professional life is digitalization, I once studied computer science, and some words - we are in the buzzword industry here - have no equivalent in reality.

You have to get to the bottom of things, especially as a medium-sized company, we don't have the resources to chase after every trend. We have to take a very pointed look at what it is that really moves us forward, and I believe that, for example, the Internet of Things is a great thing, but not if you manufacture C-components, that's simply not worth it. Then again, there are things where, for example, the tracking of value streams in the company could be digitized very well, but we are currently still lacking a bit of priority because we don't have the entire production and value creation in-house. So in this respect, we have looked at many things from these areas and also implemented them. For example, we have developed serialization ourselves, a very, very strong thing, also together with the pco, KTR-Ident, but in other things I would simply say that it is not for us."

Julia Ures: "Mr. Küffner-May, Internet of things and Industry 4.0 a bit overrated in the discussion, a bit much of a topic perhaps?"

Andreas Köffner-May: "Yes, I can really only agree with Olaf, that is the case. We have actually been digitizing to a certain extent for more than 20 years, which means that in the logistics environment it has been normal for a long time that analog data is no longer converted to paper, so to speak, but is actually digitized, that barcodes or RFID etc. are recorded with a device, with a data capture device, and thus digitization has already been implemented in many areas. Of course, nowadays it is already possible to network entire machine parks and so on, but it really has to be looked at selectively, what can a medium-sized company really achieve in such an area and what will bring it to the next level?“

Julia Ures: "Mr. Korbanek, when people talk about the use of IT or digitization measures, the question of whether jobs will be lost is often discussed as well. This is particularly true in manufacturing. How do you deal with these concerns?“

Olaf Korbanek: "I think that's a discussion that we've all been aware of since also ancient times actually and actually tasks have shifted, jobs have been lost as well. So the blacksmith doesn't exist as much today as he used to because we all drive cars and it's kind of like that in today's society. So the low-value jobs, I say, where man was only used as a robot, they are falling away, I think that's a good thing. At the same time, it's a difficulty because of course you also have people who simply can't do all the activities, we're not all the same. I find that a difficult issue. At KTR, we have not yet had a single initiative out of pure IT efforts where it was actually about cutting jobs, but rather about ergonomics gains, about efficiency gains, about rationalization, about getting a higher frequency, for example. All other things, you have to be realistic, of course digitization is changing the world of work, that's the way it is."

Julia Ures: "Mr. Küffner-May, we've already talked a bit about cybercrime, and of course it's important for you to always be one step ahead of those who could possibly use it, i.e., those who might be planning cyberattacks. When it comes to data security and data protection, there are constant changes in terms of laws and regulations and, as you have already mentioned, there are always new threats. How can you keep up to date with all this? I imagine that's very, very difficult."

Andreas Küffner-May: "But that's what makes IT really exciting. Basically, I have new topics every day, that either come from the customers themselves, but also from the manufacturers, who react to these topics. In other words, we don't necessarily develop new technology, but we try to evaluate it and then pass it on to our customers, which means we always have to work very closely with the manufacturers, we always have to keep our ear to the customer's ground to see what's happening and when we notice that there' s a cyber attack somewhere, we have just recently had it at a company in Osnabrück, where production came to a standstill and we then managed to get this company back up and running by providing support, then of course we get new experiences out of it and can pass that on to other customers again. “

Julia Ures: "Mr. Korbanek, a question that we also received is somewhat provocative and targeted. At first glance, mechanical engineering seems to be IT-resistant, but in fact many things can be optimized by the corresponding IT. Which projects at KTR in the field of IT would you name as successful examples?"

Olaf Korbanek: "So first of all, I have to absolutely agree with that assessment. I previously worked in the automotive sector for 15 years, where there was a much higher level of penetration. When I started here six years ago, it felt like the stone age in some areas. And what I think has had a big, big impact for us is KTR-Ident, which I just mentioned, where we put a little QR code on our components that allows identification, into the systems, but in a very clever way. So the topic of serial number tracking requires a high accounting effort, which we can save to a large extent, but we still know what we have delivered to the customer and he can easily obtain all the documentation that has accrued during the service life in production. So this is a very clever thing where IT has achieved something that was previously an enormous effort and was also always incomplete and faulty. That's a good example, for example."

Julia Ures: "You were just describing, six years ago was the Stone Age, what age are we in now?"

Olaf Korbanek: "Early Neolithic! No, it's not that bad."

Julia Ures: "The next question takes a look into the future, if we look a bit further from the early Neolithic. What development steps in terms of IT are in store for KTR on a global scale?"

Olaf Korbanek: "We currently have a project going on that really challenges us, and that is that as an SAP customer, we are forced to switch to the new S4 HANA in a certain way. And that's a big leap in technology and also really a paradigm shift for any company. It's new technology that's being used, and in the first step it only costs money. You don't have any advantages because it's old wine in new skins, but it's the opportunity to use new technologies in the future and that's where we're currently also putting in the current phase, so corona-conditioned, we have more time for it, it's quieter now, everything on it, so that we use this window for us, so that then, when it hopefully picks up again, we're equipped to be able to make big leaps technologically again and that's also important, because whoever rests now and doesn't implement that, I think, will fall behind."

Julia Ures: "Mr. Küffner-May, my impression now, also during the Corona pandemic, is that IT has received greater backing for the time being. Many people have recognized that we need digitization, that we perhaps need to place more emphasis on everything that digitization and IT can do for us at the present time in order to overcome this situation. Now it is said here in this question, IT and digitization need backing, often from the management, otherwise it cannot be successful. To what extent would you agree? Does IT, data security, digitization also need a lobby?"

Andreas Küffner-May: "Absolutely, that's what we've been trying to get across to customers for years. Unfortunately, I wouldn't say that it's the case in small and medium-sized businesses that some IT really still has too little contact with management and IT simply has to be absolutely aligned with the business and if management doesn't specify correctly how IT has to be aligned, then it can lead to problems and we really don't just try to sell IT to the IT manager but we also want to advise management because, for example, management can only decide for the entire company that we are now doing data protection, for example. Their employees must now comply with a password requirement, for example. That can only come from the top, then the whole company lives up to it."

Julia Ures: "Subsequently, I also have a question for you, Mr. Korbanek, the biggest security gap, it is said here, is often the company's own employees. Now you have mentioned that if there are perhaps appropriate safety precautions, and they are not used, or are used incorrectly, there is of course a big gap. How do you do that, that you take the employees with you, especially in terms of data protection, to raise their awareness?"

Olaf Korbanek: "That's a difficult question, because KTR doesn't really have a history there, so we're a bit on the island of bliss here, has been very, very lax about it in the past. When I started here, I was applauded for introducing a screensaver. That has changed a bit, because people are now realizing that many companies are now also, and especially recently, going down the tubes. We ourselves had an incident last year where we paid a lesson. It's a constant battle, this issue of user awareness, you can't blame the people at all, because these are criminal schemes and so well done in the meanwhile. So the Nigerian who promises you a ton of money, that's a thing of the past. It's hard, you have to have understanding, but you also have to enforce certain things, period, no discussion. And other things, it's really about empowering people."

Julia Ures: "Very straightforward question, how secure is personal information at KTR?"

Olaf Korbanek: "As secure as a medium-sized company can be, I believe. We attach extreme importance to this, we have invested a lot of money this year in expanding our network security. So we also work with partners other than just pco. That's part of my strategy; I don't want to be dependent on just one partner and their expertise. In the area of security, I have two or three partnerships, and specifically, we have created one more hurdle, especially in the area of mails that come from outside."

Julia Ures: "20 minutes time for your questions, in each episode of In Sight KTR, whereby we don't stand next to it so strictly with the stopwatch, but of course we also want to avoid long monologues and answer as many of your questions as possible. We are slowly approaching the 20 minute mark, and I would like to close with a question that is a little bit aimed at your private use of media, I would like to say. Mr. Küffner-May, the question is: Playstation or Xbox, which game console is your favorite in your private, personal life? Which type are you?"

Andreas Küffner-May: "Well, I have two daughters and I'm also in a generation that never really took up, I'll say in quotes, " gaming," and that's why it's not in use at all at our house as a high priority, I have to say very clearly."

Julia Ures: "Mr. Korbanek, what's it like for you?"

Olaf Korbanek: "I have a daughter, she doesn't play either. I used to play C64. Those days are gone, so with me social media and similar activities around photography, image editing, that's where I'm solid, I don't know the others at all. Xbox and what's the other thing called?"

Jula Ures: "Playstation, but it's been around for some time now."

Olaf Korbanek: „I’m out!“

Julia Ures: "To both of you, a very heartfelt thank you for taking your place here today as experts with advice and action and above all with your answers at my side, here in In Sight KTR, and I would like to cordially call on you once again to send us your questions, what did you actually always want to know, which perhaps takes a look behind the scenes of KTR, concerning the people behind the products or also the everyday life here in the company. Please feel free to send us these questions by mail to and with this we will close this episode. Again gentlemen, thank you very much and to you for your interest, for watching and for listening and until next time."

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