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Interview with Steffen Koch

“I can give my imagination free rein.”

At agiplan we do projects. But there's so much more behind this sentence than meets the eye. Our employee Steffen Koch tells us about his responsibilities and what makes the project business so appealing for him.

Mr Koch, you joined agiplan in 2012. How did you hear about agiplan?
Prior to joining agiplan I worked, among other roles, at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering in Stuttgart. agiplan was known to me through many years of contact through Fraunhofer. Plus, you get to meet fellow factory and production experts from other organisations quite regularly. My first more in-depth contact with agiplan was in 2004 when we were both involved in an expert interview on "Lessons learned? Failed assembly trends". When I moved to Dortmund for personal reasons, I remembered agiplan.

How would you describe your responsibilities as a senior consultant in the factory and production segments?
I primarily manage and work on projects for a wide variety of customers. As our projects are usually set up very broadly and consist of interdisciplinary teams, you keep learning something new and expanding your range of skills. But my everyday work is far from limited to external projects: we also work on issues internally and thus make personal contributions to the advancement of the company. For me, the most important aspect of my work is to give free rein to my own ideas and to help shape future issues.

What advice would you give to future colleagues?
That they should remain open to new ideas. To be willing to see things from different perspectives. Young colleagues especially don't need to join as a "finished product". Far from it. At agiplan, you can develop your skills, whilst at the same time getting insights into the big picture without losing sight of your main tasks and own areas of expertise.

What was your most exciting project?
On my very first day I'd just picked up my computer from IT when I found out I had to attend a morning kick-off meeting on the customer's premises at Konica Minolta. I really enjoyed that project because our ideas inspired the customer, and we are thrilled with the excellent result: the company is growing strongly and, at the start of the project, requested more space to be able to employ more staff and implement further growth. We examined this task holistically and demonstrated that more space and additional staff are not immediately required, because we could tap into potentials much more efficiently by changing the factory layout and optimising existing processes. As this was my first project at agiplan and I'm still overseeing it today, it has a special place in my heart.

What do you find especially enjoyable about your work?
The best feeling is when you have turned your ideas into reality and can see tangible results - and of course satisfied customers! The example mentioned earlier shows that beautifully. But reaching those results can be a lengthy process. The creative side of developing one's ideas as such is also incredibly enjoyable. It is a creative process where you let your thoughts run freely and perhaps even put in a bit of your own passions. And it never gets boring because each project comes with its own set of requirements and challenges, every customer produces different products, and you get to know very different corporate cultures.

What makes your role so special?
The variety and the blend of two extremes: creativity versus discipline; individual design freedom versus customer specifications. You get to deal with very different characters from, say, business managers to shop floor staff, and you need to tailor your approach to each target group. On the one hand, you depend on the team as a whole, but on the other, there are many opportunities for personal influence. Finding the right balance in these areas is a beautiful challenge.

Why did you choose agiplan as your employer?
I first applied on the basis of the great collaboration with the company in the past and external recommendations. But what ultimately mattered was my personal impression after talks with my future colleagues and managers. This confirmed my positive image of the company and made it easy for me to make my decision. The issue of work-life balance is a major factor for applicants.

How do you rate this issue at agiplan?
Naturally, as with any consultancy firm, there can be stressful times. When a tight deadline is looming, everyone pulls together in order to achieve the best possible results. We organise our work hours on a trust basis. This scheme guarantees the flexibility that is needed in the project business, but at the same time has a positive effect on the work-life balance. Contrary to popular belief, consultants therefore do enjoy precious family time. after the birth of my daughter I seized the opportunity and took two months of parental leave.

Steffen Koch studied industrial engineering in Hamburg. Following his work at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO) in Stuttgart and Fraunhofer Italia Research in Bolzano, he joined agiplan in 2012 as senior consultant in the factory and production division.

Steffen Koch, Factory and Production Consultant