A culture of expertise: Specialists in management
A culture of expertise, all the way through to upper management is intrinsic to Schubert’s corporate philosophy. At the same time, experts at all levels are confident and flexible with their wealth of knowledge. Information and new ideas are shared, no matter who is asking, and competitiveness within the company quite simply does not exist. “When I meet someone who knows more than I do, I am delighted,” explains Gerald Schubert.
In recent years, together with his brother Ralf, Gerald has gradually taken over the helm from Gerhard Schubert. While Gerald Schubert is responsible for sales and marketing, Ralf Schubert’s key area of responsibility is technology. In this role, he is involved with all developments at a technological level. When developing the new generation of Schubert’s own VMS packaging machine control systems, he releases each and every specification.
In the 80s, Ralf Schubert’s decision to study computer science was still somewhat outside the norm. “At the time, I would have preferred that he study mechanical engineering,” says Gerhard Schubert. For two years, his son worked as a software engineer for a software company in the field of logistics in Karlsruhe, and was only able to selectively apply his expertise on smaller projects at a Schubert. It wasn’t until one of Gerhard Schubert’s long-held vision of working with an in-house control systems was tackled, did Ralf return to Crailsheim. On 1 October 1990 – almost exactly 25 years ago – Ralf Schubert officially entered the family business.
Specialists as managers
Today, computers are omnipresent in the field of packaging technology and Industry. 4.0 is well within reach. Ralf Schubert is currently working on a development tool for TLM machines, with which the machines can be up and running in two dimensions as early as in the concept phase – and then in three dimensions in a next phase – well before they enter assembly. His hobbies include studying artificial intelligence and browsing through books on software development at the popular Wittwer bookstore in Stuttgart. How are interests such as these reconciled with the responsibilities of a manager? “Of course, there is less and less time for me to spend with technical detail,” says Ralf Schubert. “Whereas in the past, I participated in 50 to 70 per cent of the design meetings, today it may only be 20 per cent. Technology, however, is still the area into which I invest most of my brainpower. Management alone wouldn’t fulfil me.
His brother agrees: “At Schubert, we also have specialists in upper management. We still spend more of our time on technological issues than on pure management. It was the same with our father as well. And this is the approach that makes Schubert strong.” After completing his engineering degree, Gerald himself spent a year at an engineering company in Kirchheim/Teck acquiring professional experience before he found his way into his father’s company.
“Our father used to call construction meetings to inform his employees on how a machine was being built,” says Ralf Schubert. “We prefer to discuss this with the team. At meetings, there used to be only one builder. Now there are several, as well as a sales representative and technical director. We include many different perspectives before we decide on a specific direction.”
For the employees, the sons’ management style was most definitely new. They weren’t used to making decisions themselves under Gerhard Schubert’s rule. But since knowledge and creativity were present in all areas of the company, the transition was a smooth one. And since then, employee self-responsibility has become an important part of the Schubert spirit, and it greatly contributes to the unique working atmosphere at Schubert.
A prerequisite for acquiring highly specialised knowledge expertise is the long tenure of Schubert staff. On average, employees stay with the company for around 14 years, and among the 50 or so departmental and group leaders, the figure rises to 25 years.” Good designers continue to improve throughout their entire career – and even beyond,” says Ralf Schubert. “We do everything we can to ensure that employees enjoy their work – why would they see the need to move to another employer?” Gerhard Schubert even included work enjoyment as an official company objective in ISO 9000 guidelines. Company growth is also key to ensuring good career opportunities and also contributes to making Schubert a very attractive employer.
Expertise and team spirit
Heute sind Computer in der Verpackungstechnik allgegenwärtig und das Internet rückt Industrie 4.0 in greifbare Nähe. Aktuell arbeitet Ralf Schubert an einem Entwicklungstool für TLM-Maschinen, mit dem die Maschinen schon in der Konzeptphase in 2D – im zweiten Schritt auch in 3D – zum Laufen gebracht werden können, lange bevor sie in die Montage kommen. Als Hobbies nennt er die Beschäftigung mit künstlicher Intelligenz und das Schmökern in Büchern zum Thema Software-Entwicklung in der Buchhandlung Wittwer in Stuttgart. Wie vertragen sich solche Interessen mit den Aufgaben eines Geschäftsführers? „Natürlich bleibt immer weniger Zeit für das Fachliche“, sagt Ralf Schubert. „Früher habe ich an 50 bis 70 Prozent der Konstruktionssitzungen teilgenommen, heute vielleicht noch an 20 Prozent. Die Technik ist aber nach wie vor der Bereich, über den ich mir die meisten Gedanken mache. Management allein würde mich nicht ausfüllen.“
Sein Bruder stimmt ihm zu: „Bei Schubert sitzen auch in der Geschäftsführung Spezialisten. Wir wenden beide nach wie vor mehr Zeit für technologische Fragen auf als für das reine Management. Unser Vater hat es genauso gehalten. Und diese Haltung ist es, die Schubert stark macht.“ Er selbst sammelte nach seinem Ingenieursstudium erst ein Jahr lang bei einem Ingenieurbüro in Kirchheim/Teck Berufserfahrungen, bevor er den Weg ins Unternehmen seines Vaters fand.