Understanding and Communicating Technology

Marian Ferlic-Eisermann on his cooperative course of study at Gerresheimer

Düsseldorf/Essen, April 10, 2017. Gerresheimer requires a large number of well-trained, experienced engineers who know how to produce special packaging for the pharmaceutical industry. Marian Ferlic-Eisermann is one such engineers. In this interview, he tells us how a cooperative course of study combines theory and practice.

“Our glass factory combines traditional melting and forming processes with cutting-edge technology. That still fascinates me,” says Marian Ferlic-Eisermann. He originally wanted to study geography or languages after graduating from high school, but the market was so bad that he eventually chose a different path. His interest in technical processes led him to enroll in a degree course in Mechanical Engineering. However, he soon realized that the course did not have as much of an international focus as he had hoped, so he dropped out after the first semester. He started looking for a course that was more in line with what he wanted from a technical apprenticeship. “I didn’t want to leave it to chance, so I studied all the offers very closely.” He eventually decided on a cooperative course of study at Gerresheimer in Essen. “They told me that they were specifically looking for applicants who knew from experience what would suit them,” Ferlic-Eisermann reports. The cooperative study course started in 2009 and took three years to complete. The practical training portion took place at Gerresheimer’s site in Essen. Every three months, Ferlic-Eisermann switched between practical work at the factory and theory phases at the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) in Mosbach.

The great thing about a cooperative course of study is the way it alternates between theory and practice. During the practical training portion, Ferlic-Eisermann spent time in all the technical departments at the factory that were relevant to his course. This approach lightened the load of both his studies and his day-to-day work. In addition to Mechanical Engineering, he also took Energy Process Engineering as his in-depth subject from the third semester onwards. In 2012, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Over the course of his first two years at Gerresheimer following his studies, Ferlic-Eisermann worked shifts in glass production and sorting at the glass factory in Essen. By now, he is familiar with all the work steps. “I learned a lot from working shifts. If you want to understand the processes, you need to have done it all: sweeping the hall, converting a machine and managing a shift,” he recalls, looking back happily at how his career began. Over the last few years, he has worked as production engineer and energy management officer at Gerresheimer’s Essen site and been involved in a wide range of different projects. His current area of focus is quality management.

Questions for Marian Ferlic-Eisermann on his cooperative course of Marian Ferlic-Eisermann (left) checks a glass container with a and the time since:

What makes a cooperative course of study better than a conventional degree?
In a normal degree course, you will often wonder during the first semester, “What will I need this knowledge for later on?” In a cooperative program, that question is answered straight away in the first practical phase, when you take on your first project. Of course, you can also do internships when you study at a normal university. But you don’t have that ongoing connection with a company and everything that comes with it: colleagues, a workstation of your own and the little things you learn from working with people on a professional level that no one teaches you at university. All this helps students in cooperative courses establish a good network by the time they finish their studies. Of course, you also need to learn faster and more efficiently during the compressed lecture and exam phase than you would during a normal university degree. You don’t have traditional study breaks between semesters, because this is when you do your practical phases. Obviously, cooperative studies trainees receive the appropriate number of vacation days just like any other employee.

How did you need to prepare for your exams?
Very intensively, which surprised me – I wasn’t used to having to do follow-up work after classes at school. As a result, I had to repeat a lot of exams when I first started. But, when I worked out how to make the material work best for me that became a thing of the past.

What do you love about your job?
I’m just starting out in Quality Management right now. It’s great to have the contact and communication with customers and the overview of a lot of what happens in the factory. And, solving problems as they occur – that is really fun. You often need to decide what the next step is, as you are often under pressure from the customer or your colleagues. You need to weigh the pros and cons as best you can based on what you know and what your moral compass tells you. Also, you need to be able to make a decision that you can also thoroughly justify at a later date, if it comes to it.

What tips do you have for any future colleagues?
You will often make a good impression if you follow a few simple rules of conduct. Whenever you enter a room, start by greeting everyone. Watch first, then talk. Be honest, even when something has gone wrong. Finally and most importantly: be authentic. Be your own person and do not shy away from telling your boss that you have a different opinion. That can impress people. You also need to train yourself to watch what words you use and to understand foreign words and languages.

How will glass production look in the future?
Pressure from foreign competition is becoming stronger. In order to make sure we can keep pace in Germany, we need to focus even more on further developing our quality and flexibility. In the long-term, we also need to conceive new firing concepts. The importance of electricity will increase with the growing portion of renewable energy in the energy consumption mix. There are also a lot of processes that need automating. The number of people with an academic background in Germany is increasing. Coupled with the demographic shift in our country, this means that it will become harder and harder in the future to find employees for simple tasks. Anyone who fails to prepare for that could end up being left behind.

What path do you see your career taking in the future?
I think it will definitely be varied. Aside from that, I want to communicate a lot, assume responsibility and, in doing so, continue to develop as a person. Gerresheimer have recognized that without me ever needing to mention it.

Cooperative courses of study at Gerresheimer

About Gerresheimer

Gerresheimer is a leading global partner to the pharma and healthcare industries. The company’s special glass and plastic products contribute to health and well-being. Gerresheimer is a global organization with 10,000 employees and manufacturing operations in the local markets, close to customers. It has over 40 production facilities in Europe, North and South America and Asia generating revenue in excess of EUR 1.4 billion. The comprehensive product portfolio includes pharmaceutical packaging products as well as convenient and safe drug delivery systems such as insulin pens, inhalers, pre-fillable syringes, vials, ampoules, bottles and containers for liquid and solid pharmaceuticals with closure and safety systems, plus cosmetic packaging products.