Only last year we celebrated our 20th company anniversary and already this year there is a 20th service anniversary to celebrate. Our employee Christof Lutterbach has been with QA since 2001 and was one of the first employees back then. Who, if not Christof, can tell us a lot about the last 20 years and maybe also chat a bit out of the sewing box. In our interview, you will learn not only Christof’s personal story and the beginnings at QA, but also what has changed at our company during this period — but also what has always remained the same over the years.
The beginnings of QA
Christof Lutterbach was hired as the second employee at Quality Automation GmbH in March 2001. At that time our offices were still located in the “Dienstleistungszentrum” (DLZ) in Stolberg. After his training as an industrial electronics technician, his path led through several stations to a position as a skilled worker, where he was able to gain his first programming experience. “This was a very big step for me at the time. Taking on programming tasks as a skilled worker was not only a great responsibility, but also not an everyday occurrence,” Christof recalls.
In addition to his job, Christof decided to continue his education to become a technician at night school. Towards the end of his training, Christof heard about QA for the first time. “I was very skeptical at first, because I had planned to move to a larger company. On recommendation, I finally introduced myself to QA after all. I was enthusiastic from the beginning and very convinced by the then managing directors Michael Fritz and Heinz Monnartz. My previous programming experience also played into my hands,” reports Christof.
New building, new tasks
It quickly became too crowded in the two offices in the DLZ with additional new employees, so that the move to the current company headquarters in Konrad-Adenauer-Strasse in Stolberg was already on the agenda in January 2002. “This was a sign of growth for all of us and a confirmation that many new task areas and requirements lay ahead of us in the future. There was a ’now we’re really getting started’ mood,” says Christof, who still remembers the time well. For him, too, his areas of responsibility have changed again and again, not only at that time, but continuously to this day. In the beginning it was exclusively PLC programming, but soon servo systems and robotics were added. Large LabVIEW projects were implemented and finally the extensive area of image processing was added, in which Christof still manages and implements many interesting projects today.
The entire range of tasks has grown steadily over the years, both at QA and at Christof. In addition to the programming tasks, more and more project management and customer support were added. Christof is now part of our so-called “extended management team” and is the deputy of our authorized signatory Friedhelm Steffens. Furthermore, he supervises and trains new employees.
The comparison — QA then and now
“The structure of QA has remained the same over all these years. Our flat hierarchy and direct contact with all employees has made us strong in the past and is still lived that way today. Due to our current size, of almost 60 employees, there are of course slight changes, but we have all always tried to maintain our corporate culture,” Christof describes us.
This is also reflected in our summer parties and Christmas celebrations, where there is always a family and friendly atmosphere and the whole family is welcome. The company parties and outings of the last few years are always fondly remembered, not only by Christof, but by all employees. But what event from the last 20 years has particularly stuck in Christof’s mind? “That’s quite difficult,” Christof begins, “after all, it’s not just the celebrations that you spend together. Especially when there weren’t so many of us and we had big assignments abroad, almost the entire QA team was on the road. It was not unusual for us to work and live together for up to four weeks. In Kansas in the USA, for example, we went on excursions on our weekends off, visited museums or were invited to a BBQ. These shared experiences and memories are shared with colleagues and many an anecdote still comes back to life in conversations today.”
Christof appreciates the fact that he has been able to get to know almost every continent through his work at QA, even if it wasn’t easy at times. Strict schedules, difficult conditions abroad, and often traveling alone. One project in particular has remained in his memory. A plant was to be designed from scratch for the development department of a customer from Hungary. “We started with a blank sheet of paper and redesigned everything from the graphical user interface to image processing with LabVIEW to servo technology. Data was acquired and recorded in times of less than 10 ms. This was a huge project for me at that time, which I realized on my own from QA. I learned a lot of new things during this project,” reports Christof.
What will happen in the next few years?
“I feel very comfortable with my relatively new tasks in the field of management,” Christof begins. “It gives me great pleasure to influence the shaping of the company and to witness the constant developments. But also advancing and supporting the progress of young colleagues is a matter close to my heart.”
Furthermore, Christof is already concerned with the expansion of standards in PLC programs and in image processing and would also like to advance these further together with his colleagues.