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.