Tuesday morning. Shirt and coat remain in the closet. Work today calls for jeans, sweater, work jacket and safety shoes. Because today is my first day of participating in the Change of Perspective program. What’s it about? In the Change of Perspective program at TÜV Rheinland, managers do a one-day internship in a completely different business unit, preferably in an operational position. Today I am planning to work in Products, more precisely in the Hardlines segment, where all kinds of mechanical products imaginable are tested. Since I haven’t really gotten to know this unit from the inside yet, I can’t wait to get started.
Insights into the day-to-day work of testers
I show up at the reception on time at 8:00 a.m. sharp where I am picked up directly by the business unit manager, who introduces me to the team. “Good atmosphere here,” I think. Everyone seems to be genuinely pleased about the visit and the interest shown in their own work. My fears of being perceived as a disruptive factor are quickly dispersed.
And then we get to work. First, the head of the department tells me a little something about the unit: What is being tested? What are the procedures from receiving the order to preparing the report? How is the audit experts’ capacity planned? Right off the start, this is very interesting for me. It is obvious to see that capacity is allocated very efficiently, while at the same time maintaining a high level of quality. For example, no report leaves the house without having been checked by three people.
Experience product testing “live”
But enough of theory. It is now time for my first assignment and I am briefed by a product tester. A charcoal table grill is ready for the test and needs to be unpacked, subjected to a first inspection, measured and photographed. This brings back memories. I haven’t held a caliper since I was a student. I am keen to get to work. And it doesn’t take me long to find a few conspicuous features on the product that I proudly note down. Of course, the full examination will take much longer and will be carried out by an expert.
For me it’s on to the next assignment. Several packages have been placed in front of me. They contain swimming equipment – inflatable air mattresses to be precise. They come in all kinds of highly stylish shapes imaginable: from Prosecco bottle to cactus to slice of pizza. All test items carry the mandatory pictograms for intended use and the important warning notices. So that’s a good thing. My supervisor now shows me the test room, including the swimming pool, where the items are subjected to a durability test. For example, the air mattresses are inflated mechanically at a predetermined pressure and then deflated again. They have to endure 150 cycles before they are given the thumbs-up.
After the lunch break with the team, we go on a field assignment with an expert for play equipment. Our next job is a follow-up inspection of a completely redesigned playground. During the first inspection, our auditor found some defects, which required some reworking. All items criticized are once again reviewed together with representatives of the municipality, the manufacturer and the landscape architect responsible for planning the playground. For example, an additional cladding was attached to a climbing tower because a handrail at a great height must not entice children to sit or stand on it. An expert discussion quickly ensues on how to balance play value and safety and how to achieve the safety goals defined in the standard for play equipment. It is impressive to see how everyone is pulling in the same direction in order to be able to open a safe and child-friendly playground with a high fun factor in the near future. After the inspector gave the thumbs-up, we return to headquarters – slightly shivering from the cold but full of impressions and insights.
Important experience for every manager
For me, all of this was very impressive, because throughout the day I could clearly witness the great experience, expertise and motivation shown by our staff in serving their clients in the best possible way. In the past, I enjoyed attending tests during photo shoots and filming because it gives you valuable insights that are important for your own work and your view of the business. As a manager, especially in more administrative functions, you should therefore regularly ask yourself: “How can I personally contribute to ensuring that these colleagues have everything they need for making their work a success?” This is not the only reason why the in-house internship is an experience I can thoroughly recommend to any other manager. A change of perspective is a real eye-opener!