Quality & Sustainabilty Feed

An interview with our trainees: New in-company lessons on the topic of energy management and sustainability at IREKS

The topic of sustainability is particularly important for IREKS, as a large manufacturing company.  We are constantly striving to improve – in big and small matters. In order to do so, we need the collaboration of the whole IREKS team. A concrete measure is the integration of a new subject as part of the regular in-company lessons for trainees: energy management and sustainability. The aim is to sensitise employees to the topics and to demonstrate the complex requirements and interrelationships in the context of an industrial company.

Today, we want to know what our trainees think of the new subject and the associated content. For this purpose, we’re talking with Konstantin Danis, training as a chemical laboratory technician, and Niklas Ströhlein, training as a Euro-Industriekaufmann (combined training as industrial clerk and foreign language correspondent). Additionally, here with us are Katharina Hasemann and Andreas Klumpp, who deal with the issues of energy management and sustainability in the context of their work at IREKS and who initiated the subject.

Hello and nice to have you here! We’re already excited about what we will hear today! Perhaps, we could start by asking our two teachers a first question: How did the new subject come about?

Katharina Hasemann: The starting point were our in-company lessons, which we conduct in addition to the classes in vocational school, and the idea to convey the topics of energy management and sustainability, which are so important for us, to our trainees in a tangible and practical way. We want to motivate our young colleagues to keep them in mind think right from the start.

Andreas Klumpp: Obviously that doesn’t only apply for the trainees. In general, we want to encourage all employees to rethink familiar procedures. But the younger ones especially carry it on, which is why this is an important starting point for us. And if you know someone personally, you are more likely to talk to each other. In terms of raising awareness, it was important for us that the trainees, no matter where at IREKS they’ll work in the future, know about size, complexity and importance of these topics.

How is the content of the new subject structured?

Katharina Hasemann: There is a first part with theoretical basics, “what is energy management, what is sustainability, or what exactly is behind it?”. This is followed by a more practical part. This time, we took a look at the malt production and visited our combined heat and power plant, which you can’t get to on a classic company tour. First, we talked about how it is operated and how it works. Then we studied everything up close. And next time, we want to visit our compressed air station, for example.

Did you know…?

… that our malt extract production in the brewhouse at the Kulmbach site is heated with the waste heat from our combined heat and power plant? Its efficiency factor with more than 90 % is twice as high as that of conventional power stations. This way, CO2 emissions can be reduced by roughly 1,000 t annually.


That sounds exciting! Let’s turn to the “affected ones” (laughs). What do you remember most vividly?

Konstantin Danis: Definitely the combined heat and power plant and the potential savings, especially in comparison to conventional power plants. And the many certifications here at IREKS, including the strict specifications and the work behind them. I really wasn’t aware of that before! 

Niklas Ströhlein: Of course, the scale and the requirements of an industrial company aren’t comparable to the private sector. But I realised the extend of it only after standing next to the engine of our combined heat and power plant. It’s so impressive!

Sounds like you were rather pleasantly surprised by what you got to see?

Konstantin Danis: Yes, the dimension is simply unimaginable at first if you haven’t seen anything like that before. And also the fact of how much energy we consume in different areas of the company. Since malting is inherently a relatively energy-intensive process, it’s interesting to see that IREKS has been paying attention to the highest possible energy efficiency for a long time. Among other things, through the installation of the combined heat and power plant.

Absolutely! If we think one step further, to what extent was and is the content relevant to your everyday work?

Konstantin Danis: In the lab, sustainability is of concern when it comes to reducing plastic, among other things. For example, we make sure that we use glass containers wherever possible. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely in our heads and we’re constantly trying to improve.

Niklas Ströhlein: In our office, it’s paper, for example. We try to avoid unnecessary copying and printing, and, of course, we also try to save energy by switching off lights and screens when not needed. It may sound small compared to the combined heat and power plant, but of course it’s important!

When you applied for your training, was sustainability a relevant topic regarding the training company?

Niklas Ströhlein: Yes, because the quality of the products is important to me, which, I think, is part of it. It wasn’t this strict exclusion criterion but I perceived it as a big bonus that a lot is being done here and that IREKS constantly works on this issue. I think, in our generation it’s quite common to deal with the topic of sustainability. The content of the lessons with concrete reference to IREKS and our processes have been highly sensitising. Beyond more ordinary points like turning lights off or using glass versus plastic.

Katharina Hasemann: As you just talked about your generation: We’ve noticed that in the discussion that we had after the lessons, there were many good questions that showed a transfer of what you already know about the topic and what exists at IREKS or where there is potential for improvement. We’re always open to suggestions from colleagues. In the end, everyone plays an important role and bears their very own responsibility.  

Finally, we want to know what you would like to see in future lessons on energy management and sustainability. What do you think was good, what could be done differently?

Niklas Ströhlein: I really liked it.The practical part with the company tour was the best! I still have the pictures in my head, maybe even the memory of how loud it was in that one room, and that makes it stay in your head even more consciously (laughs). So I’d love to have more practical parts!

Andreas Klumpp: For me, it’s imaginable to invite an expert from time to time to bring in specific knowledge, which could be interesting not only for our trainees but of course for long-term employees as well.

Katharina Hasemann: I can imagine more trainee projects in this area in the future. For example, the trainee film that was made a few years ago as part of the training award. In this connection, Andreas was interviewed by former trainees and talked about our energy target and about what we do in the area of sustainability, among other things. I hope that together with our trainees, we will be able to realise more projects like this in the coming years!

We hope so too and thank you for your time!

The interview was conducted by Vanessa Frahnert and Nadine Schrüfer, Corporate Communication at IREKS.