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Beyond Surfaces #5 - Coatings

“The surface is always a complex matter because it is subject to so many influences”. In the latest edition of BEYOND SURFACES, Professor Paul Mayrhofer at TU Wien explains why this was a challenge even for renowned physicists such as Wolfgang Pauli – and demonstrates the best way to tackle the problem together with other experts in the field of surface technologies.

Find out how these technologies help make our cars faster and use resources more sparingly. And how customers around the globe rely on our solutions to create more efficient and sustainable production methods. In addition, our expert Dr. Arkadi Zikin talks about the new applications of this technology and presents a brand new research project with ETH Zurich. Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of coatings.

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A combination with added value

To utilize coating systems as efficiently as possible, you need experience. And that is exactly what you can get in a technical training course from Oerlikon Balzers. Interestingly, the area of training at Oerlikon Balzers is complemented by the area of Operations Audit. Garnat Christophers, Head of Operations Audit and Training, and trainer Walter Stähli explain what they can provide and the rationale for this combined service offering.

At Oerlikon Balzers, the term ‘audit’ has a positive connotation: It reflects the aim of providing the same levels of service and quality to customers in all of the customer centers worldwide. This is why training is always the supporting aspect of the annual audit at more than 100 centers around the world. Each audit is carried out jointly by a trainer from the “Training and Audit” department and one of ten auditors whose everyday position is that of production manager in one of the other global Oerlikon Balzers customer centers.

Safeguarding standards

For nearly 20 years before Garnat Christophers assumed leadership of the department, he managed the customer center of Oerlikon Balzers Coating UK Ltd. in Milton Keynes, England. He and trainer Walter Stähli have conducted many audits in collaboration: “We don’t want our audits to be seen as a means of control, but rather as an aid. That’s why this is part of the location’s ongoing qualification in terms of a training opportunity.”

Of course, finding deficits is also part of the audit. “The centers are then requested to implement the required improvements within a defined time period,” explains the team leader. “In connection with the individual training on the respective system that is ‘delivered’ at the same time in the context of the audit, this typically happens very quickly. A key reason for this is the very direct transfer of knowhow from the other locations that takes place, enabling those involved to learn from each other,” adds Garnat Christophers.

For us, audit is first and foremost about transferring know-how.

Garnat Christophers
Head of Operations Audit and Training, Oerlikon Balzers

A great deal of experience

Walter Stähli is a man with a great deal of experience: After completing his apprenticeship as an electrician at Oerlikon Balzers, he traveled the world as a service technician for many years. There is hardly a single Oerlikon Balzers coating system that he has not either set up or visited at least once as a technician or later as a technical trainer. And he thoroughly enjoys passing on his experience. That is why he moved to this department eight years ago: “Because the job meant new challenges for me and is simply more varied than the work in technical service.”

About one week after a new system has been delivered and put into service, Walter Stähli or one of his team colleagues arrives at the site to provide a basic training program that runs for about ten days. “That is standard procedure for us,” hereports. “Primarily, our customers are able to learn how to operate the system correctly and how to take care of the system and carry out maintenance properly.”

However, the onsite training schedule also offers plenty of space for dealing with individual questions and applications. “Training, as we understand it, is very personal – and that makes it truly fascinating. It also keeps me on my toes,” he explains with a grin, “because at least one or two new system models are added to our product range every year.”

Training, as we understand it, is very personal – and that makes it truly fascinating.

Walter Stähli
Technical Trainer, Oerlikon Balzers

Added value

Whether as auditor or trainer, Garnat Christophers and Walter Stähli always have the overall process in view. That perspective encompasses the coating itself, but also the upstream and downstream production steps. They see this as a genuine added value for their customers: “The epitome of quality, of course, is the caliber of the coating itself, no question,” comments the team leader, leaving no doubts as to the key task of the trainer. “But quality also means achieving the goal efficiently, avoiding scrap, maximizing productivity. And these, in turn, help in getting everything right in terms of ecology and economy.” And that is why training is a good investment.


Petra Ammann

Petra Ammann

Head of Communications Oerlikon Balzers

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