The experiences of an ABB Explorer Trainee

My first assignment in the Czech Republic - working on several new tools and processes for substation automation

One Monday morning I made my way to Zurich airport to take a plane to Prague and then a taxi to Trutnov. For those of you who have never heard of Trutnov before, it is a small town in the Czech Republic close to the Polish border. My first assignment is to introduce several new tools and processes, with the goal of integrating them across the whole substation automation product group throughout the ABB world. This global implementation began in the factory in Trutnov where they manufacture the majority of the substation automation panels for the global market. I will continue this process in Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil.

Having arrived in at the factory in Trutnov I immediately went into a meeting with the factory manager where we discussed my plans for the following weeks. Following the meeting, we went to a restaurant to have some lunch. I was a bit surprised that this factory with approximately 150 ABB employees did not have a canteen, but the site was actually very close to the city center with a lot of nice and inexpensive restaurants. My favorite spot had a roof-top terrace with a beautiful view and rump steak for only 5€.

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Figure 1. Lunch above Trutnov

The first week consisted of training key users to work with the new testing tool. I also analyzed the existing process to adapt them to the tool. This involved various meetings with process stakeholders to define the DOW (division of work), as well as a detailed description of the tasks for each step. During my final meeting with the factory manager, I received a lot of positive feedback and his full commitment to support the pilot phase, which started the following week.

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Figure 2: ABB in Trutnov

The week flew by and by the end I was offered the choice of flying home to Zurich or staying the weekend in Prague. I have some friends in Prague and I love the city, so I decided to stay. So I left the office at around 2 o’clock and took the train to Prague in time to catch the Germany vs. France football game in a beer garden. Then it was back to work again on Monday, so I took the train from Prague to Trutnov, which is a beautiful, three-hour journey through picturesque countryside (plus point – you also avoid traffic jams around Prague).

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Figure 3: Travelling to Trutnov by train through the beautiful countryside

During the pilot phase, we started to use the testing tool in different project stages to evaluate if the previously defined process and tasks matched the requirements in the field. In the test field, everybody was looking for a new tool because the old one had performance issues. The testing tool was used in different stages in about six pilot projects. This required some commitment from my side, as I was guiding these different pilots and customer Factory Acceptance Tests. These tests sometimes meant late evenings but I was rewarded with nice discussions during late dinners with customers from all around the world, including Mozambique and Bangladesh.

After a tiring week, I traveled back to Prague to join my girlfriend for some sightseeing and the World Cup final. At the end of several sightseeing-filled days, I went to a beer garden to watch the game with approximately 500 supporters for Germany and around 50 for Argentina. One might think it is not the best idea to celebrate a German World Cup victory abroad but it was definitely an unforgettable experience!

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Figure 4: Watching the final in Zahrádky park café in Prague

During the final everybody’s eyes were glued to the screen but from the 113 minute mark onwards only some friends were watching the game. I later went out with some new friends from Sweden, UK, and Germany to celebrate this one-time amazing event.

The next morning everybody at the factory congratulated me on Germany’s victory. I left Trutnov that Wednesday after guiding a few more pilot projects. Just before I left I had to lead another management meeting with Switzerland-Czech-Germany on how the new tools can help with a few big projects in Saudi Arabia.

A few months later and I’m back in the Czech Republic to finish the work I started here. I flew in on Sunday afternoon to meet with a few friends and on Monday morning took my usual train to Trutnov. Since my last visit we used the time in Switzerland to incorporate the feedback from the factory in order to develop the tool further. This input helped us to optimize the tool and processes to meet local needs while maintaining the close cooperation of the Swiss and Czech teams. The week focused on the training of different groups of users, such as Project Managers or Test Engineers, as well as supporting the process and tool on-site.

The next country I am going to is Germany but I will be back with a new report about experiences in Saudi Arabia most probably at the end of October.


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About the author

Jan Federkeil

I joined ABB in May 2014, as Explorer Trainee. My first assignment is within substation automation as responsible for the global alignment of processes and tools for a lean project management. Beforehand I studied electrical engineering at the TU Munich and worked for a management consulting company focusing on the utility sector.
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