“Use it, or lose it,” says Harald, our coating operator at voestalpine eifeler Vacotec in Düsseldorf. Born in Berlin where he still lives, Harald has been with the company since 1998, with even the almost 550 kilometers between home and work unable to keep him away from his dream job.
There is no hiding Harald’s appealingly blunt Berlin manner, with its unmistakable dialect and particular charm. And nor does he wish to, because this Berlin native delights in bringing a touch of the capital’s flair to North Rhine-Westphalia. At voestalpine eifeler Vacotec in Düsseldorf, the skilled heat, cold, and noise protection technician is a coating operator. The voestalpine eifeler Group has been a reliable and innovative service provider in the surface coating sector for over 35 years. With around 400 employees at five sites in Germany, the Group applies customized coatings for various applications, which increase the performance of tools and components. The company has customers in a huge variety of sectors, including mechanical engineering, and the automotive and aerospace industries.
An eventful life
Harald fled East Germany with two suitcases and two small children just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He bravely left his old life behind to start over in the West. Although self-employed, in 1998 he also started working part-time at eiferler Werkzeuge in Düsseldorf, then a small family-run company with around 50 employees.
"I read in a newspaper announcement that they were looking for temporary staff. I had time, and so I applied. I immediately felt right at home in the company, it was almost like a family."
Harald remembers. However, it took a good three-quarters of a year before he was persuaded to work full-time at eifeler Werkzeuge, in what was for him a totally new field. Since 2009, Harald has again been living near Potsdam, commuting to Düsseldorf on a weekly basis. He spends his six hours on the train reading, listening to music, or surfing the Internet.
Use it, or lose it
Over the years, Harald has moved frequently between incoming and outgoing goods, and his duties as an operator. Today he works as an operator supporting research and development, overseeing the entire process of coating customer tools, from their arrival through to their return. The tools are examined, cleaned accordingly, and the surface treated as needed in preparation for the next steps. After loading, Harald brings the tools to the coating lines and starts the program. Once successfully coated, he then unloads the tools and prepares them for return to the customers. Harald is also in charge of managing the in-house infrastructure, such as the compressed air supply, the cooling water system, and supplies of industrial gas. He is responsible for planning and executing internal service and maintenance tasks, as well as administering, revising, and documenting maintenance schedules. Harald’s duties also include engaging and supervising external companies used for repair work, and ordering consumables. “My daily work is highly varied. And that’s a good thing, because I can’t sit still. I have to stay active and on the move,” he says with a grin. Coffee with a generous dash of oat milk with soya keeps him going. His two daughters have convinced him of the benefits of this milk alternative.
In his almost 25 years with the company, Harald has witnessed much of the company’s history. “It has been interesting to see how the company has developed over the years. It has grown, the demands customers make of their tools have increased hugely, and the respective technology has progressed in leaps and bounds,” says Harald. But what has not changed is the friendly atmosphere in the department and the team spirit, something Harald truly appreciates. He has particularly fond memories of the many summer, Christmas, and team celebrations, which have brought them closer together. “Even today, we grill during breaks if someone has a birthday, or the year has ended well, or to welcome a new ‘department baby’.
"Quite simply, we have a super and welcoming team in an exciting company. I can really recommend working here."
Time for (active) retirement
Harald will soon take his early and well-earned retirement, for personal reasons. That will give him more time not only for his family, but also for his hobbies. At the top of Harald’s “to-do” list is building creative and inventive new things for the house and garden, to travel down the Havel river by electric boot, and to explore the local area on his e-scooter. “You never know how long you’ve got and so you should simply enjoy life, especially at my age,” says Harald, encouraging everyone to make the most of every minute.
Dear Harald, we wish you all the very best in your retirement, and thank you most warmly for everything you’ve done for the company over the years!
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Our path to a green future
We are upping the pace of emissions reduction. greentec steel from voestalpine is Austria’s largest climate protection program. Starting in 2027, this program will reduce Austria’s annual CO2 emissions by almost 5%. 2024 marks the start of the partial shift from the blast furnace to the electric arc furnace (EAF) route—once unresolved funding issues in Austria are clarified.