Exciting key-note speakers from Siemens, Robert Bosch, ZF Friedrichshafen and Porsche Management Consulting attended and shared their experiences on which tools and methods can be used to drive cultural and digital change in companies. PSW innovation experts Katharina Mittwollen and Joachim Hochthanner also attended. They organised their own workshop at the nwing conference in collaboration with Berlin start-up EDGIZE called: “Creative Engineering with Vibrobots”. So what exactly was this all about?
Digitisation, cultural change, change management: our world of work is changing fast and anyone who wants to be at the forefront of helping to shape the mobility of the future also has to come to grips with new working methods. At the end of last year, the Association of German Engineers (VDI) organised the nwing conference in Düsseldorf for the second time. The conference focused on the automotive industry and how to prepare corporate culture and employees for future requirements and challenges, as the industry is facing massive changes. Those who want to be successful will have to change from being an automobile company to being a tech company as quickly as possible. This also goes hand-in-hand with a new mindset in corporate culture and working methods.
Creative engineering with vibrobots
“The participants in our workshop had the following task: they had to make small robots in a very short time utilising electronic components and simple parts such as springs, and used them to compete against each other,” says Joachim. “The task was designed in such a way that you just didn’t have time to think and discuss things for very long if you wanted to be successful. “Overengineering” is a well-known pattern of behaviour, especially in Germany. The aim was for the participants to just do the activity and not focus on problems.”
Building robots in three steps
Building the robots took place in three phases. Participants had less time for each of the phases. At the end of the third phase, the robots had to compete in a race on a circular field. The robot closest to the centre of the circle after 30 seconds won.
In the first phase, the participants had to assemble their robot with electronic components and make it work. This meant that the so-called "vibrobots" were controlled and made to vibrate with the use of a WLAN connection. These vibrations made them move. After a first test run, the participants were able to assess how well their vibrobot would perform under race conditions. The second phase involved the participants having to meet a design specification with various materials. Attaching the materials made the robot heavier, of course, and the participants were able to experience this directly in the second test run. Then they had a short time to tinker with vibrobots before the race started.
Experiencing new methods in a playful way
“There was no clear winner from the race. But that wasn't our goal at all,” says Katharina. “We wanted to introduce the participants to a new method of working with iteration loops in a playful way. This is often how people work in software development. Instead of working towards a future milestone using the waterfall model, it is better to carry out shorter development sprints with functional tests. In addition, the participants had to break out of classic thought patterns and just get started before having too many critical thoughts about the topic.”
“Participating at the nwing conference was a very valuable experience for us. On the one hand, we were able to expand our own network,” says Joachim. “On the other hand, we were able to present PSW on the VDI stage, which of course is great for our external image.”