Creative apprentices in Bochum

Cut-to-length line modernized component by component

The cut-to-length line in Bochum, used to cut steel plate from the hot rolled coils produced in ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe's three hot strip mills, will be 40 years old next year. It is one of the oldest units at the site and is showing typical signs of age. "Sometimes it's a real challenge to keep the line running," says Peter Michels, specialist coordinator in hot strip mill 3. "Electronic components will break and because of their age they can't be repaired or replaced. So we then have to be creative and come up with a solution. We decided to get the apprentices involved and make a virtue out of necessity: For a few years now the youngsters have been helping us modernize the line component by component. And it works out well."

The power converters are a good example: This year under the guidance of engineer Michels and with the support of their trainers, the apprentice electronics technicians André Rusch and Daniel Wietfeld, both third-year apprentices, helped replace the aging power converters with new and more reliable units. "Power converters are used to control the output of variable speed electric motors," explains Rusch. "We designed the rebuild, prepared the documentation, ordered parts, programmed the unit, built and tested the module in the apprentice training workshop, and then installed it in the line," adds fellow apprentice Wietfeld.

Altogether the two apprentices spent a full year working on the project. "We really enjoyed it because we were doing something practical, the work was very varied, and we were given responsibility," they say. "Working on a real project like this is different from just going through exercises in an apprentice training shop." Their coach Michels is more than happy with the result. "The boys did a good job and learned a lot. They put their theoretical knowledge into practice and gained experience from us old hands. And another little bit of our line is now working again – it's a classic win-win situation for the production and maintenance team and for the apprentices." The project will continue with the next generation of apprentices.