Interview by Deike Ricardo with Antti Kapanen, the MBA&E Programme Manager at the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft (HTW) Berlin
In October 2015, the MBA&E at the HTW Berlin will start offering a new business engineering specialisation in Lean Management. The specialisation is built upon the programme’s tested business engineering curriculum, developed since 2007.
The students of the Lean Management course will learn advanced process improvement techniques applicable across industrial and services organisations. The new specialisation will be supported by a new Lean Management learning lab, originally modelled for corporate training environments.The HTW Berlin is one of the leading providers of business engineering education in Germany, according to rankings. The MBA&E is an international, fully English spoken postgraduate programme taught by professors and external experts. The programme’s strategy is to offer regularly updated specialisations to address existing labour market gaps mainly in technical management areas.
More information is available on the website mbae.htw-berlin.de or by contacting the programme office:
To get started – what is Lean Management all about?
Kapanen: To put it simply, Lean means the reduction of waste in processes. By waste we mean, for example, the unnecessary moving of things around or doing work that makes no contribution to value. Waiting idle is also waste. Not only people but also machines and items can be used wastefully and also things like an idle machine or products waiting in the inventory are waste.
It’s important to see that Lean Management is not about squeezing people for more work – it’s quite the opposite! One important principle is to do work in a smart way and explicitly so that employees do not need to take shortcuts due to haste or stress. Another principle is the even distribution of work to all employees. So you improve your business by having the whole organisation do the necessary things better. And in order to figure out what those necessary things are, you ask what is the value your customer is willing to pay for.
In summary, Lean is not a tool but rather a set of principles for guiding everyone’s actions in a business.
Is Lean Management a new concept?
Kapanen: No, waste reduction ideas have been around longer than industrial manufacturing! In any economy based on free competition, entrepreneurs have always had the urge to improve their efficiency and quality. Lean Management guides people in achieving this smartly and sustainably and has therefore endured.
The main principles of Lean have been laid down already decades ago. Good examples are found in the automotive sector – which is by the way another one of our specialisation options. Ford got very effective in waste reduction already with their Model T production process, while Toyota was able to combine efficiency with a growing diversity of market demand since the 1940s.
If Lean Management has existed for such a long time, then what is new about your new specialisation?
Kapanen: Several German universities offer courses, programmes and labs in Lean Management. However, according to our market survey, we are the first international, English speaking business engineering programme in Germany with a dedicated specialisation in Lean Management. Therefore, this option fits well to our overall strategy of offering relevant, application-ready and industrially oriented management specialisations. Already at this point, 6 months before the course start, we can see that there is indeed strong demand for this course.
Also, although Lean Management is a tested concept, it is still expanding worldwide. There are more companies worldwide interested in Lean Manufacturing. But Lean principles are also expanding into service businesses and administrative organisations. There seem to be many opportunities for our future graduates to grab!
Who should study this new specialisation?
Kapanen: The MBA&E is really quite a broad and generic programme. We cover many traditional MBA subjects like organisation, marketing and controlling. The “E” part comes from more technically oriented subjects like manufacturing technologies and engineering management. And, finally, the specialisation option gives the students an extra edge.
Currently, three-fourths of our students are engineers of different kinds. One-fourth are business and other graduates. We also have a very international group.
We expect the relations to remain similar also in the upcoming Lean Management group.
The first of your Lean Management students will graduate in early 2016. How do you expect their careers to look like?
Kapanen: We know from experience that those MBA&E graduates who wish to stay in Germany to work, mostly find jobs at industrial companies. This will very likely be so for the Lean Management graduates, as well. As you may know, the German job market lacks quite an amount of qualified engineers to those with engineering backgrounds have good job chances. But you don’t find lots of unemployed business graduates, either. Many of our graduates head to the south of Germany where the bulk of the available industrial jobs is located.
Can everyone find a job after graduation?
Kapanen: Eventually, yes, but an important question for most graduates is whether they can find a professional job soon after graduation. Beside a degree with good grades, employers have a lot of other selection criteria.
One of them is reasonably fluent German language so anyone who wishes to stay in Germany must study it early and diligently. International graduates must also proactively adapt to the job application and workplace culture here. There are many ways to accomplish this – taking a workshop at the university, reading on your own, learning from local friends, meeting people at events… Internships, projects and thesis placements can help a lot but above all the student must have a mind-set open to learning and change.
As an international degree programme, we increasingly see the importance of enhancing the students’ generic employability skills for Germany. I think our expertise in this are will bring much benefit to our graduates and a good reputation to the programme itself.
Master of Business Administration and Engineering
Mr Antti Kapanen, Programme Manager
Tel. +49- 30 – 5019 2411
HTW Berlin: Andrea Jaschinsk, Portrait: private