Hand drawing of a pressure shock system. This box is used to test the burst load of pipes and pipe couplings. Pressure is repeatedly applied to a pipe and then released until the pipe bursts.
SNV Story No. 11: One year of drawing by hand
After seven months of basic vocational training, the apprentice Industrial Draughters (Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training) at Geberit headquarters in Rapperswil-Jona dive headfirst into the world of standards on the very first day of their four-year programme. They stay in the training workshop until the end of their first year, after which they transfer internally to one of several production workshops. From their third year on, they rotate through different departments, spending six months in each. And standards follow them at every turn. But what is an apprentice’s view on standards? And what do they mean to an experienced vocational trainer? Flurin Hochstrasser, third-year apprentice, and Rafael Anner, full-time vocational trainer, give us an insight into their everyday work.
When did you first come into contact with standards at Geberit?
FLURIN HOCHSTRASSER: The very first day, and I thought they were really interesting. I’ve never had a problem with rules; quite the opposite, in fact. I like it when things are cut and dry.
RAFAEL ANNER: We introduce the topic of standards by looking at the different types of lines. Every line has its own meaning, and accordingly, each has its own design specifications in terms of thickness or execution. Afterwards, we move on to standard lettering. This may sound old fashioned in the age of computers, but it is essential to learn how to write this way by hand. It’s very important to us that our apprentices still learn to draw by hand during their basic vocational training.
What is the advantage of draughting by hand?
FLURIN HOCHSTRASSER: One of the advantages is that it is identical to the material that we study in vocational school. My classmates who start straight away with CAD need to switch back when we’re in school. Today, I still prefer drawing my initial sketches by hand. I only switch to CAD when the plans become more concrete or when a visualization would be helpful for a discussion with my team.
RAFAEL ANNER: Digital natives can sometimes find working manually to be a bit of a pain. But our apprentices reap the rewards when using CAD later on because they understand the background behind why CAD does certain things for them automatically, such as setting different line thicknesses. Our apprentices switch from drawing by hand to CAD at the end of the first year.
Are there any differences between what you learn in school and what you do here?
FLURIN HOCHSTRASSER: Sometimes you have to make a few leaps forward mentally. Because our basic vocational training at Geberit is extremely intense, we are ahead of the syllabus at school on a lot of topics. However, that means we have lots of time for repetition and consolidation. That’s perfect for me because it makes vocational school somewhat secondary, so I can concentrate on earning my vocational baccalaureate.
RAFAEL ANNER: Basic vocational training at Geberit lasts for seven months. Because we, like Hilti and Bühler, are exempt from offering inter-company courses, we have more leeway when it comes to designing our programme. Apprentices at host companies that are not exempt from this rule only get 48 days of basic vocational training. Since I also teach part-time at a vocational school, I am familiar with both syllabi. I feel that the cooperation between vocational schools and host companies is extremely constructive and goal-oriented. Thanks to the industry representatives on the committee, a lot of attention is paid to making sure it makes sense to teach a particular piece of content at a given time.
What do you focus on when teaching standards?
RAFAEL ANNER: For me, it’s important that the apprentices can take the basic knowledge they’ve learned in the first two years and apply it during their specialized training from the third year on. I teach them how important standardized language is in the work environment, especially in an international context. We collaborate with various locations across Europe and around the globe. Within these collaborations, it’s important to respect different languages, time zones and cultures. Standards are the common denominator for ensuring efficient processes and avoiding errors.
FLURIN HOCHSTRASSER: Because we work internationally, we always label our drawings in German and English in our department. If we explicitly use Swiss standards anywhere, we also include ISO tolerances or precise measurements, just in case, for our teams outside of Switzerland.
What are the differences between standards in theory and in practice?
FLURIN HOCHSTRASSER: As opposed to long-time employees, a lot of standards are fresh in my mind and I’m up to date on the latest changes. For example, recently, in one department, I was the only person who knew at what degree a drill needs to be ground. At first, the other team members were sceptical, and they checked to make sure I was right. But I was right, and now they respect me even more.
RAFAEL ANNER: Communicating with other colleagues in their department can be challenging for the apprentices at first. When it comes to certain standards, they often know more than an engineer who finished their studies many years ago and has been working in the field ever since. In this case, it’s important not to let yourself be pushed aside due to seniority, but rather to argue on the basis of the facts. My advice for my apprentices is always to rely on «NDF» – numbers, data and facts. This keeps things from getting emotional and allows them to have discussions on an equal footing. Communication tips are a fixed component of the syllabus when we look at the design methodology module.
What has been your most exciting project so far and what role did standards play?
FLURIN HOCHSTRASSER: On construction sites, you use a pipe bender for water pipes. Until now, when this device was used to bend insulated pipes, it would create a fold which would disrupt the flow of water. Our task was to develop a new kind of pipe bender. We started with freehand drawings, but as soon as we switch to CAD, that’s when standards come into play. I know some fundamentals by heart, but for special cases I always refer to the standards compendium .
RAFAEL ANNER: We also like to use these kinds of practical examples to highlight the connection between economic aspects and the standards. What does a structural component cost, from the materials used to the energy consumption, all the way to man hours? This shows apprentices how costly unclear drawings can be and how value can be destroyed when misunderstandings arise between a draughter and a polymechanic.
What did you enjoy about your basic vocational training and what did you not like so much?
FLURIN HOCHSTRASSER: I liked that there was no pressure to deliver anything at the beginning. We weren’t expected to bring any products to the market. This gave us enough time to learn and study, and everyone could work at their own pace. At the time, I didn’t like that we started working with CAD much later than other apprentices. But, in hindsight, I see why that was so important in order for us to establish an underlying understanding of standards and design.
RAFAEL ANNER: The first two years of the apprenticeship allow us to teach the apprentices all of the theoretical knowledge they’ll need, in a protected environment. However, from their third year onwards, they need to switch to hands-on work before smoke starts coming out of their ears from learning all that theory. Today, certain topics have become extremely complex, like form and positional tolerances, for example.
Digital or analogue – which sources do you use?
FLURIN HOCHSTRASSER: The paper version is a must. I know that the standards compendium is also available digitally, but we don’t use it. If we don’t understand something in the book, we just Google it. We never use the source file of a standard, as the exact wording is not relevant to my work. I need to know how to put something into practice. The «why» behind the standard is what we learn in our basic vocational training.
RAFAEL ANNER: Initially, apprentices intuitively prefer the digital version, but everyone switches to the paper compendium before their final exams, at the latest. It’s just quicker to use.
We cover the development of standards and the international standardization landscape a little bit during basic vocational training, too.
Who is more interested in standards: draughters or polymechanics?
FLURIN HOCHSTRASSER: Draughters, for sure. We draw everything in accordance with standards. If we’re not sure whether a polymechanic can actually construct what we’ve designed, or how they’ll do that, we discuss it in the training workshop. Or they come to us if they don’t understand our drawings.
RAFAEL ANNER: It’s a bit of a paradox. Polymechanics should be more interested in standards: if something is not produced exactly in accordance with a standard, it’s our responsibility. I always emphasize how important it is that all of our data can be checked. This is the only way we can protect ourselves against claims in an international environment. If a producer does not comply with our specifications further down the line, that’s their risk.
He is an apprentice Industrial Draughter (Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training) in his third year of training and is also earning his federal vocational baccalaureate. Originally, he was interested in becoming an architectural draughtsman. However, after an information day and a few different weeks trying out various professions, he decided to become an Industrial Draughter (Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training) and ended up at Geberit.
As a vocational trainer, Rafael is responsible for 15 apprentices. Originally, he trained to become a Technical Draughtsman, completed a part-time degree at a technical school to become a Technician, and joined Geberit roughly 20 years ago. Furthermore, he is also a vocational school teacher and expert examiner, and sits on the canton of St. Gallen’s Expert Committee for Industrial Draughters and Polymechanics.