“Working at Benninghoven is just so motivating.”

Team spirit, career opportunities and an inspiring corporate culture

That every single employee enjoys coming to work and is ready to learn every single day has a high priority at the Wirtgen Group. Because this is the only way to achieve our ambitious objectives together. That also applies to Benninghoven. The specialist for asphalt production is based at the latest main factory of the Wirtgen Group in Wittlich (Germany). Here, all employees enjoy first-rate working conditions and are offered opportunities to progress and grow – which of course includes apprentices, students and job starters.

Read more about this in the interview with Katharina Kratz, one of the 550 colleagues at Benninghoven. Having just completed her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and with a contract to work as a junior development engineer in her pocket, she is looking forward to her future at Benninghoven.

Katharina Kratz, you came to Benninghoven directly after finishing secondary school and have recently been hired as a junior development engineer. Since when had you had those plans?

Katharina Kratz: I have always been involved in technology and engineering since I was little. In school, I completed work placements in the field of electronics and toolmaking. It was then – if not before – that I knew I wanted to go in that direction for my career. I was just unsure whether to choose an apprenticeship or a university course. I think that practical relevance is important, so the Benninghoven apprenticeship program was ideal for me.

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What is the Benninghoven apprenticeship program?

Katharina Kratz: The concept is for the apprentices to study mechanical engineering at Trier University of Applied Sciences while gaining experience in a technical apprenticeship. So it is a degree apprenticeship, where in addition to the degree course, you also complete an apprenticeship. You can choose between industrial mechanics, mechanical design engineering, technical product design and technical system planning. This means it is a practical apprenticeship, combined with the academic know-how from a university course. That was exactly what I was looking for.

“The apprenticeship at Benninghoven is a practical education, combined with the academic know-how from a university course. That was exactly what I was looking for.“

Did you also complete an apprenticeship in addition to your university course?

Katharina Kratz: Yes. First, I started my apprenticeship as an industrial mechanic. And in the second year, I started my course for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.


How hard was that?

Katharina Kratz: It was ideal for me. The one year with “only” the apprenticeship was really helpful for my studies. And I was able to choose when to take my final assessment for the apprenticeship, based on when my uni course allowed for it. The strong practical relevance, the colleagues at our modern factory in Wittlich and the way Benninghoven combines theory and practice are just so incredibly motivating.

“The strong practical relevance, the colleagues at our modern factory in Wittlich and the way Benninghoven combines theory and practice are just so incredibly motivating.“

So what is it like to start out at Benninghoven?

Katharina Kratz: If you are interested in technology, curious and ready to be hands-on, then there are a multitude of opportunities for job starters like me. The colleagues were very open and supportive. And our products are literally “mega” fascinating. I had also considered an employer from the automotive sector. But I found the technical depth and variety, the “true” mechanical engineering at Benninghoven, much more tempting. Standard production, after all, is just that in the end – always the same. And we generate plenty of innovations as well, so it never gets boring.

What I also found fascinating from the outset were the working conditions, the production workshops and the whole architecture. Our site in Wittlich is really top notch.


What was the topic of your bachelor’s project?

Katharina Kratz: My bachelor’s project was on the emissions of asphalt mixing plants, which is one of the key issues for the future of Benninghoven. I found that fascinating. With the hot-gas generator, we produced the leading technology for asphalt recycling. This topic and my work at the Research and Process Engineering department gave me extensive insights into what drives Benninghoven.

“What I found fascinating from the outset were the working conditions, the production workshops and the whole architecture. Our site in Wittlich is really top notch.“

Working with emissions obviously includes taking measurements on active plants. Did you come into contact with customers during this process?

Katharina Kratz: Yes, exactly. In addition to the theoretical basics, my bachelor’s project also included the verification of the results – on our customers’ plants, of course. I had asked my colleagues to show me how the required measuring instruments work. And then I went out there, high up onto the measuring platform on the plant stack. The view at a height of around 25 m is still a true highlight for me.

To make the measuring more comfortable, I designed a bracket for the measuring equipment. Our apprentices built it in the apprentices’ workshop and from then on it was plain sailing.

How did the customers receive you?

Katharina Kratz: Very positively throughout. If someone is interested in their plant and they realise that this person knows what they are doing, that just makes the plant owner happy.


What are your responsibilities now?

Katharina Kratz: I am still new to the team, but my main focus within the Research and Process Engineering department should be to optimise the process technology and to reduce emissions. I think that is great, because I can look at the whole plant and not just a single component.


That sounds like you have found your calling.

Katharina Kratz: That is absolutely correct. And if it does get a little boring after all, I can see myself in plenty of other roles at Benninghoven. This is not the sort of company where you have do the same job forever. Benninghoven is a very flexible employer, and I really appreciate that.

“Anything is possible at Benninghoven.”

Is your work focused more on development or do you and your colleagues from the Research and Process Engineering department prioritise reacting to customer inquiries?

Katharina Kratz: Clearly both! At Benninghoven, a customer inquiry often triggers a development. The customers work with our plants in practical application. This confronts them with many challenges, for example in the context of process engineering, but also in connection with new environmental regulations and many other issues. If our support is needed for developing solutions, then we are happy to do that. Because we learn a lot from our customers – they actively help us improve. Of course we are also proactive and don’t just sit at our desks waiting. We go out to the customers and look at the plants on site. We discuss their requests and concerns, optimise processes and work on customer relations. This is how many innovations on our plants start.

Here at the Wirtgen Group, we focus on partnerships, and that is why customer requests very frequently turn into pioneering solutions. That and the great bond between all our colleagues make me believe that everything is possible at Benninghoven.