“My work at Benninghoven motivates me each and every day.”

A great team, excellent career prospects, and an inspiring company culture

In the Wirtgen Group, it’s important that all our employees enjoy working here and are willing to improve their skills on a daily basis. After all, this is the only way to be sure of reaching our ambitious targets. And Benninghoven is no exception. This specialist for asphalt production is based in Wirtgen Group’s newest main factory in Wittlich. All employees enjoy first-class working conditions and the chance to develop and grow personally – with career paths naturally also available to trainees, students, and young professionals.

To find out more, read our interview with Katharina Kratz, one of Benninghoven’s 550 employees at Wittlich. Katharina, who has just completed her Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, recently joined Benninghoven as a Junior Development Engineer and is looking forward to her future at the company.

Katharina, you joined Benninghoven after leaving high school and have recently been appointed to the role of Junior Development Engineer. Has engineering always been your goal?

Katharina Kratz: I started tinkering with technology even as a kid. At school, I completed work placements in electronics and toolmaking. By then, it had become very clear to me that I wanted a career in this field. The only thing I was unsure about was how: a vocational training course or a degree? I think hands-on experience is important, so Benninghoven’s training program was the perfect match.

Tolles Produkt

Could you tell us more about this program?

Katharina Kratz: Participants in the program study mechanical engineering at Trier University of Applied Sciences while gaining practical experience on their technical training course. So this is a dual program that combines training with an academic degree. The training course that you complete in parallel to your degree has several units available: industrial systems, engineering systems, technical product design, and technical systems planning. So, overall, the program combines hands-on vocational training with the theory and knowledge gained in a college degree. And that was just what I was looking for.

“The program at Benninghoven combines hands-on vocational training with the theory and knowledge gained in a college degree. That was just what I was looking for.”

So you also completed a vocational training course as well as your studies?

Katharina Kratz: Yes. First of all, I got started on my training to become an industrial mechanic. Then, in the second year, I began my Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree course.


Did you find the dual program challenging?

Katharina Kratz: No, it was a great fit for me personally. That first ‘training-only’ year really helped me prepare for the degree. And I was allowed to schedule the training exam myself to match the pace of my degree work. It’s also really motivating to have this practical know-how, backed by the team at our modern factory in Wittlich and Benninghoven’s unique approach to putting theory into practice.

“It’s really motivating to have this practical know-how, backed by the team at our modern factory in Wittlich and Benninghoven’s unique approach to putting theory into practice.”

What it’s like, being a new recruit at Benninghoven?

Katharina Kratz: If you’re keen on technology, want to know more, and are ready to make the effort, then you’ll go far – even as a career starter. The team at Benninghoven is friendly and eager to help out, and our products are just, basically, super-interesting. Previously, I’d also toyed with the idea of working for an automotive company. But I just found the technical depth and variety you get with ‘real’ mechanical engineering at Benninghoven more appealing. High volume-production is literally just more of the same! And our company’s a real innovator, so things never get boring on that account either.

What has inspired me right from the get-go has been the working conditions, the production facilities, and all the infrastructure. Our site in Wittlich is truly first-class.


What was the focus of your final-year project?

Katharina Kratz: I wrote my bachelor’s thesis on exhaust gas emissions from asphalt mixing plants – not just a key area for Benninghoven going forward but also one that interests me personally. With our hot-gas generator, we’ve now set the benchmark here for the asphalt recycling industry. Thanks to my thesis and my work in the Research and Process Engineering Dept., I got a really extensive look into all of the hot topics at Benninghoven.

“What’s inspired me right from the get-go has been the working conditions, the production facilities, and all the infrastructure. Our site in Wittlich is truly first-class.”

Work on waste gas emissions also involves taking readings from operational plant. Did this also involve customer contact?

Katharina Kratz: Sure. Work on my bachelor’s thesis didn’t just cover the theoretical basis but also the verification of results at the plants run by our customers. I also got my colleagues to demonstrate how the various pieces of measuring apparatus worked. Once in the field, we were up on the access platform at the stack: that view, from about 25 m off the ground will always be one of the highlights of my job.

To make taking readings easier, I’d designed a rig to hold the various gages, which was then produced by our trainees in the apprentice workshop. Things went really smoothly from then on.

What was the customer feedback like?

Katharina Kratz: Really positive. Any operator is going to be pleased to have someone there who is actually interested in their plant and who clearly knows what they are doing.


So what are you working on now?

Katharina Kratz: Well, I’m still a greenhorn here but my focus in the department – Research and Process Engineering – is going to be on optimizing the process technology and reducing our emissions. And I think that’s great, because I can work on the whole plant and not just one piece of equipment.


So it sounds like you’ve found your dream job?

Katharina Kratz: Couldn’t agree more. And, while I don’t expect things to ever get boring, there’s a bunch of other things I can think of that I’d like to tackle. After all, we don’t expect people to keep doing the same old things forever here. Benninghoven is very flexible, that’s what makes them such a great employer.

“Anything’s possible at Benninghoven.”

If you think about the work done by your Research and Process Engineering team, would you say you focus more on development or do you also respond to customer inquiries?

Katharina Kratz: More like both. At Benninghoven, development work is often triggered by a customer inquiry. Our customers are the real-world users of our plants. Apart from all the technical challenges – especially in process engineering – they also have to deal with environmental regulations and many other issues. So we’re very happy to help out if our support is needed to develop a specific solution. And our customers have plenty to teach us – they really help us develop as a company. Of course, we also play an active part and don’t stay stuck behind our desks all day. We drive out to our customers so we can see the plant in operation. We might just touch base, or maybe we’ll discuss needs and requirements, and help to optimize their processes. Many of our plant innovations start life in this sort of way.

Wirtgen Group is always looking for the win-win situation: this is why customer inquiries so often lead to pioneering solutions. Because of this – and the fantastic working atmosphere here – I’ve got the feeling that, at Benninghoven, anything’s possible.