From university directly to assembly

My name is Lea Hofstetter and I am the oldest daughter of Otto Hofstetter. After my university degree in communication and journalism, I gained my first experience through internships in content creation and marketing. Now I'm working as a social media manager in a communications agency and also bring my acquired knowledge into the family business.

In preparation for my position as an assistant in the marketing department of Otto Hofstetter AG, I completed a four-week general internship. Within one month I went through different departments to get a deeper insight into the family business and to broaden my knowledge about injection moulding tools.

Starting in the finance and personnel department, I get a small refresher about the company structure and then I’m about to spend the next one and a half days in the engineering office. There I am promptly thrown into the deep end when I have to explain what I know about the tools to then fill in my gaps. Using models, different packaging and of course drawings, I learn what the inner workings of a mould look like and why it takes eight weeks to complete a drawing for PAC moulds, which are usually prototypes. Because what you don't see when you look at a tool from the outside are all the holes that have to be drilled for screws, hoses, gaskets and so on.

After the engineering office I spend one day in the planning office and one day in the purchasing department. Their job is to prepare the tool so that it can go into production or a tool can be overhauled. On the basis of time, quality and delivery date, a plan is drawn up as to when which part will go into production and by when certain material must be ordered. The close interaction between the purchasing and planning department quickly becomes apparent when we play through a scenario from the receiving of the drawing to the start of producing the tool. In addition to ordering material and scheduling, I am allowed to add the machining allowance to the drawings myself and prepare quotations for new material.

I end my first week with quality management and quality assurance. Quality is not only important for the tools, but also for the operation. Quality management ensures constant improvement in the daily work routine. As I already noticed before, all departments have to work together and communication is not always easy. I am allowed to help with the completion of the quality data sheet, which has the goal that all coworkers have the same quality requirement. The theory is followed by quality assurance. Constant checking of parts is important to ensure the quality of the tools. I learned that there is more to quality assurance than just measuring parts. The programs for measuring have to be written and you have to know the processing process of the different parts in order to weigh up when possible improvements should be made. 

For a whole two weeks the assembly of new moulds for PET and PAC welcomes me. In full working clothes I stand in the assembly shop on Monday morning and after only five minutes I hold a thread splits in my hand for a 72-cavity PET mould, sorting it first by number and then installing it. The leap from theory to practice is not difficult for me. Now, for the first time, I see how all the previous steps converge here and turn individual parts into a whole. Even though my theoretical understanding of injection molding tools is well advanced, I notice how assembling and screwing bits together helps me understand the details. In addition, time flies by. I switch back and forth between PET and PAC moulds and every time a mould is tested, the tension increases as to whether I have done everything correctly. 

In the last week of my internship I visit the service center, the hot runner assembly and the technical center. In the service center tools are repaired and overhauled. After the tool has been cleaned, it is measured. Due to wear and tear, new values have to be determined and any spare parts have to be adjusted. After a short explanation and with the help of an old measurement sheet, I can try it out myself. Thus I learn how the conditions of plate and insert parts behave and how differences are repaired.

In the hot runner assembly I help to take a hot runner apart because a few nozzles are defective. After disassembling the hot runner, my task is to clean everything, replace and reassemble the nozzles and finally help to assemble everything again. Afterwards the block is checked, which is a premiere for me like many other things before. 

My very last day I spend in the technical center, where the mould is sampled. Since I was already allowed to go to Netstal two days before, when I was still in the assembly department, I already have a certain idea of what to expect. The two days I spend in Netstal are impressive. For me it is the first time that I see such huge machines. If I thought before that the machines are already big with us, they are small compared to those with Netstal. In the two days we remove a PET mould, install a new one and inspect it. So we start with the installation of a PAC mould and produce a few samples. Using the plastic container, I learn to identify errors or irregularities and how these can be remedied, such as increasing the temperature of the plastic. Seeing how everything comes together is the perfect end to my internship.

In summary, the internship is the perfect start for my new position as Marketing Assistant. I never thought I'd like the work in the workshop so much. There is nothing better than working on a mould yourself in order to understand what is behind a mould from Otto Hofstetter AG. During the four weeks I am warmly welcomed in every department and everything is explained to me with great enthusiasm. If someone had asked me what Otto Hofstetter AG produces before, then my answer was simple: Tools for the PET and packaging industry such as moulds for the boxes of Haribo, cups for Emmi's Café Latte, spoons for McFlury or preforms. My answer today may sound exactly the same at first, but if someone is more interested, I can go into detail.


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