For the past five years, Johannes Vitzthum's life has revolved around track technology. Trained as a mechanical engineer, the young product manager has dedicated much of his career to this disruptive technology.
"When I walk down the supermarket aisle and look at the shelves full of food," says Vitzthum, "I often have to smile." That's because he knows the important role played by track technology in producing and packaging many of the products he sees. "I can't help feeling a tinge of pride as I reach for the coffee, the chocolate or the mozzarella," he chuckles.
As B&R's product manager for track technology, Vitzthum is very familiar with the challenges facing the manufacturing industry: "What manufacturing systems all have in common is they need to be faster, cheaper and more flexible," he says. "And that's exactly what track-based product transport makes possible." What fascinates him most about the disruptive technology? Its versatility. "You can really let your imagination run wild on a new machine concept, and almost every time tracks offer a way to make it happen. That makes my day-to-day work as product manager incredibly exciting."
With a master's degree in mechanical engineering and a bachelor's in business administration, Vitzthum has the ideal qualifications for product management. "My academic background has really helped me identify with our customers' struggles and offer constructive advice at eye level."
B&R customers are always supported by a multidisciplinary team of experts able to see their solution from every angle. But it's not only the customers who benefit from this well-rounded teamwork; Vitzthum also greatly appreciates the tight collaboration. "It gives me great insight into different areas of the company and helps me see the bigger picture," he says. "Our products all work together seamlessly to solve our customers' challenges – so it's only natural that our people do the same."
Vitzthum knew right away that track technology was right for him: "On my first company tour after joining B&R, I was shown a SuperTrak system and I knew instantly: This technology is going to upend the market and I want to be a part of that."
To hone his skills for the unique challenges of B&R's customers, Vitzthum began his B&R career by completing the company's immersive Engineering Camp training program. "I look back on those four months very fondly," he says. "It was a really exciting time – but also exhausting and challenging. I learned an incredible amount that I still benefit from today, and above all I expanded my knowledge of programming." He then began as an application engineer, working with customers to implement modern, flexible machines.
Track systems have assumed an important role in today's manufacturing systems and are used in many industries around the world. "Tracks have taken me to almost every continent: a trade fair in Australia, a customer visit in Japan, a product presentation in the US," says Vitzthum. He is confident that the technology will continue to gain momentum and enjoy long-term success.
Tracks are not a niche product, he points out, and they bring many advantages to all types of applications. Especially with the integration of tracks into its automation system, B&R offers a complete solution that allows machine builders to optimally meet their customers' requirements – and raise machine productivity to a whole new level.
"I don't have a crystal ball," says Vitzthum, "but I do know that humanity and consumer behavior are changing at an accelerating rate. To keep pace, the manufacturing industry will have to continually reinvent itself." Track systems are just the thing for that, he notes, because of the sheer endless possibilities they offer for new machine concepts. "I love to explore new ideas and approaches and I'm always up for a challenge. My motto is: nothing is impossible. That's why track technology is such a good fit for me."
What I studied:
Mechanical engineering at the Technical University in Munich
What I do at B&R:
Product manager for ACOPOStrak
What fascinates me most about my work:
"Tracks are a really tangible product that offers clear and immediate added value. The technology is also still young and is poised to seriously upend the market – and I'm excited to play a role in that revolution. That's why, for me, it was love at first sight for this disruptive technology. You can really let your imagination run wild on a new machine concept, and almost every time tracks offer a way to make it happen. That makes my work incredibly exciting."