Team Stein Automation GmbH & Co. KG (Villingen-Schwenningen)


Steinbeis experts moderate management development project

These days, market survival as a technology leader requires tremendous technical know-how and professionally organized processes. This mostly goes without saying. But a company also needs managers who stay in control not only as each challenge intensifies but also as they face increasingly high demands. An organization needs to develop as part of an ongoing process and a company must not lose sight of personnel development. This may entail difficult meetings and solving certain conflicts, but at the end of the day managers must also not forget about themselves. These are the sort of issues Stein Automation helps its managers with. To do this, they brought the Steinbeis expert Ute Villing on board, and with her a wealth of experience at Business School Alb-Schwarzwald, the Steinbeis Transfer Institute.

Stein Automation is a specialist in smart transportation systems and has worldwide operations spanning the automotive industry, medical technology, white goods, and even home electronics. The firm employs approximately 50 people and is based in the Baden-Wuerttemberg twin town of Villingen-Schwenningen. Its focus lies in conveyance systems for workpiece support solutions, which are typically found in assembly areas in production. Products such as the Thermomix brand, automotive sensors, and engines are produced on lines made by Stein.

The family that owns Stein has always found it important to base management of the business on certain values and they feel they have a responsibility to employees and clients, and well as the local community. This philosophy is reflected in their sponsorship of a whole host of projects in the area. The company also provides non-monetary support through its involvement in social causes.


Managing Director Jürgen Noailles places a great deal of emphasis on long-term relationships based on partnership, not only with customers and suppliers, but also with staff. Interpersonal communication is particularly important in today’s fast-moving times and there are occasions when it dictates success or failure. Most managers and specialists at the medium-sized company have been working there for years, so the firm wants to support its staff so they enjoy working at the company and feel contented. Stein Automation would also like to appeal to future skilled workers, especially given the competition, which includes a large number of hidden champions in this highly industrialized area.

Jürgen Noailles, managing director of Stein automation and an alumnus of Steinbeis University with a bachelor degree from the Business School Alb-Schwarzwald himself, turned to Steinbeis expert Ute Villing for support. Villing joined the firm’s HR and organizational development project and designed a series of workshops with managers. Together, they discussed the management culture and HR development measures that would make sense at an expanding company. “In a world shaped by permanent change, you don’t need an inflexible list of rules; you need senior management and managers who are in a position to adapt to evolving challenges, in terms of technology just as much as how you deal with people,” says Ute Villing, outlining the overall idea of the training project.

The team of Stein managers worked with Villing on a systematic approach toward personnel development revolving around the business strategy, which is to maintain and build on global market leadership in conveyance systems and logistics. Broken down into key goals, this equates to high quality, long-term growth, customer focus, an ability to deliver reliably on time, a passion for the company’s own products, and a passion for customer satisfaction.


Managers also have to recognize the talent of their colleagues, allow them to work in the right positions, and promote their technical expertise and interpersonal skills accordingly. They should spot the causes of conflict early, be able to de-escalate it, and know how to run meetings constructively. Noailles summarizes his goals: “In a nutshell, an atmosphere should develop in which – despite the demands placed on them every day – people feel comfortable, enjoy coming to work, and feel there are good prospects for the future!”

Villing provided the know-how required for this in a series of workshops and seminars. These involved different techniques and analytical tools based on management psychology – for example, a compass for understanding different personalities (the Riemann-Thomann model), the Value and Development Square, which is a communication model developed by Schulz von Thun, plus a discussion guide for difficult meetings. Workshops were arranged to allow any insights gained to be applied systematically to the everyday situations faced by managers, with a focus on sustainability. Aiming to “lead through partnership” and apply the new psychological insights to everyday work also helps managers to react calmly and flexibly to the typical kinds of challenges encountered in management.


Ute Villing | Part-time lecturer
Steinbeis Transfer Institute: Business School Alb-Schwarzwald (Berlin/Gosheim)

Jürgen Noailles | Geschäftsführer
Stein Automation GmbH & Co. KG (Villingen-Schwenningen)