How engineers and commercial managers cooperate at HOCHTIEF
In 1962, severe storm floods destroyed countless houses in Hamburg. In response, the harbor city built a barrier 7.20 meters high. The height of the existing structure had to be raised to ensure that the city also remains protected even in the face of rising water levels. Star architect Zaha Hadid designed a spectacular attractive bulwark against the floods, engineer Florian Steinbring and commercial specialist Olaf Schottke cooperated in implementing the impressive Elbe Boulevard. An example of cooperation between two different experts.
“For twelve years, I sat looking at the Elbe, working on different projects. That was really very nice,” summarized Olaf Schottke his deployment to provide improved flood protection. During the past three years of this time, the qualified industrial commercial specialist cooperated with engineer Florian Steinbring. From 2016 to 2018, the two of them sat in their containers next to each other on the construction site “HWS Niederhafen Section 2” next to Hamburg’s Landungsbrücken piers. “There we then quietly carried out our work or actually also sometimes not so quietly,” remembers Florian Steinbring with a smile. They seldom sat in the far-away HOCHTIEF branch in the city, as Schottke reports: “We basically set things up so that the commercial project personnel are also always present locally on the construction site. There is a good reason why: If, for instance, the foreman has a problem or damage has to be remedied, you can do this together.”
Engineers and commercial specialists constantly worked on projects hand in hand. Even when Schottke took over an additional project next to the lower harbor, “HWS Schaartor Section 3”, the two continued to exchange information and ideas with each other. “The two construction sites were almost 500 meters way from each other. So I just walked over to him on a daily basis,” he explains.
Daily cooperation—even if this involves stress
Cooperation between business people and engineers functions just like this on many HOCHTIEF construction sites right from the outset: Once they have received the order, Steinbring takes care of the work preparation for the construction operations, such as recruitment or subcontractor awards, while Schottke performs commercial activities, such as call orders and guarantees or takes care of construction site set-up. To do so, he has to know how many people will work on the construction site: “Are we three site managers and one financial specialist or do we need another person as well? How many foremen and how many industrial employees do we have locally?“
From there onwards, the two coordinate with each other on a daily basis: Who comes when? What is required for the construction site? Material has to be ordered accordingly. Steinbring technically supervises the performed work, while Schottke checks the respective invoices. The commercial specialist appreciates the reliability of his colleague: “The invoices are checked on site. I never have to nudge Florian and say: There are invoices in your e-account. Please approve them.” Florian Steinbring also appreciates his colleague, in particular his ability to communicate and to take the initiative. “Olaf immediately sees what has to be done. If I need material or equipment quickly, then he makes sure that we soon have the things on the construction site. He takes the burden off me quite a lot.”
Engineers and commercial specialists—a coordinated team
What sounds like natural teamwork, is the result of many years’ experience. Because the two first worked out their mutual understanding for each other’s tasks on the construction site, explains Steinbring: “Following technical studies, I was able to calculate the statics and had the basic technical know-how as a site manager. But if someone had asked me what a commercial specialist does on a construction site, I would probably have shrugged my shoulders. On the construction site, I first learned how important commercial specialists are and that a construction site cannot function just with technical personnel.” Schottke also had to learn a lot after his commercial education: “As a trainee, you are given the tools of the trade and learn how to use them. But the real learning process starts after this.”
On the construction site, I first learned how important commercial specialists are and that a construction site cannot function just with technical personnel.
Engineer Florian Steinbring
Mutual experiences and the pride that connects each other
Constructive cooperation is just as important as specialist understanding of each other. In the project team it is important that you not only work together effectively but also get on well with each other at a personal level. If there is, nevertheless, a bad atmosphere, the issue is directly clarified on site. “Because you have to be professional and clearly say: That is your job, and that is my job.“
The good stories remain. That’s what is so pleasant about joint construction projects.
Commercial specialist Olaf Schottke
A word to clarify the situation—that is also necessary. Ultimately, the proud look at the joint project unites, explains Olaf Schottke on the basis of his many years of practical experience: “This doesn’t involve containers which are transported from A to B, but instead you can drive through Hamburg and say: I helped build here, we created that together—and this involves many memories. And only the good stories remain. That’s what is so pleasant about joint construction projects.”