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Plastics expert with an inquiring mind

Interview with Bernhard Hoster, Technology Manager at Gira in the Plastics Technology business segment Last updated: April 2014

Bernhard Hoster is Technology Manager in the Plastics Technology business segment at Gira. An expert in the field, he has not only held various leading positions in the region, but also in Japan, China and Turkey, and was also a university lecturer for a long time. Working in research and development and contributing his expertise to the industry – this combination was always particularly important to him. And it is one that he continues to pursue at Gira. For to Hoster, innovation and plastics are inextricably linked.

Topics in this article


Innovation processes


New technologies


Final-year projects and Gira Technical Centre

You are a respected expert in the field of plastics technology,

BH: That already started with my studies. I studied Plastics Technology in Iserlohn at the University of Applied Sciences and completed my final year project in the field of thermoset. I was then involved in setting up the plastics institute at Lüdenscheid, where I was head of the thermosets department. Later, I founded the company Iserlohner Kunststoff- Technologie [ISK] and travelled all over the world for the company. I worked at Siemens in Istanbul for two years and while I was there helped to set up a thermoset and thermoplastic manufacturing facility. I then worked for Siemens in China. Not many people know that I didn't just work in the field of thermosets, but just as much in the field of thermoplastics. However, thermoset is only a small field on the plastics scene, so my work became much more widely known because of this. There are a lot more experts in the field of thermoplastics, meaning that it's more difficult to make a name for yourself.

At the same time, you also worked as a university lecturer for a long time. What did this mean to you?

BH: It was always very important to me and provided me with a great deal of inspiration. The company ISK, where I was managing director, supported the plastics processing laboratory with the Technical Centre in research and development. Employees were financed by third parties and ISK provided the relevant equipment for the research projects. In this way, I always had access to graduands and was able to develop new technologies, both for thermoplastics and thermosets. And this combination – going into research and development, but also contributing to industry – was a huge advantage.

What do plastics mean to you?

BH: Plastics are very modern and innovative materials with which you can do a great deal. Modern designs and surfaces can be developed for Gira, which create new development trends by combining different processes. For example, electronics and plastics are merged in the field of smart plastics. Plastics and metals can also be combined. This is already in use in the automotive industry for reducing weight. The combination of different materials plays a major role in this. Plastics materials and processing methods offer great innovation potential. So it's obvious – innovation and plastics belong together. This is apparent from the fact that the plastics content is increasing in all areas.



Sense of contentment:
Bernhard Hoster loves the forests and green hills of the Bergisches Land region.
"The location of Radevormwald is very attractive. I feel quite at home here.
Whoever works here will be content", he says.


There are, however, environmental problems associated with plastics. Our oceans are becoming increasingly polluted with them. Do you worry about it sometimes?

BH: Of course I think about it. A lot is being done, also at Gira. When we construct new tools we try to design them in such a way that no sprue waste is produced. In addition, a recycling plant is now being introduced. This means that we grind down the sprues we still have from inherited waste and use them for new products. But there are also completely new methods. The Research department is trying to produce plastics from biopolymers, for example. For example, polyamides produced from castor oil. In principle, it is a technical plastic made from plants. The requirements are, however, not yet met to the extent we need. But they're still working on it. Recycling material will also play an increasing role in future at Gira as the properties of the materials are constantly being improved.

This means that although you are a representative of the plastics segment, you dare to think about alternatives to plastic?

BH: Yes, we are even focusing on these. These are issues that we are examining very carefully. I also don't want the oceans to be polluted with plastics waste. I also come across packaging in everyday life, which makes me think we really don't need this. We need to take a closer look at this. However, these considerations don't just apply to plastics, but to every material. We have to use every material to the extent that we actually need it and in the way that will offer the most benefit.

Back to your profession – with over 20 years under your belt, you have a wealth of professional experience. You have worked in many important positions – both at home and abroad. In 2011 you said: I am going to Gira. What attracted you?

BH: Over the course of my professional life I have got to know around 1,000 companies and worked very intensively with some companies. I got to know major corporations such as Siemens, Daimler and Denso, the second-largest automotive supplier. I have known Gira for over 20 years. At ISK in Iserlohn, we always had service contracts and cooperation agreements with Gira. Back then, while working with Gira I noticed that the company had a particularly good culture. There are few companies where a culture of this kind permeates from the management level at the top right down to the employees. I have always been impressed by that. For this reason, I was attracted to the idea of joining Gira. Here, I am also given a lot of freedom for my work and scope to develop ideas. This is very important to me.


"What is important to Gira is driving things forward, but at a sensible pace, not in haste.”

Bernhard Hoster


Which projects are you currently working on?

BH: I am working on new products and systems, but I can't go into any more detail about this, as they are still in the development phase. However, I can definitely tell you about a different important part of my job. In addition to technology management, I have also taken on the role of head of process engineering. The optimisation of processes and tools is key to ensuring quality and cost efficiency. I am also in charge of a technical centre here in the building with four different machines. I enjoy this a lot as we can also develop new technologies there. I also introduced the idea of conducting thesis work in the field of plastics in-house. I try to put into practice what I always used to do earlier, introducing innovations.

If you compare the many companies where you have worked in the past with Gira: What is the main difference?

BH: The main difference is the human factor. How well people here interact with each other and the fact that the goals advocated by management permeate the company from top to bottom. In other words, there are straight lines running through the company. Gira is extremely innovative, for me one of the most innovative companies I have ever got to know. A lot of money is invested here, here they think in terms of the future. What is important to Gira is driving things forward, but at a sensible pace, not in haste. They take their time for development, this is quite extraordinary. I also consider this to be part of the Gira culture.

As someone who is widely travelled and with global experience – how do you feel in Radevormwald?

BH: I enjoy living here. Above all, I really appreciate living near the company. And here in the region we have a centre of plastics technology with over 350 companies within a radius of around 100 kilometres – in this regard this is also a very interesting location, with a wide variety of networks in the plastics field that are vigorously exploited by Gira. In terms of the surrounding countryside, the Bergisches Land and the Sauerland are charming and offer a wide array of recreational opportunities. In a small space there is therefore everything you need to combine your career and private interests.

Profile of Bernhard Hoster


Born
1962

At Gira since
2011

Studies
Mechanical Engineering with specialisation in plastics technology at the University of Applied Sciences of South Westphalia in Iserlohn

Career
After his studies he was appointed head of the thermosets department at the Plastics Institute in Lüdenscheid. In 1996 he was involved in the founding of the company Iserlohner Kunststoff-Technologie GmbH [ISK] and became managing director there. He travelled extensively for the company, and worked in Istanbul and China for a long time.

Career at Gira
He has been head of Technology Management at Gira since 2011.

[Last updated: 2014]


Further information