Franz Haas led a highly specialised manufacturing enterprise over many years before taking up a full-time job at the University in 2007 due to his love of research and teaching. He has been head of the Institute of Production Engineering at TU Graz since 2013, and since the new year has been contributing his knowledge of manufacturing and production as a member of the management team in the Field of Expertise Mobility & Production.
News+Stories: How much of you is still the craftsman?
Franz Haas: I’m committed to craftsmanship just like I always was. My father was a craftsman and built up the company, which still exists today, and communicated to me the enormous value of learning by doing. I try to implement this in teaching even today, together with the idea of science.
A research and training factory is developing on Campus Inffeldgasse under the name smartfactory@tugraz – is this thought mirrored here, too?
Franz Haas: Yes of course. Smartfactory@tugraz is a place of research but principally a place of training. Here, our intention is to offer students the most advanced technologies; a flexible system of individually adapted manufacturing machines. And we also want to offer this to industry. We want to combine promising new manufacturing processes. The first piece of machinery which will be put into operation in a few months is a laser-melting machine for 3D printing of metal parts. A new professorship has been created to establish and lead smartfactory@tugraz. I have been very busy in the last few years making preparations and advertising the position. With the appointment of Professor Rudolf Pichler, whose job it is to develop the training factory, the abstract entity smartfactory@tugraz will now slowly take on a particular shape. The ship is on course, you could say.
What appeals to you exactly about this research and training factory?
Franz Haas: That it will help us to tread new paths in teaching. Smartfactory@tugraz is ultimately a pilot factory for engineers and thus for the decision-makers of the future. Economically sensible production processes for small quantities and individualised products will be developed using the latest findings and a combination of a wide variety of processes. We’ll be thus blazing a new trail in production – in the spirit of Industry 4.0. Modularity and flexibility are the buzzwords of the future.
How does the craftsman inside you feel about this development?
Franz Haas: I don’t have any nostalgic feelings about it. This is a matter of further development, of setting priorities at TU Graz in the field of production. We have to keep looking ahead. As a business man I tend to see it from the business side. I ask myself, “Can I afford it?” Complex processes obviously cost much more at the beginning. Apart from this, I watch with concern how more and more people have difficulty in keeping up with the demands and dynamics of Industry 4.0. To pay attention to this is an important part of my academic work.
In what sense?
Franz Haas: In shaping the work systems. Craftsmanship in production will definitely change and be transferred to a higher level. Many steps which were earlier carried out by craftspeople will be done by machines. But other skills will be needed. Constructing systems, programming and combining them. Young people are very well equipped for these new challenges – one hast to just offer it to them.
Achieving balance in the daily life of the institute is also important, isn’t it?
Franz Haas: Yes – I see myself here as first among equals, as they say. It’s not my style just to say how everything should be done. Also because you only really achieve efficiency and performance when you sometimes withdraw a bit and take time for yourself.
How do you personally manage that?
Franz Haas: I had to learn it over the course of time. I have two to three evening slots in the week which, apart from my professional activities, are very important for me and from which I draw strength. On Mondays I do yoga. On Tuesdays I like going to a dance club, where everybody comes together to practise once a week. I’ve been running regularly for years and play table tennis in a small group. And since Christmas I’ve been learning the electric piano.