Digitization at ZEISS – Through the Eyes of the Generations

Go Digital – a process that will change ZEISS forever. How do employees from different generations see it? What opportunities, perhaps even risks, do they see? ZiB international invited digital natives* and digital immigrants** to participate in a meeting of generations – and heard many interesting views.

* People who grew up with digitization
** People who first encountered digitization as an adult

Brief profiles of the three meeting participants:

Volker Thumm
Head of the Training Department
Age: 62
At ZEISS: 42 years

Christoph Riess
Project Manager for Digital Marketing, Consumer Optics business group
Age: 29
At ZEISS: 2.5 years

Marcel Hosch
Apprenticeship as IT specialist, currently in Industrial Metrology business group
Age: 19
At ZEISS: 2 years, apprenticeship

Can you still remember the first time you encountered digitization?

Thumm: "I was one of the first in the department to make use of this. I got my first laptop from the warehouse in 1992. I just had to get away from typewriters. I quickly realized the benefits."

Hosch: "I grew up with it. I had my first computer when I was seven or eight and I played games on it. Computers and digitization have been around for as long as I've been alive. I can't even begin to imagine life without it."

Riess: "We had our first PC at home at the beginning of the 1990s. Things just took off from there."


Where do you see the major benefits of digitization?

Thumm: "Better checking of processes, faster communication. More process control, better success rates through better steering – not to mention the time savings."

Riess: "I see networking as vital. For marketing to consumers, digitization helps us come closer together. Customers have many more ways to contact us. And we as a company have many more possibilities to attract potential customers to our products. Social media, apps and web pages are the key here. It also makes the company more open and transparent.


You had your first computer when you were seven. Mr. Hosch, do you see any risks associated with digitization?

Hosch: "Of course. Just look at Whatsapp or Facebook. The art of communication is dying."

Riess: "I agree 100 percent. Communication is definitely a dying art. People are turning into glass, Facebook knows everything about us. We rely on this technology even though we can't really control it or others control it for us. People are clearly becoming dependent on it, even companies. We have no idea what Facebook will change in its algorithm tomorrow and how this will force us to change how we communicate via social media. We're making ourselves dependent to a certain degree and we only have a limited amount of control."


Where do you see the challenges for ZEISS?

Thumm: "For ZEISS as a high-tech company, it is important to stay up to date with digital technology for all our products and processes. We must plan for the long-term and act in the short-term. We also need good people to drive this subject."


If we take a look at ZEISS in its entirety, how is digitization progressing?

Riess: "When I look at sales and marketing, where I primarily work, I can see that progress is being made. However, I think ZEISS still has a lot of potential."


What must ZEISS do to ensure that the company remains an attractive address for employees – particularly in the field of digitization?

Hosch: "In my field in particular, IT, it is vital for ZEISS to never stop evolving. If it does, it only benefit the competition."

Riess: "My job is all about how we deal with digital media. And this is something that I do with a certain amount of passion. If we suddenly decided to stop what we are doing or stand still, sooner or later I'd be very frustrated. It is very important for ZEISS to play a leading role in digitization. I'm sure that many job applicants feel the same way."


What more can a company do here?

Thumm: "You have to make digitization something you can experience – at all levels! We have to realize that we must implement things more quickly and with more conviction."


What expectations do you have on the company regarding digitization?

Thumm: "In general, we're prepared to train the required new blood in this field. I'd also like to see more money invested in good ideas. This would make it a little easier to overcome some obstacles."

Riess: "I'd like to see more perseverance for this process. Any extra money would help get the ball rolling further. It may be an investment that you don't immediately notice in your bank account, but it's the only way for us to learn."


How do you imagine working in 10 years?

Riess: "I don't think that too much will change. We'll still work on PCs and still talk to each other. The difference is that we will address many more things at once. I think the new digital technologies will help us implement more things at once."


Thank you for the interesting discussion.