Report: Seminar “Economy in practice – the social market economy system”10–13 April 2017
by Janine Black, tool mechanic apprentice and Lena Hoffmann, industrial management assistant apprentice, both in their second year of training
Technical and commercial trainees from the member companies of the Electronics and Metals Association were invited to participate.
Our head of training, Ms Ubl, was informed in good time and gave two BSH trainees the opportunity to attend the seminar.
This meant that the second-year apprentices Janine Black, (tool mechanic) and Lena Hoffmann (industrial management assistant) were two of the 25 trainees of the Rheinland/Rheinhessen Association, who were able to learn a lot about how the social market economy works during the seminar.
The seminar was held during the Easter holidays from 10–14 April next to the Biggesee lake in Attendorn.
On the first day, we were greeted with some general information about the course structure and content, the seminar building and leisure activities.
After lunch, we were shown to our single rooms.
In the afternoon, we were split into groups of 3 and 4 so that we could familiarise ourselves with the planning playbook. The information we gathered, the associated functions of the fictitious company and processes, and the corresponding impact of decisions were presented to the other seminar participants in the form of a PowerPoint presentation.
The basis of our work was information that we extracted from the manual we had been given. Then we organised ourselves into groups of companies, all of which started doing business on equal terms. The instructors introduced us to how the simulation method works. From then on, it was the goal of each working group to run its own ‘company’ as well as possible over four periods of time.
On the second day one, we ran through the first period during which we could decide freely about factors such as hiring/dismissal, buying new machines, investing in the environment and technical progress, planned sales, etc. At the end of the period, the data for each business group was handed over to the instructors, jointly compared and then analysed.
In the afternoon, our instructors gave a talk about the economy and business goals. Then we ran through the second period. New factors were added, such as a potential sale to a large customer at a lower sales price or planning machine and staff utilisation.
On the 3rd day, the group jointly compared the results from the second period.
This comparison of the results was always very exciting, as the work done by each work group was compared to the decisions taken by the other work groups and the ‘companies’ were always very competitive. For example, if one group had made a decision to invest in quality and to raise the sales price of the products, but another group was able to sell for a lower price, the system simulated that only a few buyers would choose our own high-priced product, and that we could only generate few sales which we had not planned for.
Then the company groups played a more light-hearted game in which the winners could win ‘unplanned returns’ for the company.
After that, we were able to enter the 3rd period and continue running our company. In this period, new factors such as financial planning and foreign trade came into play. The level of difficulty of the simulation was raised, in that we were only given our own results after the period, and the tactics of the other work groups were not disclosed.
In the afternoon, the instructors held a presentation on the different economic systems. And then we did a role-play, in which we companies negotiated a tariff agreement with a trade union, this role was played by the instructors. Of course, the outcome of this collective bargaining process also affected our game plan because the company's wage costs increased and the employees were given more leave.
Then we played the 4th period during which more detailed decisions were added. So you had to decide whether the purchasing department should buy at the cheaper scaled price which could lead to too much stock in the warehouse, or whether to borrow at a certain interest rate.
The final results from the last period were announced on the last day.
We were told to prepare these results in a PowerPoint presentation within the company group and explain the development of our investments, projects and strategies.
At the end of these presentations, the instructors gave us feedback and nominated one company as the winner because they had been the best at managing their finances. Lena was a member of the most efficient group.
In the afternoon, we all set off home.
Overall, it was a very good seminar because the independent work by the respective seminar groups allowed this abstract subject to be explained well.
Ambitious decisions by the company were designed to outdo the competition and become the market leader. Simulation games, such as the collective bargaining process, showed us trainees the opportunities, risks and consequences and losses for the employer, depending on how the bargaining process was conducted.
The simulation method used during the seminar allowed our knowledge of the economy to be demonstrated clearly and logically so that each participant could see how the company’s core business functions and the difficulty of positioning a company on the market.
The Akademie Biggesee was well equipped. Both the classrooms and single rooms were spotlessly clean and the food was delicious and varied. After the official programme, you could also spend time with other class participants playing pool/table football, watching TV, in the bar or use the sauna.
We highly recommend this seminar to future technical and commercial trainees from Bilstein & Siekermann®.