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Chemist and communicator

Felix Pfemeter, an industrial chemist, never thought he would be involved with braids and cables in his day-to-day work. But today, he keeps a lot of things running at Coroflex. Although the 27-year-old has long since shed the white lab coat, he shapes Coroflex’s processes and products worldwide as Global Head of R&D Wires & Cables, Material Development and Test Laboratory – and does so with great passion.

Born in Lauingen on the Danube river in Bavaria, he soon moved with his parents to Emsland in Lower Saxony. He then went to Heinrich Heine University (HHU) in Düsseldorf to study, where he graduated with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in economic chemistry. When it came time for his internship in 2016, he specifically looked for medium-sized companies in the region, and Wuppertal was close by. He applied to Coroflex on his own initiative. Why not start off in a large corporation? “Cables and wires are much more exciting than, for example, optimizing detergents so that they remove stains even faster – especially in view of topics such as electromobility,” he explained at the job interview.

From intern to global development manager

During his internship at Coroflex, he completed his master’s thesis and later continued his education at the distance-learning University of Hagen (FernUniverstät in Hagen) to become a Certified Controlling Specialist. Soon after joining Coroflex, he became a group leader, and since May 2021, he has now been managing material development and test laboratories as Global Development Manager. In just five years – quite a stellar career for the young employee. “I was well prepared, but also in the right place at the right time; it always takes a bit of luck. And I also had good bosses who gave me a lot of freedom and trust. That helps a lot.” He still appreciates the mutual support in the team today.

I have a lot of fun at Coroflex. Here you can move things forward. I have really enjoyed these creative opportunities from the very beginning. I have built up a network and we solve problems together.

Felix Pfemeter | Global Head of R&D Wires & Cables, Material Development and Test Laboratories

Better to avoid the hot spots than having to put out fires

There is a dual leadership in the development department: Felix Pfemeter’s colleague Oliver Brambach is responsible for application development. This is where the overall design of the cable is determined. Felix Pfemeter’s central area of responsibility, on the other hand, is the material itself; he looks after the resources. “Here it’s all about the chemistry, i.e. the question of which material, which insulation material is suitable for a product.” His material developers and material testers support him in this. And the boss is on hand when the heat is on, for example in the case of faulty material or complaints. In the event of a crisis, he relies on data and facts in his approach, which is why structured innovation and development processes are very important to him. After all, he enjoys solving problems. Only repeating mistakes bothers him. That’s why a now well-functioning innovation process, based on the stage-gate model, helps him, because his central goal is: “I’d rather avoid the hot spots than have to put out fires.”

The communicator and the creatives

Of particular importance to him is that the innovation process should be accepted and practiced by the employees. This requires persuasion. “Colleagues have to see the point of a process and be able to influence it. That works well here, helps the colleagues, and has an effect on the result.” But that’s where his talent for communication comes in handy, because although he also studied chemistry, he’s not “the classic tinkerer,” as he says. "Of course, I’m in demand a lot technically, but I’m often the one who keeps things running. My team is primarily creative: that’s where the ideas come from. I make sure that the goals are realistic and the employees can work well, and then I provide support in critical situations.”

Networking in China, Poland, and Wuppertal

His “Laboratory and Material Development” team consists of eleven employees in total, including working students, and a retired Coroplast engineer also contributes to their success with his expertise. Once a week, a 45-minute meeting is a fixed appointment. The department also acts as a contact for technical problems of all kinds. It’s good to be able to exchange ideas and ask: “What’s the problem, do you have any ideas?” There are also development teams and laboratories at the Polish and Chinese Coroflex sites which are technically assigned to headquarters. “In Wuppertal, we set the course, and then we support our colleagues on site, for example with product transfer.” Felix Pfemeter enjoys the international collaboration with his colleagues. He fondly remembers the initial period of his permanent employment. “I was in China five times, we set up the silicone production with the local suppliers, that was a cool time,” he recalls with enthusiasm.