Trainees and students of Schwäbische Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH win Germany-wide business simulation.

Reduce production costs, invest in sales, open up new markets: For the first time, a team of six apprentices and dual students from Schwäbische Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH (SW) in Schramberg-Waldmössingen took on these management tasks. The team achieved first place at the first attempt in the nationwide business simulation for trainees, playbizz. It is organized annually by the Bildungswerke der Wirtschaft in Germany. SW’s young talent prevailed against 180 trainee teams.

Learning entrepreneurial decisions not just from books, but gaining practical experience in a virtual company yourself: That’s the idea behind playbizz, a business simulation for trainees. It presents operational planning and decision-making processes as a model. The simulation provides a baseline situation and forecasts for market development. In the 2020/21 round, the participating teams had to set up production of an innovative electric scooter, reduce costs as volumes increased, and market the environmentally friendly two-wheeler over a period of four fiscal years, first in Germany and then throughout Europe. The teams were given a scenario for each fiscal year to which they had to respond with far-reaching decisions: what forecasts do they make for sales in the next fiscal year, how can purchasing provide enough materials, how many employees need to be hired?

“Our team tackled these tasks with team spirit and an enormous willingness to perform,” emphasizes Jörg Schmauder, Managing Director Sales and Marketing at SW. “You have been self-organized and impressively demonstrated structured work, analytical thinking, and teamwork skills.”

As a result, SW’s Technology People first won the Baden-Württemberg state competition and then took first place in the nationwide final round at the end of June. “At SW, cross-divisional collaboration is a top priority, and the young people have implemented this in exemplary fashion,” praises Matthias Sigmann, head of the SW Academy. Internally, it provides all SW employees with the latest methodological knowledge and project work skills.

The business simulation starts each November. In four rounds over seven months, the teams have to make business decisions in all areas: Purchasing, Production, Human Resources and Sales. The decisions are evaluated by the Bildungswerke der Wirtschaft in Deutschland and converted into company key figures such as sales, costs and profit. “Our young employees solved the tasks as a team with a great deal of expertise and skill,” emphasizes Jörg Schmauder. “They reflect SW’s business model, because we see ourselves as technology people and offer our global customers complete system solutions for everything from metalworking to full manufacturing solutions.”

The SW team of three trainees and three dual students always had their sights firmly set on the goal: The decisive factor for winning at playbizz is the overall profit of the virtual company. “Others have done a very good job of reducing production costs or increasing sales more strongly, but our team has turned all the screws at the same time and thus achieved the entrepreneurial victory,” says Matthias Sigmann, describing the recipe for success. The SW team hired skilled workers in time, was able to avoid supply bottlenecks and quickly expanded into other European countries. As a result, the junior staff generated a virtual profit of 112.6 million euros, three times the average of the 180 teams.

SW has been training an above-average number of young people in various technical and commercial professions for decades. Currently, the training quota is eleven percent. By way of comparison, according to the VDMA, the average for the mechanical and plant engineering sector is 6.7 percent, and only six percent for the economy as a whole. In addition to technical training and participation in competitions such as playbizz, the company also offers apprentices, for example, the opportunity to learn for several weeks at the American SW plant and gain international experience.

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