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Ensuring ENERCON Quality by taking components to their limits

Kevin Krey’s job as development and validation engineer is to verify already during the development process that ENERCON rotor blades can handle these demanding conditions and that they fulfil defined ENERCON quality characteristics. His top priority is to guarantee that the rotor blades that will ultimately be delivered to our customers comply with ENERCON’s high standards as well as the official guidelines at all times, thus ensuring long-term customer satisfaction. ENERCON provides a work environment that gives him all the tools needed for this job and also takes his needs outside of work into account.

wb: Kevin, your job as a development and validation engineer is to develop and conduct tests that take ENERCON rotor blades to their limits – and sometimes even a little beyond. How does this help ensure the renowned ENERCON Quality?

Kevin Krey: At ENERCON, we take product testing very seriously, be it during development, during the prototype stage or over the entire life cycle. If any Aerodynamics & Blade Engineering innovations need to be validated, they cross the desks in my department, or rather, they pass through our test centre. Our primary goal is always to ensure the quality of our product. I want each customer to be happy with their ENERCON wind turbine, not just for two or three years, but for the entire life cycle. This is particularly important if we remember that the resources for the production of wind energy converters are finite, too. ENERCON is continually optimising its products with a view to these factors – and my colleagues and I make sure that our customers receive cost-optimised and resource-optimised products in the renowned ENERCON Quality. This makes our wind energy converters an engineering masterpiece.

For this purpose, ENERCON provides a broad range of test equipment, well beyond what is standard. For example, ENERCON has invested in its own IECRE1-certified rotor blade test stand. Here we can conduct the certification tests with TÜV, the German Technical Inspectorate, but we can also do far more than what is required by the standard tests of any certification bodies. The framework certification of new wind turbine types together with TÜV is where we fulfil the mandatory obligations, but our test centre goes above and beyond that: our mission is to test the rotor blades in every possible way. In development, ENERCON insists on using more measuring equipment and extensive additional testing to collect as much data as possible about our rotor blades – one example is diagonal pull testing, which is not even mandatory at this point in time, but which ENERCON has added to its standard testing portfolio anyway.  

_wb: Hearing that your job is mostly about collecting and analysing data, it sounds like you’re spending a lot of time at your computer. What does a typical working day look like for you?  

Kevin Krey: As it happens, I wear a boiler suit most of the time (laughs). Interpreting the results and damage patterns that we have intentionally created and analysing data on the computer is an important part of my work, that’s true. But it’s by far not everything. We need the direct contact to the product and must be able to observe the interaction between materials, systems and components inside the rotor blade in reality.

A typical validation work order goes like this: ‘This is the innovation, and it is intended to achieve the following goal. Test it to find out whether it works.’ But for many aspects we then want to investigate, there actually aren’t any tests yet. Usually, we need to develop our own targeted investigation methods. Then we start to plan: what can we best use to measure the values, and how; how can we fit the components into available test stands in order to use existing test equipment; when do we have to design new test stands; and how can we arrive at results in the most effective manner. This never gets boring. The many combinations of materials and uses alone yield an infinite number of possibilities. That means we need to apply a well-balanced, healthy dose of creativity and in-depth expertise in order to achieve our goals.  

_wb: You are currently working in a test environment with a different focus: you are taking parental leave. How do you feel about your absence, and what are you particularly looking forward to when you’ll return to work?

Kevin Krey: ENERCON is very present even though I’m on leave. We keep in touch on a regular basis.  I continue to feel part of this ENERCON team that manufactures an excellent product with a strong impact on how our world works – after all, it turns wind into electricity – and I am passionate about contributing to this effort. This identification with the ‘ENERCON feeling’ is not just talk. You can tell by the way people treat each other: each team member is being heard and appreciated, regardless of whether they are a blue-collar worker or hold a PhD.

And the company also appreciates my commitment, my skills and my loyalty by not forcing me to choose between the needs of my family and my professional development – that is a valuable experience that I gained through my nine-month parental leave, which is not yet all that common for fathers, and which in turn has increased my appreciation for the company culture even more. We have always had constructive talks about my return to work. I’ve never got the feeling that taking this leave would cause me any disadvantages. And even after my return to work, I’ll be able to benefit from ENERCON’s flexible working hours. My supervisors and I have worked out a good solution that makes everybody happy. ENERCON has recognised that good work doesn’t have to be tied to a particular place or a limited time window. I consider that another huge advantage for myself as an employee.

Kevin Krey’s daily work requires close contact with the product.