Eric Schieblich studied water management with a focus on waste water treatment at TU Dresden and has been the managing director of OLOID Solution GmbH since June 2019.
What led you to the Neuguss Group?
The future topics relating to water management are primarily microplastic, micropollutants (especially pharmaceutical residues) and the energy efficiency of waste water treatment plants. As part of my master’s thesis at TU Dresden in collaboration with FHNW University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland in Muttenz, I chose the subject of micropollutants and monitored a pilot plant in Switzerland. At the same time I worked at Inversions-Technik GmbH and was first introduced to the oloid on the recommendation of a friend and now colleague here at OLOID, Lars Richter. As an engineer, I first had to convince myself that there was a technology that was 50 per cent more efficient than what could be found in textbooks. So, what brought me here was a great fascination with geometry, process engineering and ultimately, of course, with the product. But just as important if not critical was the way in which business is considered at Neuguss – as something sustainable for the future, instead of how it is commonly thought of, especially in the segment in which I work, as an area solely focused on maximising profit.
The oloid is a geometric object that is the result of inversion – it follows the lines created by an inverted cube. Admittedly, one has to think outside the box to reach this revelation, right?
It’s actually pretty hard to comprehend without a model. As well as oloids from cubes, there are many other forms that emerge from geometric objects and are used in architecture, for example. Paul Schatz really did a great job with his work! The fascination for me here lies primarily in ‘thinking differently to others’. Generally, propellers are used as agitators in water management, and I have often been asked why we don’t use propellers. But have you even seen a fish with a propeller? Of course not. Nature shows us the way. And instead of adjusting, optimising and trying out the existing model (in our case, the propeller) again and again – as science is wont to do these days – we take a completely new approach. History has shown that real innovations most often come from completely different, new ideas. In this respect, it’s really worth thinking outside the box. This kind of experimentation always runs the risk of failure, of course, but it is exactly this kind of courage that is needed to bring new things into the world. Neuguss provides space for this.
Which spaces do you want to open up as the managing director at OLOID?
Eight years ago I could not have imagined that I would be in this position. I see it as a great gift! But it comes with great responsibility. Peter Piechotta once said to me: ‘We can support you, but in the end you have to bring the oloid to the world.’ I see one of the major responsibilities in my role as encouraging employees. You have to recognise their potential, see and allow space for new ideas, encourage creativity, contribution and collaboration, and persevere with them. Every individual is an important part of the value creation chain as a whole, from ideas to their application. Making space so that each person can contribute meaningfully to the success of our company and at the same time further their personal development is probably my main responsibility. But I also see that as crucial in our supplier meetings – showing each individual on-site what their contribution to the overall operation is. We have heard from many suppliers that they have never experienced this kind of involvement before and find it to be very enriching.
When supporting and challenging people, it is important not to overwhelm them. Everywhere, we see that overburdening leads to imbalance, which also has health implications. Other business practices are necessary from a salutogenic perspective too.
A water treatment plant that used the oloid was used to deal with the flood disaster in the Ahr Valley. How did that come about?
We have to go a little further back to explain that. The flooding in Haiti demonstrated in a disastrous way that emergency responses comprised providing medical aid and clean drinking water, but that sewage disposal had never been addressed as part of this. The International Red Cross was then faced with this issue when there was a dramatic cholera outbreak during an emergency relief deployment that affected the entire island. The International Red Cross was then set the task of including not just drinking water but also waste water management in its emergency relief package. Many large engineering firms pitched for this topic, but none wanted to start drafting ideas without charging a hefty bill for consulting. At the suggestion of our partner Kurt Saygin, we asked ourselves why we shouldn’t do it. After all, we had just the right expertise with knowledge of waste water disposal and the challenges involved. So, five years ago, together with the three companies involved (Saygin engineering, Butyl Products Ltd Group and Sigmund Lindner GmbH) we developed a model for a mobile waste water treatment plant that was then trialled by the International Red Cross in Bangladesh in the world’s largest refugee camp. We invested around three years’ work in it and essentially made no money from it. But our pretence was that we had to do something because we had the expertise in waste water technology. As the test phase in Bangladesh was a success, the German Red Cross approached us and commissioned two large waste water treatment plants, or rather, the technology for them, which were to be used abroad. Then the disaster in the Ahr Valley occurred during the delivery phase. This meant that the technology the German Red Cross had was used there, even though this meant that it wouldn’t reach its intended destination abroad for the time being.
The Technische Hilfswerk and other civil aid organisations have now expressed an interest, and nowadays we even make money from it. Our technology is also present at the former Berlin Tegel Airport in the form of a mobile waste water treatment plant at the welcome and distribution centre for Ukrainian refugees run by the German Red Cross.
What does your work at Neuguss mean to you?
As already mentioned, I see it as a great gift! Not that I take it for granted – I have great respect for it. But maybe they go hand in hand. Just like the enduring question of how you can make a contribution to society from within the industry. A psychologist once defined inversion as ‘the psychological description of human life’. For me, it’s the ‘allegory of life’ and the joy of living maths.
ZDF-Morgenmagazin: A new sewage treatment plant for the Ahr Valley