Graduate profile: Head of Quality and Technology
He combines a passion for chocolate with a fascination for the world of technology: Manfred Suter works at the Felchlin chocolate factory as head of Quality and Technology. The Master’s programme at the ZHAW School of Engineering prepared him for this challenging position.
Manfred Suter has already heard the comment countless times – but it somehow seems to suit him. He has a genuinely ‘sweet’ job. "When I make my morning rounds through the laboratory, two or three Grand Crus are usually offered for tasting," he says almost casually. Grand Crus are the particularly high-quality chocolates produced by the manufacturer Felchlin in the canton of Schwyz. As head of Quality and Technology, Manfred lays the foundation for the outstanding products that are used by bakeries, confectioneries, gastronomy establishments and in the food industry all around the world. He supervises the production processes and handles the integration of new production systems and the further development of existing processes. In this role, he manages a team of nine employees and coaches and supports them in their projects.
"I noticed that I was lacking the expertise in mathematics and physics required to analyse these processes thoroughly. Wanting to change that, I found the right higher education programme for me in the Master of Science in Engineering (MSE)."
The Master’s programme at the ZHAW School of Engineering prepared him for his challenging position which requires not only technical expertise but also experience in project management and leadership qualities. He reports: "I had already been working for some time in Felchlin’s Product Development division. Along with my main tasks, I followed the company philosophy by also handling side projects which were of personal interest to me. In my case, that was the crystallisation process of chocolate." At some point, however, he reached his limits in the research of this topic. "I noticed that I was lacking the expertise in mathematics and physics required to analyse these processes thoroughly. Wanting to change that, I found the right higher education programme for me in the Master of Science in Engineering (MSE).
Manfred was fascinated by the breadth of the study programme – and it still benefits him every day. "The diversity of the modules is decisive: Along with the scientific subjects, the MSE study programme uses what are referred to as ‘context modules’ to also teach skills in company management, law and communication." His Master’s thesis, however, the final paper of his studies, was particularly important to Manfred. Working with Thomas Hocker, his advisor at the Institute of Computational Physics (ICP) at the ZHAW School of Engineering, Manfred chose precisely the topic for his Master’s thesis which prompted him to start the Master’s programme in the first place: the crystallisation and the thermal processes involved in the cooling of chocolate. He was able to contribute his newly acquired knowledge as part of a project of Innosuisse (former CTI), in which numerous industrial partners were involved.
"The diversity of the modules is decisive: Along with the specialisation focus, the MSE study programme uses what are referred to as ‘context modules’ to also teach skills in company management, law and communication."
The CTI project is still in progress – with the participation of the ZHAW School of Engineering. Manfred, however, withdrew from the research sector for a while following his graduation at the top of his class and concentrated on the practical application of his newly acquired knowledge. He thus applied what he learned from his Master’s thesis to optimise the cooling channel at the Felchlin chocolate factory. "This has the advantage that we can save energy costs on the one hand, and also improve the quality of our chocolate by using an optimised cooling system on the other hand." The glistening bars of chocolate which are pushed piece by piece out of the cooling channel and which break with a hearty snap prove him right.