“There is great uncertainty in aviation”

At the ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research, even laboratories are currently operated remotely, reports Managing Director Roland Gerhards in an interview with Hamburg Aviation.

Hamburg Aviation: What changes have you introduced in your company?

“We have modified the building operations in the ZAL TechCenter to meet official regulations. This means that special safety and hygiene measures apply, under which operations can continue here in the research center. Even our restaurant is still open: with distance rules for the waiting queue and individual tables standing far apart. Greater restrictions actually only affect external visitors, to whom we are temporarily unable to grant access due to the risk of infection. As far as our in-house partners are concerned, each company decides for itself how to deal with the situation. Some have moved their work entirely to the home office, others work in changing teams.

At ZAL GmbH, an average of 2/3 of our employees currently work mobile from home, 1/3 of our colleagues work in rotation or like me every day here in the ZAL TechCenter. All of them are equipped with notebooks and can easily work via VPN client. The daily work routine may be unusual for some of them, but it’s quite effective. Everyone is highly motivated to do their part to ensure that ZAL GmbH keeps functioning well. This applies in particular to our research projects.”

How has the response from customers/employees been so far?

“Understandably, there is now great uncertainty in the aviation industry. This makes many tenants even more grateful that we are continuing to run the ZAL TechCenter. We have received a lot of positive feedback for this. Also for the fact that you can feel safe in the TechCenter. Even the occupational safety department has complimented our safety precautions in the ZAL.

Complete the sentence “Corona is an opportunity for us because…”

“…the situation requires new actions and new thinking. At ZAL GmbH, none of us would have thought that it would be so easy to work together from a home. The digital developments prove to be absolutely helpful: Our AI Aviation Lab, for example, can be operated remotely. Colleagues access sensors and computing units from home, carry out tests, and only come in sporadically for conversions.

And then we are reinventing our internal communication. The situation requires a close exchange of information, which we implement as a daily regular appointment between individual team representatives. In the past, the exchange often took place bilaterally or as a corridor radio. Thanks to the new form of communication we have a daily update from the teams. This, in turn, is the basis for controlling the flow of information. But we also take care of the informal exchange, for example through digital coffee breaks, polls, or internal challenges.

It remains to be seen whether we will integrate all this into our everyday work later on. However, many of the new solutions have already proven themselves.

Your tip for the Hamburg Aviation Community?

“This is also my tip for the community. Get involved in the new situation and change your perspective if necessary. This can lead to new ideas and solutions.

Many are already doing this by converting their production. But that is not all. We are currently experiencing that new topics are emerging and others are becoming more irrelevant, at least temporarily. You don’t have to be clairvoyant to understand Health Tech as a new overarching trend that will play a major role in aviation.”

Aviation Network Podcast:

In the Aviation Network Podcast, Roland Gerhards talked about the effects of COVID-19 on the research landscape in aviation, but also about the situation at the ZAL TechCenter. Listen in here now!


Hamburg Aviation