30. April 2019

Old Hands of the Analytical Sciences in Adlershof

Eurofins SOFIA and ACI Analytical Control Instruments show that tradition and innovation are by no means mutually exclusive

An employee in the final assembly of photoionization detectors in the production of ACI. Credit: © WISTA Management GmbH

Analytical sciences institutes and companies have a long tradition in Adlershof. Eurofins SOFIA and ACI Analytical Control Instruments have been active on the campus for 25 years and show that tradition and innovation are by no means mutually exclusive.

Residue in organic food - a focused search for tiny amounts of the broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate found in vegetables - soil contamination. While important 25 years ago, these issues have become even more relevant today. “There is an increasing consumer awareness and many call for more food safety. This is having a great impact on the market,” says Peter Schlüsche. He is the chief executive of Eurofins SOFIA, a laboratory analytics service provider, which has been part of the global Eurofins laboratory network since 2006. Based in Adlershof since 1993, the company now has 120 employees and attained 12 million euros in sales last year.

With ecological awareness and legal requirements on the rise, Eurofins SOFIA GmbH grew – as did its range of tasks. “Our analytics services now comprise more than 1,500 analyses,” says Schlüsche. One of these services is the chemical analysis of common foodstuffs. Moreover, the company’s experts examine a multitude of samples from agriculture and food processing as well as water, soil, and materials. The company also saw a rise in customer expectations: the people want more and more detailed analyses in less time.

This is not an instance of squaring the circle. Instead, it pushes to company towards continuous innovation and optimised organisation: “These include, on the one hand, systematic application of lean management methods to improve our workflow and reduce down time,” explains Schlüsche, “on the other hand, we put a lot of effort into developing new and optimising existing analytics procedures to ensure reduced processing times.” Processes that took several weeks not so long ago are now completed in just a few days.

None of this were possible without a highly motivated crew. The company leaves no stone unturned to find qualified employees: “In addition to our own website and company networks, we activate the Adlershof job portal and other professional networking websites” explains CEO Schlüsche. An internship can also help to get one’s foot in the door. “We have close contacts to many of the region’s universities and offer mentorship of BA, MA, and PhD theses,” he says.

As the head of the measurement device manufacturer ACI Analytical Control Instruments, Olaf Herrmann considers himself lucky not to have to comb through the job market for qualified employees: with only two employees leaving the company in 25 years, fluctuation is almost nil. Newcomers are tapped directly at the source: many students who intern or graduate at ACI. Herrmann is responsible for the university contacts. He sits on the research board of the HTW University of Applied Sciences, which is a valuable resource.

Specialists are particularly popular: the measurement devices based on photoionisation are developed, manufactured and marketed by an 11-strong team in Adlershof. Manufacturing companies use them to prevent the undetected release of high concentrations of harmful or explosive gasses. To do this, hydrocarbon molecules are ionised using high-energy UV light. The effect: the more electrons are dissolved out of the material, the higher the measurable current flow – and the concentration of volatile molecules, for example, solvents.

The measuring devices are sold primarily to Southeast Asia. “There has been a stark increase in security requirements during the last 25 years and we must adhere to more norms and guidelines,” says Herrmann. “The customers, on the other hand, don’t necessarily want to understand the technology. They want solutions and their problems taken care of.” This is what the Adlershof-based experts aim to provide, whose collaborative and dynamic efforts have remained constant over the years. Herrmann sees no need to change a working system: “We don’t have plans for expansion. We appreciate working with a friendly and intimate team.”

By Chris Löwer for Adlershof Journal