cim logistics logo

Project management at CIM: An interview with Pirmin Weber

Project management at CIM: An interview with Pirmin Weber
Project management is one of these jobs everyone’s heard of, but very few people really understand what it involves. We spoke to someone who knows exactly what it’s all about: Pirmin Weber is a project manager at CIM and has spent the past five years supporting intralogistics projects for customers across multiple industries who work with PROLAG World.

Pirmin, you’re one of the younger team members at CIM. How long have you been working as a project manager?

I started at CIM in 2016 when I was 26. I studied business administration followed by a master’s in logistics and knew this was the field I ultimately wanted to work in. I wrote my master's thesis at CIM and they happened to be looking for project managers just as I was finishing. They offered me a job and I accepted it.

What was the onboarding process like at CIM?

I started off in the quality assurance department, or QA, and spent about three months there before actually being assigned to a project. The idea was to sort of watch and learn as I went along, but in actual fact there were quite a few tasks I was able to take on more or less straight away. According to the onboarding plan – which we try to stick to as much as possible – the onboarding phase lasts about a year. The time spent in QA is all about getting to know the software inside out. I learned exactly how the system works and what its limitations are. It’s the only way to get a feel for which solutions will work best to solve customers’ logistics issues. After that it’s a matter of becoming familiar with specific project management content – basic theoretical principles – and getting up to speed with the tools and programs we use at CIM as well as internal processes and workflows. You’re allocated to support a couple of projects so that you also get some practical experience. I’d say it takes about a year until you’re ready to manage a small project autonomously.

But now down to the nitty-gritty. What exactly does the project management team at CIM do?

We implement PROLAG World to manage our customers’ intralogistics. Broadly speaking, we’re responsible for a project from start to finish. In other words, we make sure that the project runs successfully right from the internal project kick-off stage. Our job starts once the sales department has completed the business side of things and the contractual details are finalised. As soon as the order has been placed, we generally start with the first process workshops where we align the requirements with the technical details. How can the customer’s needs best be met by the software from a logistics perspective? As soon as we’ve worked this out – and this is an important milestone – we have a clear software definition. Then it’s on to the main bulk of the project: configuration and development of the software and internal testing. During the final phase, we’re mostly on site at the customer’s warehouse for integration testing, user acceptance tests and go-live.

How long does the whole process usually take?

It very much depends on the scope of the project, which in turn depends on all sorts of different factors. As a rule of thumb, I’d say the average project takes 12-13 months. But we’ve also had projects that were completed in less than three months. There’s really no hard and fast rule.

What skills do you need to be a project manager at CIM, would you say?

I suppose you have to take a closer look at the specific tasks and activities to answer that. The job of project manager is divided into three roles, but at the moment each project manager fulfils all three roles. There’s the business analyst role, which is a conceptual approach, gathering a customer’s requirements and analysing or ‘translating’ them. What are the goals to be achieved with the new system? What are the underlying requirements? Then there’s the role of engineer, concerned with the technical implementation, in other words, working out the optimum software configuration for a customer’s specific intralogistics issues. And finally there’s the project lead role, responsible for the organisational side of things – time management, the business aspects of a project, i.e. whether it’s still within budget, internal controlling, and so on.

OK, those were tasks and activities... But what about the skills?

The skillset is very broad when you look at all the different roles. But if you’re interested in project management at CIM, there’s really only one thing that’s crucial: you have to be passionate about software. If you are, you’ll find it easy to pick up all the skills you need. It’s essential that you enjoy the work. Sitting at your computer most of the day picking things apart has to be something you find fulfilling. On the other hand, you spend a lot of time interacting with people of many different disciplines and functions. So you need to have good communication skills. A proactive approach to problem solving and a little assertiveness can also help. But these are all things you can learn.

Do you need programming skills?

No, you don't have to be able to program. It used to be a prerequisite of the job, so I have a few colleagues who can program and still do from time to time. But it’s not a must nowadays. The software is configurable and if that’s not enough, we have the development team to support us. A superficial understanding of software programming is definitely helpful, but you don’t have to be able to write code.

Have you ever experienced setbacks at work?

There are setbacks in any job. But the biggest source of frustration for a project manager is obviously when a project doesn’t go live successfully. This is something I’ve experienced first-hand, unfortunately. It’s certainly not easy but you have to be able to deal with it. So having a high frustration tolerance is another skill that’s useful. Normally, the successful completion of a project is the payback for all the work you’ve put in. After all the ups and downs and challenges, if everything works out well in the end, then you feel a certain emotional reward. It’s not nice if you don’t experience this, but luckily it’s rare. The majority of projects work are brought to a successful conclusion. Completing a project is always something very special and a goal I enjoy working towards.

What are the challenges you see in terms of project management at CIM?

The way project management is organised at CIM, we work a lot in close cooperation with our customers. This means that right from the initial negotiations to go-live and beyond, you’re the number one contact for all their needs and concerns as well as sometimes a target they use to vent their frustrations. Dealing with this adequately and then moving from the customer’s point of view to see CIM’s perspective can certainly be a challenge. Sometimes it’s just a matter of lending an ear – you won’t have an instant solution to every problem. Representing the customer and communicating their point of view internally is a key element.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The aspect I like most of all is working on site with the customer. Working as part of a team is something I really enjoy. I have a wide range of different tasks and that makes my job extremely diverse. The fact that I’m usually dealing with multiple different customers and projects at any one time means that no two days are the same. I have a lot of freedom and get to manage my own time, which is great. As a project manager, you have a wide range of influence right from inception to completion of a project. And there’s also lot of scope when it comes to how customer requirements are implemented in the software, so there’s plenty of room to unleash your creativity. This is an aspect of the job I thrive on and it makes for a lot of variety in my day-to-day working life.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Pirmin.

Latest news and press releases

CIM at Logistics & Automation in Dortmund

We attended year’s Logistics & Automation in Dortmund on May 24–25 to showcase the newest features of our warehouse management software PROLAG World. We also used the chance to give a group of students an exclusive insight into our corporate…

More information

Successful attendance at LogiMAT 2023

We were at LogiMAT 2023 in Stuttgart at the end of April to showcase the latest intralogistics solutions in our warehouse management software PROLAG World. Whether warehouse management, automation, hazardous goods management, production, shipping or transport – we provide optimal,…

More information