ModuleWorks was founded in 2003 in Aachen and is still located there today. This might seem astonishing at first – Aachen is not a city particularly known around the world, and certainly one of the last cities to be thought of as a metropole. But ModuleWorks is located there for good reasons.
The internationally acclaimed Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) is located in Aachen and the globally leading network for expats, InterNations, found out in a study that Aachen is the most popular city for expats in Germany. Aachen on place 20 ranked higher than German metropoles such as Munich (place 35) and Berlin (place 39). The WZL and expats from all over the world turn Aachen from a seemingly obscure city into an important hub for young and international innovators. The city is sometimes referred to as “Engineering Valley”, the engineering world’s equivalent to Silicon Valley in the USA.
This puts the location of ModuleWorks in a different light: the hometown of engineering innovators is also the hometown of ModuleWorks. The company itself is home to many expats with team members of 14 nationalities working together. In this light, ModuleWorks is taking a step further and constructing a second company building in Aachen. The construction of another building is the biggest investment in ModuleWorks’ entire history and a clear decision to enlarge the company’s facilities and workforce in Aachen. The new building offers additional open space for innovators and expats.
For many years, the ModuleWorks headquarters has been a place of innovation, but now the building itself will experience an innovation: the new ModuleWorks building will not replace the former, but will be connected right alongside it. Taking this step and investing in a new building is a major commitment that required time and careful consideration. The initial decision to create additional workspace was already made in 2019 but signing the contract had to be postponed due to the corona pandemic. Yet, despite all challenges, the commitment was retained.
There is more than innovation to the new building because it is expected to be finished in 2022. This a landmark year for ModuleWorks that marks the 25th anniversary of the 5-axis technology developed by the company’s founder, Dr. Yavuz Murtezaoglu. The development of this technology in 1997 was in many ways the foundation stone of the new building: the innovative 5-axis software made it possible to establish the company, and the continued success of the technology secured the revenue that allowed ModuleWorks to expand. The new building will accommodate new possibilities for further innovation: “We want to extend our additive, robotics and automation technology, and to do this we need more office and lab space”, explains the founder, Dr. Yavuz Murtezaoglu. By 2022, the team is expected to grow to 250 employees.
How much has happened in these 25 years can be seen by looking back to the beginning of the company’s journey. ModuleWorks started by renting offices in a neighboring street with a team that hardly comprised more than forty employees. Ten years later ModuleWorks moved from these rented offices to the current company headquarters. When this milestone was reached in 2012, the team was considerably smaller than it is now and two of the building’s four floors were rented to other companies to cover the costs of such a big building. This has now changed as the number of employees has grown significantly over the last ten years. Today, ModuleWorks occupies all four floors and if it wasn’t for the current pandemic and home office situation, the building would be bursting at the seams. Ten years after the milestone of moving to the current offices, the next milestone is being laid with the construction of an additional building.
In this ongoing journey of continuous growth and development, ModuleWorks is determined to stay true and faithful to its roots. Innovation and change are as much a part of the company’s philosophy as is tradition. This balance is equally important for customers and employees. “We had a customer survey recently that asked our customers how they perceive our company. What they described is that ModuleWorks is like a person that has both feet firmly on the ground, but that has their head up in the clouds”, recounts Yavuz.
Maintaining the balance between the polarities of change and tradition is hard to achieve, but ModuleWorks’ has done it successfully and the company’s efforts have been rewarded with economic growth. Another important success factor has been the strong research environment in Aachen. ModuleWorks was founded while Yavuz worked at the Laboratory for Machine Tools and studied at the Technical University of Aachen (RWTH). The Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) is an internationally acclaimed research institution that started to gain attention in 1948 when the first Aachen Machine Tools Colloquium (AWK) took place under the guidance of Herwart Opitz, the engineering professor who led the institute at the time. Shortly after its launch, the colloquium became an important platform for knowledge exchange between engineers, both nationally and internationally. Professor Opitz led the institute for 37 years until he retired in 1973 and handed it over to three of his chief engineers, Walter Eversheim, Wilfried König and Manfred Weck, who continued the world leading research on machine tools. They applied to the Fraunhofer Institute, the leading organization of applied research in Germany, to build another research institute in Aachen. Due to the high-quality research at the WZL, the application was successful and another acclaimed research institution settled in Aachen when the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT) was established in 1980.
This makes Aachen and ModuleWorks places where tradition and innovation meet and the new building is designed in exactly the same spirit. Constructed according to the KFW55 low energy standard and equipped with a sustainability certificate, the new building will connect nature and technology by incorporating plants on the roof as well as living greenery on the exterior staircase and outside façade. The roof will also have solar panels to generate renewable energy. The sustainable concept extends to employees with a room dedicated to relaxation and yoga, a childcare room and parts of the building solely dedicated to inter-personal communication. Sustainability is further enhanced by dividing up the parking lot with green areas and ModuleWorks offers subsidized public transport for employees. A dedicated area for storing bicycles further encourages sustainable transportation. In this way, the building creates benefits for all, humans and the environment. By connecting tradition and innovation in its location, its people and its facilities, this new building is truly what it promises to be: a place to grow and develop.