En route to the next job by cargo bike

En route to the next job by cargo bike

Riding along the dike with the wind at your back sounds idyllic. But lousy weather and squalls are the other side of the story. Getting about on the East Frisian islands is not all sunshine and roses. Nevertheless, service technician Hendrik Harms still thinks that he has got one of the best jobs in the world.

The qualified mechatronics engineer started working for Miele in 2016. “That was a real stroke of luck. I wanted a change of career and it just so happened that Miele was looking for a service technician in East Frisia at the same time.” It was the perfect region for family man Harms, who is based in Wittmund. Since then, he has been travelling around the north east of Lower Saxony every day, providing support to Miele Professional customers and their appliances. From the little café with its single dishwasher through to hotels with their own laundries and commercial kitchens – he covers an impressive range of scenarios. “The one thing they all have in common is the high level of reliability they require; after all, that's why they decided to purchase Miele appliances in the first place. But other than that, every appointment is different”, reports Harms. As a service technician at Miele, he not only carries out regular maintenance on existing machines to help ensure a long product life, but also commissions new products, adapting them to the customer's needs and the local conditions.

Harms’ journey is often anything but ordinary. You see, not only does he have to travel around the mainland; he is also responsible for customers on the East Frisian islands: “Primarily, I look after Wangerooge, Spiekeroog, Langeoog and Baltrum. But if I have to stand in for colleagues while they are on holiday, the islands of Borkum, Juist and Norderney sometimes also get added to the mix.” As a result of having island-based customers, Hendrik Harms has become an avid weather watcher.

Change in the weather = change of plan

“I have to check how to get from A to B every day and sometimes even every hour. Sudden fog or storms result in ferries and flights being cancelled, regardless of any bookings you have made”, explains the service technician. “Flexibility is an absolute must when travelling on the islands. Because of the high and low tides, the timetables change every day anyway.“ Harms remains in very close contact with his customers. “It is true cooperation. But that is absolutely essential because the unusual nature of the journey means that I need to be able to plan tools and spare parts in advance whenever possible. In this regard, it helps to remain in close communication and have an opportunity to ask detailed questions. If, for example, I discover that I need some special socket spanners or sealing rings, I can add them to my standard island kit beforehand."

The seals that say hello

Although the journey by boat has become part of the daily routine, it has lost none of its magic. “Instead of sitting in traffic in Hamburg, you will find me leaning on the ship's rail watching the seals on the sand bank. It may sound like a scene from a film, but it really is my commute to work”, says the service technician enthusiastically. “OK, I only really see the beach in passing and am out and about in all weathers, but that doesn't take away the fun of the job.“

Hendrik Harms loves his home region so much that he even spent his last autumn holiday on an East Frisian island: “The whole family hired a cargo bike and we spent a week touring around Borkum. It was fascinating to discover how easily you could clock up dozens of kilometres.” In fact, he found it so fascinating that – in addition to launching a year-long family project that meant having to complete all day-to-day household tasks within the local rural area without a family car – he also pushed for the purchase of a cargo bike to help him in his job. His efforts proved successful: “I received the full support of my line manager. That kind of respect is not something that you can take for granted and I am chuffed to bits.“

A cargo bike instead of a sack truck

The purchase of the cargo bike makes the service technician's work substantially easier. “Previously, I would often use a handpulled sack truck on the pedestrianised islands, but with the cargo bike I now have significantly more load capacity for my equipment and I can get around more quickly.” His tool box has been specially adapted to the wheel requirements. “It's not as if I can just pop to the car to fetch a set of spanners. And so I always make sure I have the key things I need and I rely heavily on universal pliers or spanners.”

The matching multi-functional Miele uniform was supplied with the bike and is appropriately sporty. “Even if you had an electric bike, you wouldn't be able to ride for 25 kilometres in a thick down jacket”, smiles Harms. As soon as the schedule allows him to do so, he also switches from his van to the cargo bike when on the mainland. “After a bike ride like that, I am all smiles when I arrive at the customer's site; all that fresh air and exercise does me so much good. And even though I am absolutely shattered by the end of the day, I come home with a grin on my face because I have had a chance to switch off a bit during the return journey.“

Sustainable mobility

The new service is going down well with Miele customers: “Many of them think it's great that I get around by bike.” The people who run the BIO HOTEL Strandeck on the island of Langeoog are a good example. The Recktenwald family have been managing this certified organic hotel (BIO HOTEL) since 2014. “We focus holistically on sustainability and so it is wonderful that our customer service representative uses such an environmentally friendly form of transport as well”, explains owner Maike Recktenwald. This hotel overlooking the dunes is not just powered by green electricity, but – among other things – only uses certified cleaning products throughout the entire complex. For breakfast, the guests are served sausage and cheese specialties from East Frisia, home-made seaberry quark and freshly baked rolls – and, of course, those are all organic as well. The family's attention to detail reflects a desire for greater sustainability and responsibility when it comes to the natural life of the island. Therefore, they attach a great deal of importance to every little contribution made, such as a service technician with an environmentally friendly cargo bike.

Hendrik Harms carries out maintenance jobs mainly in the winter months. “It is then that I often end up spending several days on the islands in a row. At that time of year, things are quieter for my customers and so they can schedule maintenance appointments effectively.” In December and January, the weather can sometimes put a spoke in his wheel because ice and snow prevent him from using the cargo bike. “Conditions like that are just too dangerous for the bike, although the wind and rain don't stop me from getting about”, explains the service technician. “They don't bother me at all. I just love the journey itself. When I ride across the dike from Bensersiel to Esens, I see the dew glistening on the grass to my right and the canal on my left … and there's nothing better.“

Further information

Hendrik Harms

...is a qualified mechatronics engineer and has been working for Miele as a service technician since 2016. From his home town of Wittmund in Lower Saxony, he visits customers in nearby towns, such as Wilhelmshaven and the towns of the East Frisian islands. Since autumn 2019, Hendrik Harms has been using a cargo bike as often as possible to get to his appointments on the islands. It comes in particularly handy on the pedestrianised islands of Wangerooge, Langeoog, Baltrum and Spiekeroog. The bike has a very large load capacity. As a result, the total permissible weight for the bike, its rider and the cargo is 280 kg. And this is truly needed because Harms regularly carries 70 kg of luggage with him in the form of tools and spare parts.

Bio-Hotel Strandeck

  • Built in 1959
  • Owned by the Recktenwald family since 2007, run as a bed and breakfast hotel
  • 36 rooms, 76 beds, 14 employees, 1 swimming pool
  • The only organic hotel on Langeoog
  • From its green electricity and its certified laundry, dishwashing and room cleaning products through to the organic breakfast, natural cosmetics and recycled paper – the Strandeck puts sustainability at the heart of everything it does
  • Officially organically certified since 2014 (100 % organic, member of the BIO HOTELS Association, inspected every six months, www.biohotels.info)
  • www.biohotel-strandeck.de

Welcome & Stay

This article is part of our magazine "Welcome & Stay". You are welcome to download it. You can find this article on pages 8-12

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