The Coordinator

We all have our idea of a custodian. They scurry through the buildings, use their wrench here, and pinch the pliers there. A conversation with Günther Süllow clears up a misconception. The good spirit at the University of Bremen is the function master for facility management. But his most important tool is not his toolbox, however – it’s his keyboard and monitor.

The Man in the Green Jacket

If something is broken – door sticks, light doesn’t work, power outlet has no juice – write to Mr. Süllow. He sits in his office in the basement among the shelves of the State and University Library. He collects the tickets – as he refers to the error messages – on the screen and forwards them to the correct places. He has been coordinating digitally for three years. “We do minor repairs very quickly,” emphasizes the friendly man in the green jacket, whom almost everyone in the northeastern area of the campus knows. Sportturm [Sports Tower], “Keksdose” [Cookie Tin], Unicom, Cognium, and Seminar- und Forschungsverfügungsgebäude [Seminar and Research Building] are five of the ten buildings and facilities for which he is responsible. “Aldi is also set to join us,” says the function master. This is his personal working title for the new twin buildings on Universitätsallee, which will be occupied by the Faculty of Economics and the discount store in September. Everything has only recently been finished, so hardly any defects are to be expected, but: “A new employee is coming and a schedule for necessary maintenance needs to be set.”

Started in 1989 in the Sportturm

Six function masters are responsible for coordinating the technical repairs on campus, divided into four grid squares according to cardinal points. Eight employees – electricians and plumbers – work for Günther Süllow in the eastern quadrant. His professional training is as an electrician. “I started when I was 14,” says the 58-year-old, who grew up in the small village of Schwarme in the Diepholz district. Since 2014, he has lived with his wife in Bremen’s Horn district and, every morning, he takes his e-bike to work. He started at the university in 1989 in the Sportturm [Sports Tower]. It may be showing the ravages of time, but it is still his favorite among the buildings. His roots, so to speak. Together with his colleagues, he also monitors the water treatment of the indoor swimming pool and checks whether the chlorine mixture is right – a task that he will remove from his workload once the facility is closed.

“Imminent Danger”

“In the past, our work was done by an engineer,” says Günther Süllow, “but he then had fewer buildings to look after.” Now he is burdened by the growing density of work, but he loves his job very much. “Actually, I am supposed to sit at the computer for three quarters of my working time and be on the go for a quarter,” he says. But it is exactly the other way around. The manager and coordinator is constantly moving back and forth between the buildings. “I have to look at some repair reports first,” he explains. If he discovers a deficiency somewhere, he writes a ticket himself. Aside from the daily small stuff, there are also bigger breakdowns. Süllow calls it “Imminent danger – immediate action.” For example, a power outage in the electrical outlets. “If someone connects a faulty tea kettle, it triggers the ground fault interrupter.” For the laypeople: this is a fault current circuit breaker that reacts to the short circuit. “All computers are off; users can’t do anything,” says Süllow. Then the clock is ticking. Or when a pipe bursts. “We take initial measures to ensure that the water can flow off in a regulated manner and then pass it on to construction maintenance.”

Preventive E-Mails

With his e-mails to all employees, called “e-posting,” Günther Süllow also works preventively. “Typical odors of paints and varnishes can occur in the course of the work,” he writes, for example. “After consultation with the contractor, the paint does not pose a health hazard!” In addition to digital communication, the modest man can still be contacted in person. “Morning, Mr. Süllow, the electric clock at the entrance is stuck, could you ... ?” The next day, the hands are moving correctly again.

Günther Süllow in front of the "Sportturm"
Günther Süllow in front of "Sportturm"