Conquering Fear On and Off the Factory Floor

Mateusz Kożuch likes extreme sports because they teach him about the nature of fear. And that has application on the factory floor.

They call it a “dream jump,” though you’ve got to be a special kind of dreamer to climb hundreds of meters up a tower and leap, free falling 90 percent of the way down before a system of dynamic ropes and pulleys bring you to a halt. Fortaco’s Mateusz Kożuch is that kind of person. And he’s equally enthusiastic about manufacturing.

Kożuch got his first taste of production at Toyota, where he started as a trainee on the factory floor, responsible for the development of databases that kept track of foundry machines and mold breakdowns. At the time, he was a recent electronic engineering graduate with a knowledge of IT, and he was puzzled that he hadn’t been assigned to the IT department. “But I quickly realized it was a great opportunity, because I was developing a tool for people in production. I could make the database work for the people who actually used it.” After his trainee program, he stayed with Toyota as a freelancer hired to develop digital tools. “I loved discovering the manufacturing world through Toyota eyes,” he says. “And, when I joined Fortaco, I was very happy to see that we use a lot of Toyota thinking in our production.”

Kożuch works in Operations Development. He’s based in Wrocław, though the OD team travels all over to Fortaco business sites, working closely with the people they build solutions for. He considers it one of OD’s missions to free people from boring or unnecessary tasks. “When OD began,” he says, “we were mainly focused on the production environment. But now we’ve branched out to focus on quality, finance, and even HR.” Wherever there’s a job to be made more efficient, Kożuch is interested.

For HR, the OD team has developed a succession planning application. It allows local and global HR leaders to assess the criticality of positions, and then create a succession plan. “The app lets us track competences and make sure the ones needed for a position are developed,” Kożuch says. “If HR thinks the position of Application Development Specialist is critical, for example, then we’d need to make sure we’ve developed power apps and power automate skills in a potential successor. The app helps us create a plan and assign training. It’s a great tool to help the company be ready for change.”

In his spare time, Kożuch is attracted to things that at first appear intimidating—like adrenaline sports. “When you have confirmation that what you’re doing is safe, then everything else is just in our heads and we can confront our fears. That’s what keeps me coming back.” He recently climbed 222 meters to the top of a decommissioned chimney in Głogów, where he leapt into thin air. “It was six seconds of free falling.”

He finds parallels on the factory floor. “It’s all in how you look at things. Some look at a goal and see obstacles. But in OD we’d never say that something is impossible.” In fact, everything is possible is our unofficial motto, but Kożuch wants to keep that quiet. “If we advertise it too loudly, it will create more work than we can ever do!”