A Fascination with Teamwork

Fortaco Operational Development’s Kamil Zdeb studies motorsports to learn about improvement in teamwork.

When he studied computer science in university, Kamil Zdeb learned to use machine learning to detect predisposition to heart attacks. Now, he’s putting that experience to work for Fortaco. “When you compare medicine to industry,” he says, “the problems are different but the solutions are similar. Machine learning and data analysis can be used to solve production problems, too.”

Recently, Zdeb developed a proof-of-concept heat map of Fortaco’s Jaszbereny plant. Also called a spaghetti diagram, an overhead camera records all movements of employees. “Based on this video, we can see where people are moving, optimize routes, and move tools to more convenient places, for example,” says Zdeb. “It’s not a factory-dependent tool, and we’ll use it wherever we think there’s a problem we can solve with it. Operational Development’s role is to be out in front, to be proactive. It’s important to have solutions ready for use.”

In the year and a half Zdeb has worked with Operational Development (OD), things have changed a lot. “We no longer advertise our services, and people come to us. They know what we can do.” He says the OD team has more work than it can handle, so like a medical team in triage, they have to evaluate the patients. “We evaluate two things when choosing projects. First, how much will it help, and, second, how engaged they are with making the best tool possible—because actions speak louder than words.”

Zdeb has a fascination with the way human beings work together, in both work settings and beyond. Outside of work, he’s developed a fascination with racing, IndyCar in particular, the highest class of regional North American open-wheel racing. (Like Formula 1 but with a wider range of tracks. F1 cars maneuver faster, but IndyCars have a higher top speed.)

Motorsports and industry are similar, Zdeb says, in the way cooperation leads to constant improvement and better performance. “I’m not a gearhead who knows about the internal workings of the cars. But I really appreciate the machines they’re building and the way the teams cooperate to achieve their results. Since IndyCars are pretty similar – they can only develop some components – the differences in performance come from how well the engineers cooperate and how they work with the driver.”

Using similar tools to those he employs at Fortaco, Zdeb analyzed 2022 statistics available on the IndyCar website. “I analyzed how every driver competed, the circuits he competed in, the distribution of top finishes, and I reached the conclusion that hiring the right people and equipping them with the proper tools are major factors in success. All other things equal, the best teams win.” He also reached a conclusion about perception levels, “When someone is either the best or the worst, we’re likely to remember him if he’s having a good season. But the drivers who are consistently good seem to fly under our radar.”

If there’s a lesson there for the industrial race, it may be that glory isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A team that’s firing on all cylinders may not get the attention it deserves, but it may be doing some of the best work in the industry.