An Analog Guy with Digital Skills

Jaroslav Kocik can’t stop being lean – whether at work or at home.

Jaroslav Kocik has been lean all his life, organizing, reorganizing, and doing things a little bit more efficiently each time. But it wasn’t until he became an engineer that he understood that lean was a concept with a name. He loved it so much he became a Six Sigma Green Belt.

In 2015, he joined Fortaco in Holíč, Slovakia, as a Project Coordinator, became a Quality Leader, and joined Fortaco’s Operations Development team in 2019. His current role calls for total dedication to production flow and optimization both in Holíč and beyond.

“There are digital guys, and there are analog guys,” says Kocik about Fortaco’s Operations Development team. “I mostly focus on analog, but I possess digital skills, making me kind of a hybrid.” Being a hybrid has advantages. It means he can transition easily between the two worlds, taking tools from one to apply in the other. “I use Power BI to collect and make sense of production data. I design 3D production models and then use a virtual reality plug-in that allows me to climb inside them.” These cutting-edge tools aren’t just for the Operations Development team, either. “We want to use VR for training machine operators, in particular painters,” he says. “Before they work on a real product, we can check their hand movements, teach the right sequences, and ensure we get the right thickness of paint.” 

Jaroslav makes both decorative and functional items. This is a picture for the family’s wall made using a milling machine.*

Ideas like these have already paid off significantly in the Holíč factory. Before 2019, cabin production was done in cells. A cabin was started and finished in a single cell. The most complicated cabin took about 20 hours to make, an average one 10. “Such a long, stationary process allowed waste to be hidden,” he says. “Our team decided to divide the process into a takt time baseline system using small units, where we could more easily identify any problems.” Currently, cabins move through a sequence of six cells. “When we started, the first cell’s takt time was 45 minutes. Today, it is 38 minutes.” Kocik recognizes that slashing production time at a single work station by around 20 percent using the same number of operators is a remarkable achievement, and it’s bolstered his confidence to look for more opportunities.

A pencil holder Jaroslav made for his daughter using his CNC milling machine. It’s 2mm plywood glued and painted.

After four years of changes, factory turnover increased dramatically. “We have two welding robots now, we added a second assembly line, we’re adding more takt-time-based lines, and building a new production hall,” says Kocik. “Everyone now can see that efficient production means that we can grow and expand. Holíč is a very exciting place to work.”

When you’re a true lean practitioner, you never leave your job at the office. At home, Kocik is a DIY enthusiast who owns a small milling machine, laser cutting machine, and a 3D printer. But his tendency to make everything efficient doesn’t seem to annoy his wife. To the contrary, his family encourages his vice.

Jaroslav wasn’t satisfied with the sharpness of his kitchen knives (he was sharpening by hand), so he made this knife sharpener using a 3D printer. The design (available on the web) uses magnets to keep the knife at the proper angle.*

He has made a variety of decorative objects and toys, but also produces objects that help organize the house and make everyday life better—see the photos in this article! “I get a lot of ideas from my family,” he says. But he also seems like a guy who gets a lot of ideas no matter where you find him.