True Believer

Agnieszka Koziara’s goal is to create conditions that allow teams to play to win, rather than playing not to lose.

Fifteen years ago Agnieszka Koziara began her career as an executive assistant. Her direct supervisor was from Sweden. "As a Pole it came as a huge surprise to me that you could work with people without giving orders,” she says. “My boss gave me lots of freedom.”

As fate would have it, a career move gave her a second direct superior who was also Swedish. “I wanted to be like them. I wanted to work with people who had their own mind and own ideas, and I wanted to bring out the best in people."

Playing to win

In 2014, Koziara was invited to join Fortaco’s human resources team, and having never forgotten her Swedish bosses and the work cultures they created, she found Fortaco’s culture to be familiar. Today she’s Fortaco’s People & HR Director.

“My Swedish bosses made me a believer that you have to give people the freedom to take risks and make mistakes. When you’re taking risks then you’re playing to win. Otherwise, you’re just playing not to lose.”

She says Fortaco is full of like-minded believers, despite the fact they come from a wide variety of cultures.

Strategy for a winning culture

Koziara works regularly with people from Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Slovakia, and Finland, and within each of these cultures are generational differences. Accommodating those differences is one of the challenges that she relishes.

“Each environment has a different reality and there is no one good way to deal with everyone. What’s critical is that you find enough time to listen to everyone and hear their proposals for change. As an organization we can't dictate how people must behave. We should give guidance and work together to build our own reality."

Take safety, for example. "We'd like to have zero accidents, however our work environment can be quite dangerous. You reach zero accidents by increasing safety awareness. But you can’t do that by organizing training sessions alone. In addition, you’ve got to interact daily with your coworkers, explaining why safety issues are important, and why shortcuts are not necessarily a good idea. In private life, we do everything possible to keep our families safe. Work should be no different."

These conversations go better when everyone is on the same page, and at Fortaco that page is the company’s core value of respect. “We’re all believers in this vision, and Fortaco's vision and strategy are key in empowering our employees to choose the right direction.”


Culture is also key when confronting business challenges. In Koziara’s role coordinating HR at the group level, her challenge twofold. First, she readies the staff for an environment of change, since change is the only certainty in business. Second, she’s charged with attracting young people to Fortaco. “We’re competing with the IT industry for young people. Those with us tend to have real experience and know-how we can’t find on the market. We need to treat them with great respect, and it’s critical to show appreciation for them.”

There are more direct measures, too. "We know technology is something that attracts young people to work, so we’re investing in welding robots and other modern solutions. We also want to make the production environment less dirty. But above all is our culture. Everyone has the freedom to share ideas and sometimes make mistakes.”

Koziara says feedback is particularly important to young people. “They get feedback when something is done wrong, but not always when something’s done right. We’re always working to improve that.” To make sure feedback runs both ways, each year Koziara invites employees to European Work Council meetings and to take part in joint initiatives.

Creating leaders

“The Fortaco culture is about creating leaders,” she says. “A leader isn’t a person with a title, but a person who illuminates a direction and allows others to use their own skills to get there.”

Her two Swedish bosses once made Agnieszka Koziara a believer. And now it’s her job to create more believers within Fortaco. "If you’re working with believers, then it's much easier to move forward.”

Can safety be measured?

Better Ways to Measure Safety

Days Without Accidents posters may be common in industry, but counting accident-free days does little if anything to prevent accidents.

"Traditional manufacturing safety programs deal with negative information, says Andras Csizmazia, Head of QHSE at Fortaco. “If that’s how we think about safety, then it means the best result is when we hear nothing at all.”

Of course, the seemingly obvious approach is to celebrate those accident-free days. (Fortaco’s cabin vehicle assembly plant in Holíč, Slovakia, has over 888 accident-free days. A unit in Sepänkylä has over 5,000 days!) But factory workers can be as superstitious as 18th-century sailors, and a celebration can be viewed as inviting an accident.

From lagging to leading

Like days without accidents, loss time injury rate or frequency (LTIF) is another lagging indicator of safety. It’s expressed in hours lost per one million working hours. It’s not bad to measure it – manufacturing in Finland averages an LTIF of 30, according to – but like all lagging indicators, it measures only a lack of safety.

Since accident-free days and LTIF are both easy to understand and measure, it’s unlikely the measure will soon be fully replaced. “We’ll of course continue to use lagging indicators, because they’re accurate, and make it simple to benchmark ourselves,” says Csizmazia. “But they’re not of help to predict the future or take actions to change outcomes.”

Heinrich's triangle was one of the first attempts to create a leading indicator of safety. This theory of industrial accident prevention, developed in the 1931, posits that if the number of minor accidents is reduced there will be a corresponding fall in the number of serious accidents. After studying 75,000 accident reports, Heinrich concluded that there is one major injury accident for every 29 minor injury accidents, and for every 300 no-injury accidents.

Larissa Shabunova, Managing Director at Fortaco Estonia, routinely tracks three KPIs at her factories in Narva: number of accidents, near misses, and unsafe behavior. As she works further down the list, the indicators transition from lagging to leading.

In practice, less unsafe behavior and fewer near misses translate to fewer lost-time accidents. Shabunova knows that if she can convince a worker to stop riding a palette jack as if it were a recreational scooter, she will reduce serious accidents.

Fortaco’s Agnieszka Koziara, Senior Vice President of People & HR with Fortaco Group, is also a believer in tracking near misses. “KPIs of risk behavior are the key to unlocking the mindset.” She says zero tolerance for accidents has to be more than just a slogan. “We can’t stop with the motto and pretty words. We’ve got to have zero tolerance for unsafe behavior.”

A new KPI: measuring ideas

Near misses and incidences of unsafe behavior are easy enough to count, but only if employees report them. Adam Czerwiec, General Manager of Fortaco’s Wrocław Steel Fabrications plant, and his team decided to create a new KPI: ideas. Czerwiec’s management team regularly collects ideas for changes from the plant’s 400 blue collar workers.

Ideas are written on a whiteboard on the factory floor and systematically addressed before being erased. “We’re trying to show that all ideas are most welcome, and we’ll at least try to fix the problem, says Czerwiec. “This demonstrates that the workers’ ideas are important. Sometimes, with small issues, we encourage them to help us fix the problem, so it doesn’t just become a worker complaint board.”

Many critical ideas are received, and no idea is too trivial. Last summer, requests were addressed to put drinking water on the production line on hot days. Another request was to remedy missing toilet paper. “The process shows that every worker can be an influencer,” he says. But it’s not only psychological. The ideas serve as a leading indicator.

Czerwiec’s team counts the number of ideas that come from employees, and tracks from which employee group they come. “We still get most ideas from white collar employees and the safety department,” he says. “But our goal for Wroclaw is to be challenged and supported by our blue collar workers in safety.”

No matter how you measure it

For the near future, near miss and safety observation reporting may represent the best indicators for both improving safety and changing culture. But no matter what your leading indicator, no one disagrees that success depends on safety becoming a personal commitment for everyone in the organization.

“People are eager to raise their hands and say ‘this is unsafe,” says Andrzej Wrona, Fortaco’s Director of Operational Excellence. “But once you identify these things management has to react immediately. If you don’t, people will think you’re not serious.”

Fortaco operations solid and safe

Following the outbreak of the Corona virus Covid-19, European governments have taken several health-related border management measures and limitations to people and businesses. The aim is to protect citizens' health and make sure that essential goods and services remain available.

Fortaco has also taken measures to keep our people, working places, and operations safe. We have imposed number of restrictions at our factories to protect our people and prevent infection. We are closely following local regulations and recommendations made by local authorities.

To confirm our earlier messages, we are not experiencing any major disturbances in our operations, and supply chain, and we are continuing with the normal production output. We are in a close communication with our customers and suppliers to secure smooth production and delivery of goods.

We will continue to update all our stakeholders as developments occur, but in the meantime, we hope everyone remains safe and healthy and would like to thank everybody for continued support.

Please do not hesitate to contact local Fortaco representatives for more information.

Marcus Engman
Senior Vice President
Marketing and Sales

Corona virus update, 18 March

Following the outbreak of the Corona virus Covid-19, the European Commission presented guidelines to Member States on health-related border management measures in the context of the COVID-19 emergency on 16 March. The aim is to protect health of citizens, ensure right treatment of people who have to travel, and make sure all essential goods and services remain available.

In all countries, Fortaco has manufacturing operations, there are limitations to enter the country. In addition, kindergartens, schools and universities, as well as public spaces and places are closed for the time being. However, it is important to note that these control measures are not causing any serious disruptions for international transportation.

We are closely monitoring order intake and supply chain situation and try to limit exposure to our operations. So far, we have not experienced any major disturbances in our operations and supply chain, and we are able to continue with normal production output. However, we are connected to the real situation and able to make appropriate actions quickly.

Fortaco has also taken extraordinary measures, based on the best available knowledge and equipment, to keep our people, working places and operations safe. We have imposed number of restrictions in our factories to protect our people and prevent infection. So far, we have not experienced any major bottlenecks in our processes, and our factories are free from the Covid-19 virus.

We will continue updating all our stakeholders as development occurs, but in the meantime, we hope everyone remains healthy and safe. We would like to thank everybody for continued support.

Please do not hesitate to contact local Fortaco representatives for more information.

Kind regards,

Marcus Engman
Senior Vice President
Marketing and Sales

Corona virus update, 13 March

On 11 March 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organization declared the current outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic in global scale.

You are aware of the serious nature of the impact that the current outbreak of Corona virus Covid-19 is having on society and business globally. The situation has escalated rapidly, and several countries in Europe have now taken or are planning to take extraordinary actions to slow down the spread of the virus.

Following the extraordinary measures in the countries Fortaco operates:

• In Slovakia and Hungary, it has been decided to limit international travel into the country, and public places are closed as from 13 March 2020.

• In Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Estonia it has been decided to close kindergartens, schools and universities as from Monday 16 March 2020.

Fortaco has taken measures to keep our working places and operations safe. We have imposed restrictions on international travel, factory visits and internal meetings, and we prefer remote work when applicable.

We are closely monitoring the situation together with all stakeholders and following the rules from local authorities. Our goal is to limit the exposure of the extraordinary situation to our operations. In case we learn that your orders or shipments have a potential of being affected, we will contact you immediately.

It is imperative, we all maintain open communication, so we can collectively work through this crisis. We appreciate teamwork and keep you informed as this situation develops.

Please do not hesitate to contact local Fortaco representatives for more information.

With kind regards,

Marcus Engman
Senior Vice President
Marketing and Sales

Corona virus update

On 30 January 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, following the advice of the Emergency Committee convened under the International Health Regulations (2005), declared the current outbreak of COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern.

You are aware of the serious nature of the impact that the current outbreak of Corona virus Covid-19 is having on society and business in China and other parts of the globe, lately also in Europe. Due to the risk of global or local supply chain interruptions, we are monitoring a potential impact to our business.

At this very moment, we have not identified any major manufacturing or transport disruptions in our supply chain. However, we are closely monitoring the situation together with our customers and suppliers. Our goal is to keep the general reporting to the minimum, knowing how much effort is being put on this issue by all stakeholders. In case we learn that you or your customers have a potential of being affected, we will contact you immediately.

It is imperative, we all maintain open communication channels, so we can collectively work through this crisis. We appreciate teamwork and keep you informed as this situation develops.

Please do not hesitate to contact local Fortaco representatives for more information.

Marcus Engman
Senior Vice President
Marketing and Sales

Heidi Lehtonen

Citius, Altius, Fortius!

What sports and business have in common and how they’re applied at Fortaco.

By Heidi Lehtonen, Fortaco Quality Health Safety & Environment Manager

From sports to the factory floor

I’ve been involved in sports all my life. From the beginning, I have competed as an individual athlete and as a team member. Today I’m a group fitness instructor and part of a coaching team for swimmers ages 16 and older.

At Fortaco, I lead the QHSE-team in Kurikka, Finland. My team is responsible for maintenance, customer- and supplier claims, internal quality, safety management, and the operational excellence of quality assurance.

The principles of competitive sport are something I bring with me to work at Fortaco, as well. People who’ve taken sports seriously know all about target setting and strategy — it’s the very key to their success. They set long-term targets and train systematically according to a plan to get there.

But no matter how carefully you plan, life will surprise you from time to time. These are the times when we must react quickly and focus on containment to get back on the track. To be a champion, we must learn from failure and move on.

Consistency transforms average to excellence

Long-term development needs a solid base before details can be fine-tuned. It means daily rituals and common processes that every member of the work community is familiar with. Why? Because rituals coming from the spine free up space for the next step: for a new skill, for better performance, for thinking, and continuous improvement. They enable climbing to the next level, step by step.

It takes time to create rituals. Shortcuts are not permitted and will result in efforts that are quickly forgotten. Human beings are lazy by nature and always try to find the easiest and the most comfortable way of doing things. The possibility for human error is always present and must be eliminated by quality assurance and operational excellence throughout the whole chain.

In both sports and business, great results are never the accomplishment of one person alone. Doctors, trainers, massage therapists, family, and friends are all needed to take care of athlete’s overall well-being through coaching, administering tests, analyzing, motivating, and simply being present. Equally, collaboration between functions creating cross-functional competence is necessary to build the best possible quality culture and zero-defect mindset.

Team power and a successful attitude!

Quality is a process of teamwork, where every team member has their own important role to support the goal of the team. The most valuable player is the player who makes the most players valuable. By respecting that, and combining our strengths and different perspectives, we multiply success and bring more value to processes.

The equation “result = competence x motivation x attitude” holds a lot of wisdom. Most important, I think, is to understand that we are all responsible for our own attitude. What can I do today to make tomorrow better? How can I support and help my colleague? Because what could be more motivating than a team of co-workers you know will play toward a common goal?

There are many similarities between sports and quality management. Both aim for continuous improvement and finding the most effective method to achieve a desired result. As a QHSE Manager, I do my best to ensure our team is competent, motivated, and has a successful attitude.

Top Down Safety to Change Daily Habits

If the CEO doesn’t make safety a priority, nobody else will, either. If you don’t believe Lars Hellberg cares, ask him to show you his thumb.
Anyone who watches “The Simpsons” knows that Charles Montgomery "Monty" Burns, owner of the Springfield nuclear power plant, is famous for safety violations: rat infestations, cracked cooling towers (held together with chewing gum), and leaky pipes that spill radioactive waste.
But what Mr. Burns doesn’t know is that safety cannot be disconnected from quality, delivery accuracy, and productivity. This was proven dramatically in the 1980s by Paul O'Neill, the CEO of Alcoa. By making safety its primary focus, Alcoa reduced its accident rate to 10 percent of its previous level. And with record safety came record profits.
Safety is an easy topic to pay lip service to: everyone has seen a faded safety poster on a workplace wall. To bring about safety requires not only constant focus, but also a CEO who truly believes in it. So how does Fortaco CEO, Lars Hellberg, convince his employees that he truly cares, that safety isn’t just a passing fancy?
True believer
Hellberg places safety first – literally before quality. “For the last six years I've opened every group leadership meeting with safety,” he says, speaking of the meetings which connect Fortaco's 70 top leaders. “If there's been an accident then the site leader explains what happened, why it happened, and how it will be prevented."
Second, Hellberg is known to stop production if he sees anything unsafe. He was recently in Hungary where a third-party supplier was installing an overhead crane. “They were lifting the new crane’s boom with a mobile crane, and wooden blocks had been inserted inside the band around the boom. There was a guy at each end to steady it. I stepped in and stopped it. If the boom had teetered, it would have fallen and seriously hurt one of those guys. People probably saw that it wasn’t safe, but thought it wasn’t their problem since it was a third-party supplier.”
Finally, Hellberg has insisted on uniform, cross-company safety standards in Fortaco factories. “We used to have differing standards by site and country. Some required hard hats, some didn’t. Over the years we’ve created one consistent standard in how we look at safety. This is to remove all excuses.”
One of those standards is that site leaders must alert Hellberg personally when there’s been an accident, which is always a difficult call for a Business Site Head to make. “If it’s a call they don’t want to make,” Hellberg reasons, “they’ll enforce safety procedures so that the call isn’t needed.”
The missing digit
Much like a Head of State visiting a hurricane disaster area, Hellberg frequently travels to factories after accidents. He asks questions and takes photos with his smart phone. And then he often shows his thumb.
In 2008, he and his son were using the bucket of a tractor to drive fence posts into the ground for a corral at his farm. They'd placed a wooden block between the post and the tractor bucket, which Hellberg held in place. But the block split when struck by the tractor. "A few tons of pressure is like a guillotine," he says. The top of his thumb was gone and was too mangled to sew back on. "I was wearing gloves but it didn't matter. I thought I was smart. I was more worried about getting the pole straight than I was my personal safety. Stupid me!”
Whether on the farm or factory floor, he says, “we’ve got to be prepared to say 'stop’. I ask 'Would I feel safe doing that job?' People say, 'Yeah, but we’re in a hurry.' I think that’s a bad excuse. The supervisor, the leader, has to change the mindset and behavior – a stop is more honorable than pushing deliveries and causing injuries.”
Zero accidents
Lost time injury frequency, LTIF, is the industry measure for accidents, with an accident defined as an injury that causes an employee to miss more than one full day of work. Currently, Fortaco’s accident rate is below the Finnish industry average but still not on par with the best customer performance figures.
Since Hellberg joined the company at the end of 2013, the rate of accidents is in decline, but he’s still not satisfied. Like Alcoa’s Paul O’Neill, he’s shooting for zero accidents. "You can say the group should have zero accidents. But it’s better to say each function should have zero, because ‘the group’ isn’t as relevant on the factory floor. To talk about your own functions makes it a personal engagement and you get buy-in.”
After telling his thumb story to a visiting journalist, Hellberg opens his phone to show photos. One image shows a massive welded structure a meter above ground, with staircases present at both ends. “We had a guy jump off this because he thought it would be faster. He could have used the stairs, but instead he tried to save maybe five seconds. He strained his ankle and was out of work a few days. The stupidity here actually belongs to his superior, for not making sure the guy was trained enough.”
The not-so-secret safety formula
Hellberg knows that he can tell his thumb story until he’s blue in the face, but unless safety is truly ingrained in Fortaco’s culture, zero accidents will never be achieved. He believes the secret is using teams to get there by changing habits.
“At Komatsu, in Japan, they have inspectors that roam the floors noting safety violations. The inspectors report what happened, but they never pinpoint the individual. The supervisor is forced to call the entire team together, to get them thinking to identify and solve the problem. Komatsu knows how to use the team to change habits.”
“Think about sports,” says Hellberg. “The team is a powerful, self-motivating unit. They don’t need the coach to make them feel bad when they lose.” Fortaco is doing the same: Let teams pursue the issue from the bottom up, and Hellberg go at it from the top down.
Hellberg will likely never stop roaming the floors calling attention to risky behavior. “I recently saw a guy moving cut steel with a bare hand. I stopped him and insisted he wear a glove. The explanation I got was that ‘He’s been doing it 30 years and knows what he’s doing.’” Hellberg shakes his head. “We’ve still got work to do.”