Welding supervisor

Deep Roots In a Heavy Business

Fortaco’s Narva business site has a long history with various products and ownerships. It was established in 1947 and 2013 acquired by Fortaco Group. Business Site Narva is the biggest unit in Fortaco Group, manufacturing high quality steel fabrications for the off-highway equipment industry. Some of the employees have worked for the company a respectable time period, one of them being Nikolai Golubev, Welding Supervisor.

Mr. Golubev has worked at the factory for 47 years. Those decades are full of changes, growth, new products, machines, and also various scientific developments. He started as a mechanic at the mechanical assembly in a vacuum laboratory, at the time, when the plant was an industrial site for the various scientific developments of leading research institutes in the country (former USSR).

”It was an interesting time. We didn’t only work, but also studied, played sports and actively participated in the public life.” For several years Mr. Golubev was a member of the trade union committee, and the chairman of the workshop committee in the technical control department.

Years at the factory have not always been easy going – Mr. Golubev has definitely gone through both good and bad with the company. The huge reduction in the 90’ was dark time, also for those people who were able to keep their jobs. ”It was necessary to survive, and so we did - still, it is hard for me to remember that time”.

Values In Action

Our values define the way we work and solve problems at work and in personal life. Mr. Golubev knows well his values, and those are probably the ones, which have helped him and the team to manage harder times, and also grow during smoother sailing periods.

”What I truly appreciate in people are responsibility, integrity and the ability to quickly make right decisions, leading to the goal.” Those are the qualities, he aims to put into effect also at work. And this is probably why, he is leading the bottleneck areas these days. The team is ambitious. “When facing a challenge, people usually try to find solutions before heading off from work.”

Working in a leading position has provided him great tools to handle stressful situations at work, but also has taught him to pay great attention to find ways to release stress outside of work. Mental health is a forever important topic and cannot be underlined too much, especially during these days. Mr. Golubev has created a perfect recipe to take care of himself, he is relaxing at countryside with his wife, grow exotic vegetables, go fishing and hunt some mushrooms.

Merging For Future

Mr. Golubev is very optimistic about the process, which is laying ahead of everyone. The factory extension was built last year, and the team is excited about the new possibilities the extension will offer in the future. ”I believe that the merge of veteran experience, enthusiasm and knowledge of modern technology among young workers, combined with a thoughtful strategic leadership, are the key to success for the further development of our factory and its prosperity. I am absolutely confident about this!”


Emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence and the Bottom Line

I think highly of myself. I feel I have something to contribute. I am aware of the impact of my mood on others. I make rash decision when I am emotional. I perform well under pressure.

The way you react to statements like these shows a lot more than how you feel about yourself. The answers actually impact your company’s bottom line.

‘Covid opened our eyes’

“We’ve often talked about targets,” says Agnieszka Koziara, Fortaco’s Senior Vice President for People and HR. “But Covid opened our eyes about the fact that we need to be aware of what’s going on with our people. How’s the home situation? How’s the family?”

Koziara wasn’t thinking about the company’s bottom line. She was more concerned with the mental health of her colleagues. When she discussed the behavior she was witnessing with Lars Hellberg, Fortaco’s President and CEO. Hellberg suggested she get in touch with Dr. Margareta Sjölund, Founder and Chief Psychologist at EQ Europe, one of the pioneers in emotional intelligence.

More than hugging

Everyone is familiar with IQ – the intelligence quotient. In 1995, a bestselling book by psychologist Daniel Goleman popularized the idea of the EQ, or emotional quotient. “Research makes clear that EQ is not just about hugging people,” says Dr. Sjölund. “It’s directly related to performance. If you’re a leader who works on relationships, then your people feel appreciated, listened to, and respected. Through that you can motivate people to do their very best.”

Sjölund is quick to point out that the World Economic Forum lists EQ among the top skills employers are looking for. “How you relate to others is so basic to being human. Feelings drive behaviors. Behaviors affect your success.”

Not everyone, however, is good with feelings. But the good news is that EQ is not like IQ: EQ skills can be learned. EQ can be developed and improved.

Getting emotional

Fortaco decided to examine the emotional skills of its managers, and brought in a team from Sjölund’s company to help.

Fortaco’s top 25 managers were tested using the EQ-i2.0 inventory which measures emotional intelligence. The test measures 15 social/emotional competencies, including stress management, self-awareness, confidence, self-expression, and assertiveness. How'd the managers do, talking about themselves to strangers on a video call? “We were touched that people were so open,” says Birgitta Söderström, EQ Europe’s Senior Consultant and Master Trainer. “People shared in a courageous and vulnerable way.”

EQ-i2.0 scores subjects from 60 to 130, with scores below 90 and above 110 considered low and high, respectively. “Most important is the balance between the competencies,” says Söderström. “We look for gaps. If I’m high on empathy but low on assertiveness, what happens if I work to make this more balanced? How can it make me more effective?”

When you’re low on empathy

Scores were kept strictly confidential and not shared with management. “You’re the owner of your own results,” says Söderström. “You decide what to do with them.”

Generally speaking, Fortaco employees scored well in stress response, self-responsibility and self-awareness, with lower scores in in collaboration and empathy. “But this is completely natural,” says Agnieszka Koziara, “because people aren’t seeing each other anymore. Turn off the camera and we’re even farther from each other. Camaraderie, the team, the ‘we’ — these were weak.”

What’s the solution to improve weak areas in the time of Corona? “More camera is one,” says Koziara. “Seeing each other’s faces is important. Because of connection speed issues, we used to have meetings without the camera, but now we always turn it on.”

"We've got to consciously focus on having time together, since it doesn’t happen by the coffee machine anymore," she says. "We've got to create a virtual coffee machine.”

Profit and performance

Creating a virtual coffee machine to boost EQ scores has implications that go well beyond the world of psychology. The results achieved by Fortune 500 companies speak for themselves.

At PepsiCo, for example, executives with high EQ competencies generated 10 percent more productivity with 87 percent less turnover. In computer programming, research shows that the top 10 percent of EQ performers beat average performers in producing effective programs by 320 percent. Superstars, those in the top one percent, produced twelve times better than average

In manufacturing, research has shown that when supervisors are trained in emotional competencies like listening and helping employees resolve problems on their own, key performance indicators improve. In one company, lost-time accidents were reduced 50 percent, formal grievances were reduced from an average of 15 per year to three, and the plant exceeded its productivity goal.

Fortaco results

What should Fortaco expect? “What Fortaco is attempting to do is improve their culture,” says Sjölund. “We’re starting with the leaders, and we’re looking for it to trickle down, creating a successful organization with happy customers. How do you get happy customers? Through efficient and happy employees. This is only part of what you get with EQ-savvy leaders.”

Improving the bottom line was never one of Agnieszka Koziara’s goals when she began the current EQ project. If that happens, it will be an added bonus. For the moment, she’s putting into play what’s been learned and looking beyond Corona. “We’ve had some deep conversations. We’ve learned we can do more via video than we previously thought. And once Covid is over there will again be meetings. We’ll hug and drink wine. People are a lot like plants in the desert. We can learn to grow if we want.”

***

Want to learn more? Read Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman (Bantam Books, 1995). And forthcoming in autumn 2021 is EQ in Action by Dr. Margareta Sjölund (Black Card Publishing).


Cabin industry

What You Can Learn from Gelato

Enrico Scalzi, Fortaco Sales Manager in Holíč, Slovakia, sees gelato as a metaphor for flexibility and professionalism.

Gelato, the frozen dessert of Italian origin, is generally made with a base of a few percent milk and sugar, its density setting it apart from other ice creams. But despite gelato’s basic characteristics, it is different wherever you go in the world.

“Gelato is sold everywhere, from Italy to Germany to Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Colombia,” says Enrico Scalzi, Sales Manager at Fortaco in Holíč, Slovakia. “European gelato is different from Russian gelato or Japanese gelato. There are different grades of sweetness. What’s good for one country, isn’t necessarily good for another. Even among single countries gelato can change from north to south.”

Scalzi spent four years traveling the world as a gelato machine salesman. If gelato taught him anything, it’s that you have to listen to the customer and craft a solution to their particular taste.

The highest professional level

Work isn’t so different at Fortaco in Holíč, Slovakia, where the company produces vehicle cabins for the mining, forestry, and container handling industries. Holíč’s production is oriented toward flexibility, the ability to make what each client wants and produce large-scale production runs. “We can change frames, add doors, whatever the customer requires,” says Scalzi, who says a good example is the NCEA Cabin developed for the customer Hyster-Yale. Fortaco Holíč was involved in all project stages, from the initial sketch and design phase to the current series production. The new cabin was presented at the beginning of 2020, receiving very good feedback from end users on the market.

“What I’ve learned is that every situation is part of a continual learning process,” says Scalzi. “Our customers, suppliers, and partners are true professionals who can teach us. Our customers have been in the business thirty years. You can’t approach the business thinking you’ll teach customers something. Instead, you have to support them in what they want to do, and help them make things even better. Our objective is to deliver at the highest professional level.”

Scalzi’s target is for the Holíč facility to broaden its sector scope to serve customers in agriculture and construction. Geographically, he sees opportunities in Italy, Germany and France. “We have cross-sector experience. We’ve developed from scratch a variety of cabins working closely with our customers. We’ve got a highly trained labor force in welding and assembly, plus skilled engineers. And the Fortaco Group behind us gives us the stability to take projects without the risk that they’re too small or too big.”

Straddling two cultures

Scalzi studied economics at university, with a focus on planned economies transitioning to market economies. His course of study seems to reflect his personal history. The son of an Italian father and Slovak mother, he was raised in Italy, but spent summers with his mother’s family in the 1980s in then Czechoslovakia. Raised straddling the two cultures, he eventually entered graduate school to study diplomacy. “I learned conflict resolution and studied the differences in cultures,” he says, “all the things you need in business.”

Before he found his way to Fortaco, the cultural-straddling diplomat gained experience selling gelato machines. “It was a product that made people smile,” he says. “When it was minus 18 degrees outside in Kazakhstan I saw people in malls consuming gelato, which is served at minus 12. We used to joke that gelato is served hot in Kazakhstan.”


Picture of Marko Manninen, a Foreman at Fortaco Kalajoki Factory with Fortaco Logo in the background

Opportunities On Solid Experience

Marko Manninen, a foreman at Fortaco Kalajoki factory, needs no introduction. Known as a hardworking, responsible and straightforward person, he has worked at Fortaco for 22 years in various roles. Those roles contain positions in different industries and business sectors, including assembly, welding and warehouse operator in shipping, construction and energy businesses – he also has worked as a chief shop steward for several years. "I like my work being versatile. Every day is different, which keeps it very interesting and motivating."

Marko thinks the team spirit is good among employees at Business Site Kalajoki, cooperation and interaction with different employee groups is very enjoyable part of his work. Marko's superior says he is very committed and showing a great ability to develop his professional skills.

"Marko is raising necessary issues and works towards solving them. He is very focused on safety and production efficiency, as well as developing the daily production processes", says Jyri Paavola, General Manager, Fortaco Kalajoki. "He has a long experience, which certainly helps him to utilize his knowledge and capabilities in the current position".

This year, Marko was promoted to a foreman position in welding and surface treatment, he finished his foreman management studies at Central Ostrobothnia Vocational College as apprenticeship training program. The program was executed in cooperation with Fortaco, studies were performed both at the college and at work. As studies required a lot of work outside of office hours, time management and good organizational skills were necessary. With Marko's self-directed manner the planned schedule with studies was kept.

"During the apprenticeship training program, organizational changes were made at the Kalajoki factory and Marko's area of responsibility expanded from welding to also include surface treatment. “He succeeded in his role very well, even with the expanded responsibilities together with the studies”, Paavola commends.

Nowadays, Marko's responsibilities gather around the daily operations, monitoring of schedules, quality control, material flow control, development of work processes and interacting with production workers and supervisors at Business Site Kalajoki. Studies were a great continuum for his career and provided right tools for a supervisor's need at a work place.

"I really appreciate I have an opportunity to impact on business unit operations and performance, and also respect that the safe working environment is a high priority within Fortaco".

What does Marko do outside of work? Seems like he also likes his free time to be versatile, as he enjoyes different outdoor sport, dog shows, travelling around Finland; and is planning to start motorcycling hobby again after several years.


manufacturing

People of Steel

If you can dream it in high-strength steel, Fortaco Jászberény can probably make it.

If it’s made of high-strength or mild steel and weighs between 100 kilograms and 60 tons, Sebastian Kun and his team at Fortaco in Jászberény, Hungary, can probably manufacture it.

While the team mostly produces steel structures for customers in materials handling, energy, and mining, they can also make you a chocolate mixer.

Flexible enough for chocolate

Sebastian Kun, Fortaco Jászberény's sales manager, doesn't foresee a big future for Fortaco in the confectionary industry, but the manufacturing of chocolate mixers are what happens when being agile is in your DNA.

"We're a reliable partner for OEMs, because we’re flexible enough to withstand market fluctuations," says Kun. "In our three business segments we try to serve the top three OEMs. Each of these segments has different market fluctuations, and not being bound to one single segment allows us to balance capacity with demand."

Kun says the chocolate mixers are a real novelty for guests at Jászberény. “Visitors are baffled that the mixers aren’t stainless. But chocolate has so much fat that stainless isn’t required. The customer’s cost savings by not using stainless are significant. We grind the surface, treat it with food oil, and it’s ready to go.”

Secret tank manufacturers

Even before the Jászberény plant joined the Fortaco organization in 2013, it had a history of flexibility. Founded in 1951 under the name Aprítógépgyár, it produced stone crushers and classifiers. Unofficially, it also made military equipment. At one point in its history, it also designed and made its own rolling machine.

Kun joined the Jászberény plant in 2007. He combines a pedigree in steel fabrication — his father owned a steel fabrication company and machine shop — with languages. “Manufacturers in Hungary are very dependent on the German market,” he says, “and surprisingly few engineers of my age were fluent in German.” Born to a German mother, Kun found that his German, combined with his English, made him valuable to both suppliers and customers.

He started in the purchasing department for ready-to-weld parts, implemented the ERP system, and in 2009 switched from sourcing to sales, a move he jokes was “from the dark side to the light side.” He became a part of the cost calculation team, then a sales engineer, and in 2017 became Sales Manager. Kun runs a team of five, three in logistics and two in sales, backed by the plant’s other 400 team members.

Happy birthday, Jászberény!

Next year, Fortaco’s Jászberény plant will celebrate its 70th birthday. What would Kun like to receive as a gift? More customers is one thing. He sees capacity for taking on more clients looking for 20- to 30-ton products and seeking support from the design stage through to final production of plug-and-play equipment.

“We’re uniquely equipped to handle project- and serial business in manual- and robot welding, plus modular assembly,” he says, nothing that the plant is already doing modular assembly for clients like Komatsu and Liebherr. “We support the customer with ready-to-install modular products. When their product isn’t traveling from one factory to another, there’s a victory with reduced lead time and more flexibility.”


New Fortaco Narva Factory Complex from outside

Building New Opportunities

The new factory in Narva was launched this autumn, signifying a milestone in the industrial development of the region. The factory extension project was kicked-off in 2015, when lack of space, capacity constraints and overload of new project implementations were foreseen.

Andrey Ponomarev at Fortaco Estonia was appointed as Project Manager. Working in this kind of project was familiar to Andrey, he has worked in similar start-up projects in the automotive industry. “But this was the biggest project, which I have participated from the idea and design stage. What is great, that our ideas and wishes have now been implemented in reality.”

For two years, before the construction work was started, Andrey participated the project documentation development, and paperwork took quite a long time to be finished. When a contract was signed, things started to be moving on fast. “The most memorable moments were, of course, in the beginning and at the end of construction. We built a good cooperation within our Fortaco team and with our external partners. The project was like a fresh wave for our daily routine jobs.”

Like in any project, there are always things you can learn from, and which need to be taken into consideration to make the next similar project easier. The biggest challenges were found during the construction work, mostly related to extra work, and to keep up with a somewhat tight schedule. In Fortaco team we had some parallel projects ongoing, the new equipment was needed to be purchased and installed to the right places at the same time when the new factory started to take a shape. “We had to investigate each task carefully, and also fast, to keep everything rolling. For example, when purchasing CNC machines and planning their foundation and installation, we had to make sure, these tasks would not influence on the construction schedule, and machines will be available for use when the permission of usage of the new building is received.”

There are some key elements Andrey would like to stress, when working with the project like this:

Carefully check the partners. The cheapest solution might not be the one with most benefits. Surprises during the construction process usually are not good, and you want to avoid them, as they have a habit to turn out to be expensive.

Check the commercial offer precisely, and make sure the contracts with all parties are transparent. Hereby you will avoid misunderstandings in case there happens to be any deviations from the contract or schedule during the process.

Be active - this is very important, time is money. All people involved must understand their role, and they also have to be willing to make decisions, if required. Some decisions need extra monitoring, but also this should be a rapid process.

Andrey was glad to see how the professional cooperation between the external partners and Fortaco team enabled the launch of new factory just according to the schedule, and he hopes Fortaco employees will be happy to work with the new equipment and technology. “I would like to say big thanks to all people who participated, including our partners and my colleagues in Fortaco. I believe, this new factory will create new opportunities to increase our business, and also employment in Narva region”.


Residual Value: Beyond the Holy Trinity

How data will eventually impact residual value, total cost of ownership, and transform heavy-equipment financing.

“Hours of use, type of use, and maintenance record. These are the three things that matter when calculating residual value,” said a former director of a major OEM’s financial business. While it’s hard to find anyone who would dispute that information has value, is more information necessarily good information when it comes to residual value?

"Don't overthink it," cautioned the finance professional, who has left the OEM for another business and agreed to bounce around ideas off the record. “Was the bulldozer used 2,000 hours per year in a single shift? Or double that? Was the ADT used to haul mine tailings, or did it transport feathers? Was the backhoe professionally serviced? Or was the owner a DIY type?”

At the moment, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that hours of use, type of use, and maintenance record — the Holy Trinity of residual value — adequately serve the industry’s purpose.

A used-car model

Dr. Rafał Sornek, Senior Vice President of Technology at Fortaco Group, makes the case for data impacting residual value.

“Take data OEMs already collect, store it in a public place, authenticate it with blockchain, and give industry professionals access to it.” Sornek’s proposal is to do for the off-highway industry what has already been done for used cars in Europe. "I can use a VIN to see a vehicle's entire history. Why not do the same for a used crane?"

Sornek’s vision is massive amounts of data contributing to more accurate residual value, resulting in a lower total cost of ownership. "Even in an honest marketplace," he argues, “sellers themselves sometimes don't know what they're selling."

What OEMs know

Chris Domagala, CBDO of Lectura, a German- and Czech-based company which collects and sells transactional data on heavy machinery, says OEMs don't always know as much about their assets as they let on. "OEMs have huge distribution- and dealer networks that sometimes show significant price autonomy. There are cases where the OEM doesn't even know exactly for how much their machines went to market. They may not get data back from dealers. OEMs are experts on machine specs — they know which components break fastest — but not market prices."

Domagala offers an example of how residual values are still handled on a higher “aggregation level” than they could be at financial institutions (the majority of assets in most countries belong to banks). “It depends on the institution, but crawler excavators, for example, are generalized on a rather high level. You’ll see it's a 20- or 30-ton crawler excavator from a first- or second-tier manufacturer, and that’s usually it. Thus, the residual values they use are aggregated. But the more you know about your particular asset’s value development, the better you can calculate risk, the more profitable it can be. There are more and more ways to approach the car market’s transparency regarding rather accurate model-based value estimates.”

Change begins with a process of mutual educational, he says. “Bankers in the risk department have been in their jobs for 35 years, and to have a third-party company say ‘Our data knows more than yours and your experience’ isn’t always welcome. Also, vast smart data can fail. Banks will naturally take a defensive posture if the process is not symbiotically designed. There is also, literally, a lot that data can learn from ‘old stagers.’”

While collecting data isn’t at all new, putting it to good use is. “We're not in the Dark Ages of collecting data, but we're still at the beginning of connecting data,” says Domagala.

A new type of finance company

Michael Rohmeder is CEO of Equippo, which he characterizes as "a full-service marketplace for construction equipment” with a telematics project. Equippo might be thought of as the Zappo's for excavators, offering online sales of inspected, delivered, and guaranteed equipment.

Depending on how you count it, the annual global transaction volume of used heavy equipment ranges from 100 to 300 billion dollars. Equippo's goal is to get its customers the highest price possible for their equipment, with a high residual value and the lowest possible total cost of ownership. "The components of TCO are the new price, maintenance cost, and the resale value,” says Rohmeder, “and data can impact these heavily."

Rohmeder says banks will write a seven-year contract with a residual value curve so they won't lose money if the value turns. He sees room for a new type of finance company that derives benefit from connected data. One that might offer higher residual value thanks to smart data models, knowledge of future use, and maintenance, allowing the financer to be more aggressive on residual value and still make money.

“A starting point might be in the financing of extremely high-value equipment like cranes,” he says, which can sell new for over a million euros. But when purchased used, he notes, “Crane hours don’t convey how much it's actually lifted. It's an indication, but sometimes the crane is moving up and down with no load. What if we could prove with telematics data that the boom was only used to lift 20 percent of the time?" It's the grandmother-only-drove-it-to-church scenario. Grandma may be telling the truth, but data could tell us whether she had a habit of riding the clutch.

Persuading the bankers

Since interest rates can represent 30 to 50 percent of total ownership costs, it's a matter of time before things begin to change. Chris Domagala says a proper consortium must be built. "We need suppliers like Fortaco with deep knowledge of steel structures. Then we need an OEM with telematics data, a data company like ours, and then a tech provider who can build safe ways of data transfer."

Domagala praises JCB as a first mover. "They launched a telematics platform for JCB users which gives you an overview of all JCB machines, where they are, and all telematics data on one dashboard. It's impressive. But you've got to be an accredited JCB customer, it applies to JCB machines only, and it's not even semi-public."

"Bankers can be persuaded," he says. The risk buy may be intimidated but the CEO will think differently. The bankers will eventually be in favor of it, and they have pull with the OEMs. It could happen in as fast as a year, if an OEM is willing to share historical data.”

Join the cause

Rafał Sornek hasn’t named the group yet, but he’s talking to anyone who’ll listen. He’s convinced Rohmeder and Domagala. And he’ll get around to convincing you, too.

“I want to appeal to people to be part of this project,” says Domagala. “The more people we have at the table, the better the results, and the better we can build trust. Think about a machine's decreasing residual value curve and the upward-sloping cost development. Where the two curves intersect is the perfect place to sell. This leads to better circular economy and, in the end, lower emissions. It’s better for everyone.”


Petra

Opportunities Beyond Obstacles

Every cloud has a silver lining – Petra Špačková’s motto, and more thoughts about her quarantine times during Corona virus crisis.

Special circumstances require special solutions – and those solutions would not be created with ordinary thinking. As everything else in life generally, these special circumstances shall be passed by, but in the meantime our thinking is being stretched to dig deep into our potential in creative thinking and problem solving. Petra Špačková, Fortaco’s Operative Purchaser in Holíč, Slovakia, is a professional, who is working at the frontline of business to keep operations going. Communicating with vendors and production, she is securing that all parts needed in the manufacturing process are being purchased just on-time.

Fortaco operations have been safe and solid during the Corona crisis this spring thanks to all hardworking and flexible members in our team, like Petra. At the moment working means for her spending the days in the solitude of her home office. “In the beginning it was hard to imagine a different daily routine, even though I did understand the seriousness of the situation”. Like for many, at first it was obvious to see only the negative sides, and the change didn’t come without doubts.

“It’s difficult to deal with someone without seeing face to face. On top of that I’m also communicating quite often with people whom I’ve never met before.” Naturally, there were a lot of questions occurring in her head, and not all the answers were totally clear; what can be expected from virtual suppliers; are our network agreements the same as personal agreements?

When the dust was settled, Petra started to pay attention to the advantages of this special situation. Thanks to the advanced information technologies we’re able to stay in contact without the physical presence. “There is no need to meet people personally, in most cases a considerable amount of time is being saved – and also a huge cost”. Even though she was worried the circumstances would affect people’s communication skills, it proved out to be that connections were still made, and people were able to carry on and follow the path towards a common goal.

We are not always able to change situations around us, but luckily, we can always decide, how we respond to them. When a crisis occurs, there are also opportunities to be found. ”I have said to myself, it’s a new period in my job and I should take it as an opportunity for my personal development.” Staying resilient and calm, these are the key factors when making progress through the crisis. And we all have our own way forward when facing hardships. “I´ve discovered the benefits of yoga thanks to my social networks in free time”.

“Viva information technologies - technologies against business crises”, Petra sums up.


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.”

Challenges

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 tvk.fi – 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.”