Problem Solver

Fortaco’s Dominik Stępień really enjoys finding practical solutions to problems. He wouldn’t mind solving yours.

Like many other digital natives, Dominik Stępień’s first unofficial job was as chief of his family’s IT department. “I was the type of kid who was always curious about how things worked. I took apart the family’s phones and laptops, put them back together, and hoped that they worked.”

Hands on

The devices he took apart worked often enough that he was inspired to get a Bachelor of (Mechanical) Engineering degree from Denmark’s VIA University College. “I was curious about living in another country and the education in my native Poland is highly focused on theory,” says Stępień, “and I wanted hands-on problem solving.”

He certainly got it. At VIA, he joined the team that designed a formula student car, with his responsibility the chassis and brake system. Then he joined an engine design company where he helped engineers optimize how they work with CAD systems. “This started me on my path developing IT tools to ease everyday routines,” he says. “I saw how digital could impact your daily work life.” While he was getting a Master degree at Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, he went to work for an automotive component manufacturer where he designed digital tools and, eventually, came across an intriguing job ad from Fortaco.

Nearly 40 apps designed

At Fortaco, he’s part of the Operational Development team. “The OD team mainly focuses on process optimization in the daily work of people,” he says. “We’re split between analog work (lean techniques) and digital work (applications we design for people).” His formal title is Application Development Specialist, and he’s the guy who writes the software that helps to solve problems on the factory floor.

He’s one of the people behind the app used in the Wroclaw factory to track the location of parts. “Before, someone would get a phone call, an email, or an SMS, saying a part needed to be transported. But if that person had other pressing priorities, it might not get done. So we created an app where anyone can order the transportation of a part. You see the exact status and where the part is, and so you know the job has been done. It reduces the need for direct communication between separate parties, and all the information is in one central place.” He says it’s not radically different from tracking your UPS package, though in the Fortaco version there are fewer intermediate stops.

Stępień’s team has developed nearly 40 apps that are now in use throughout Fortaco factories, and he says there are plenty of new prototypes brewing in their kitchen. “When an app is proven in one business site, it can easily be rolled out to others and adjusted in process as needed. We have an app for cabin production that can be modified to work in the production of welded parts.”

“What’s cool about these apps is that they’re scalable and adjustable. That means that when you start the process, you can digitalize only a small part of it. As you grow, you can then create another app for another part of the process. Then you can make those two apps talk to each other so they work as a system. This is our core focus in a couple of factories at the moment, and it holds enormous potential.”

One app, three to five ideas

Not everyone on the factory floor is a digital native and sometimes aren’t as quick to embrace the power of new tech to solve old problems.

“Sometimes when people see the first app, they’re like, ‘Ah, there is no way anyone will use this.’ Maybe they’re old school welders not used to using tablet computers in production. But they try it, realize it’s not difficult, find it helpful, and then they come to us with other problems to solve. Out of every app you can get three or five new ideas at a business site.”

Stępień sounds a bit like a therapist when he admits he wishes more people would come to him with their problems. “We may actually already have a solution that we’ve developed that solves the problem.” There’s a saying that if you want something done, then ask a busy person. The OD team is small, but they’re always ready to help. “If we don’t have time then we’ll make some!” says Stępień.


Among the OE team members, Stępień is known to love a good conspiracy theory. It’s not that he blindly takes them as a truth; he more likes the idea of them. “UFOs, aliens, government conspiracies, who controls the world: I enjoy learning about those because too often you can get locked into one way of thinking. Conspiracy theories can broaden your horizon and make you consider things from another perspective.”

So entertaining a conspiracy theory may not be a terrible exercise to prepare oneself for solving problems on a factory floor. Still, a visiting journalist would like to know what’s in Area 51. Stępień pauses a bit, perhaps considering his many options for solving that mystery. “Have you considered,” he says, “the possibility that Area 51 is a holiday destination for aliens?”