Tell us about your journey at ERICH JAEGER.
I started working for ERICH JAEGER, s.r.o. in the Czech Republic in 2008. It was actually right after school, and ERICH JAEGER was the first company I called. The day after the job interview, I was already working. I started as an adjuster and held this position for almost 10 years. From today's point of view, it seems like a very long time to work at only one place, but I had the opportunity to be part of many projects. In 2010, we introduced a new production line where I was responsible for the technical part. I was 21 years old, and I had only been at the company for two years. In 2017, I had the chance to move to the position of head of maintenance. This was a great step but it also came with a lot of new tasks and responsibilities. Two years later, I became production manager and have been working in this position ever since.
How is managing the maintenance department different from managing production?
The maintenance department has 20 people who are managed directly by the manager. We have almost 300 employees in production spread over several departments. This means that I manage production through the heads of individual departments. There are also differences in the problems you need to be able to solve. When I took the position as head of production, my boss mentored me. It was perfect – he had the experience, and I could learn. I took his advice but also continued in my own way.
Now, as a production manager, what are your responsibilities?
I take care of the organization of the production in terms of capacity, meeting customer requirements, production planning, achieving quality goals and production productivity. We also need to constantly improve our processes and tailor our actions to everyday problems. The most important task is to manage the people and to cooperate with other departments. Each of our employees needs to be treated differently. Sometimes it’s difficult to put oneself in someone’s shoes, this is why the right communication is so important.
Do challenges sometimes allow room for new chances?
Yes, every problem is also an opportunity. For example, in 2020 during the COVID pandemic when we didn’t have enough people and production went down to 50%, I used this situation to restructure the organization and reset our goals. Together with the employees, we talked about the next steps so that they knew exactly what to do to meet the target. This was necessary and important for the employees to keep up the motivation. My boss always said: “You can make mistakes, but don’t repeat them”. It is important to me that everybody knows that. Everything is a learning process so make the mistake and learn from it.
What kind of different job profiles are there in production?
We have the production manager overseeing the department, the master who is responsible for the organization of the shifts, the team leaders of each line and its operators, and the trainers who prepare and instruct the operators.
How easy is it to switch between different areas in production?
We have 3 main locations in production. Each is completely different and requires a different kind of knowledge. When switching between departments, we train new processes in the training center or directly on the machine. The trainer then teaches according to the training plan and verifies the knowledge with a theoretical and practical test. It is important that everyone knows more about operations. Thanks to this, we are more flexible, and we can better respond to the requirements of our customers.
What do you expect from employees in production?
From the employees I expect loyalty and that they are interested in their work. This is most important. After that, you will learn almost everything if you want. When we hire new employees, it is always for the position as assembly operator. Only then can they be promoted to becoming a team leader. They need to know the production first.
Which soft and hard skills are important for potential candidates in production?
Because our production of cable harnesses is based on technical drawings, it is important to be able to read these drawings and to have manual skills. Work in our production is not monotonous and must be thought through. Other things are specific to the production line and are taught here.
How do employees profit from further trainings and workshops?
Each production line needs different safety instructions and training specific to that production. In addition to training in our training center, we now work with an external company to train our trainers. Trainers learn new procedures, training methodologies and communication. This is important for training new and existing employees, because, for example, understanding wiring harness drawings is difficult in the beginning.
How did you (and still do) profit from visits from other subsidiaries?
When colleagues from Germany visit, we end up having a lot of new tasks. Every visit is important for us. They are able to see our production from a different angle. I see the potential we have, but colleagues from other subsidiaries have a more distant perspective on our production and are able to ask the right questions. Questions I maybe haven’t thought about before. I’ve worked here for 14 years now, and it can become difficult to see problems or room for improvement, so it is important to have colleagues from other plants visit us.
What are the biggest challenges that you encounter in your job?
To manage and motivate the people around me and to keep them prepared for everything, especially during COVID. Every day can be different from the one before. We constantly have to train the people for new operations, sometimes we need to switch off one line and increase the capacity on the other.
What are the “Lessons learned” from these challenges?
It is important to set priorities and plan your time correctly. It's not very easy in challenging situations, but without priorities you solve everything and nothing as a result. When I started as production manager, I worked long hours because I wanted to set the new organization. A lot needed to be worked on and I had many ideas. This time was really exhausting and challenging so, eventually, I had to learn to find a balance between my personal and work live.
What is your advice for young professionals and for people who are interested in pursuing a career at ERICH JAEGER?
Don't be afraid of challenges. If you are unsure, try and fail. This is better than not trying and still thinking about a lost chance. Don't be afraid to start at the bottom and work your way up because practice is the best teacher. You have to want to work to get somewhere.