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Volvo employees working smarter for a solid future

“Kaizen.”
It’s a Japanese word meaning “change for the good” and it’s the basis of Patrick Collignon’s business philosophy.
Collignon, vice president and general manager of Volvo’s New River Valley plant, says it is easy to give up and move a business to another country, but it takes “courage and creativity” to stay put and fight.
Collignon spoke with The Southwest Times after a tour of the plant Monday.
He said he is a “strong advocate” of industry. He says he intends to do all he can to evolve the Dublin plant so it can be sustainable in these touch economic times.
“In my home country (Belgium), a lot of people are saying ‘it is becoming too expensive to make all this stuff, we will become a service,” said Collignon, who has managed the plant since December.
When referring to a future relying upon a service based economy instead of manufacturing, he says, “I don’t believe in that.”
“In order to maintain our wealth we must cherish, we must fight, for our industry. Not everybody can have a future in service. … I think it’s the same for Belgium as it is for the United States of America.”
He says he believes the key to sustainability is “finding smart ways to keep our competitiveness in the industry. It requires a level of rethinking.”
That is where “kaizen” comes in.
Collignon said the word is “one of the very few Japanese words I’ve adopted over the past 10 years. It has a good connotation. I want to create a structure where all our employees can be intellectually involved.”
He says the days of allowing a few to do the thinking and the rest to do the manual labor is gone. He pointed out that it isn’t possible for someone to “work ten times harder, even if they want to.” However, working “ten times smarter” is possible and he sees that as the challenge for the Dublin plant.
“Years ago, a company could afford to say ‘you come in in the morning and leave your brain outside. You work hard, but when you leave don’t forget to take your brain because you might need it at home.’ You cannot do that anymore,” Collignon said.
He said there is too much distinction between manual and intellectual labor in today’s industry.
“That worked 30 years ago, but it doesn’t work today. If we find smart ways to get all of our employees involved” Volvo can “rethink its industrial footprint,” he added.
He said sustainability in today’s economy is “not about the search for an idea worth $100,000,” but rather finding “100,000 ideas worth a dollar.”
“If I have to make a choice I prefer the second (scenario) because in the first, only one person is intellectually involved; in the other, thousands are. That is far more sustainable than to have one person intellectually involved,” he added.
Every day, he says, he and the other Volvo employees come to work “thinking how are we going to do things better today than we did yesterday.”
For example, he said the plant is in the process of a “competition” whereby teams of plant employees were asked to develop ideas for saving energy because “every dollar we save through energy is easy money. It’s picking the low-hanging fruit. It’s part of the vision of how can we work smarter.”
Showing the results of the competition, he fanned through a nearly two-inch thick stack of paper.
According to Communications Manager Marcus Thompson, the submissions have enough energy saving ideas to save a projected annual energy consumption of 900 households.
No only are the ideas catching on at the plant, but they are finding that some of the 1,200 employees are starting to implement the ideas at home, Thompson said.
Collignon points out that the competition was not only good for Volvo, but also for the environment and future generations.
Asked what future he sees for the plant, long term, Collignon questioned, “what is long term?
“If we are successful and remain successful in rethinking and re-engineering our industrial footprint continuously, we’ll have a good future.”
He added, “time will tell. I don’t think any company can stand up today and say ‘yes, we will (always have) the light with us.’”
However, Collignon said he “wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have a belief in the full potential of the plant.”
“We’re all suffering very much from this very bad global economy. But I think there is a positive attitude now that we’ll look for this new dimension, this new level.”

Volvo employees working smarter for a solid future

“Kaizen.”
It’s a Japanese word meaning “change for the good” and it’s the basis of Patrick Collignon’s business philosophy.
Collignon, vice president and general manager of Volvo’s New River Valley plant, says it is easy to give up and move a business to another country, but it takes “courage and creativity” to stay put and fight.
Collignon spoke with The Southwest Times after a tour of the plant Monday.
He said he is a “strong advocate” of industry. He says he intends to do all he can to evolve the Dublin plant so it can be sustainable in these touch economic times.
“In my home country (Belgium), a lot of people are saying ‘it is becoming too expensive to make all this stuff, we will become a service,” said Collignon, who has managed the plant since December.
When referring to a future relying upon a service based economy instead of manufacturing, he says, “I don’t believe in that.”
“In order to maintain our wealth we must cherish, we must fight, for our industry. Not everybody can have a future in service. … I think it’s the same for Belgium as it is for the United States of America.”
He says he believes the key to sustainability is “finding smart ways to keep our competitiveness in the industry. It requires a level of rethinking.”
That is where “kaizen” comes in.
Collignon said the word is “one of the very few Japanese words I’ve adopted over the past 10 years. It has a good connotation. I want to create a structure where all our employees can be intellectually involved.”
He says the days of allowing a few to do the thinking and the rest to do the manual labor is gone. He pointed out that it isn’t possible for someone to “work ten times harder, even if they want to.” However, working “ten times smarter” is possible and he sees that as the challenge for the Dublin plant.
“Years ago, a company could afford to say ‘you come in in the morning and leave your brain outside. You work hard, but when you leave don’t forget to take your brain because you might need it at home.’ You cannot do that anymore,” Collignon said.
He said there is too much distinction between manual and intellectual labor in today’s industry.
“That worked 30 years ago, but it doesn’t work today. If we find smart ways to get all of our employees involved” Volvo can “rethink its industrial footprint,” he added.
He said sustainability in today’s economy is “not about the search for an idea worth $100,000,” but rather finding “100,000 ideas worth a dollar.”
“If I have to make a choice I prefer the second (scenario) because in the first, only one person is intellectually involved; in the other, thousands are. That is far more sustainable than to have one person intellectually involved,” he added.
Every day, he says, he and the other Volvo employees come to work “thinking how are we going to do things better today than we did yesterday.”
For example, he said the plant is in the process of a “competition” whereby teams of plant employees were asked to develop ideas for saving energy because “every dollar we save through energy is easy money. It’s picking the low-hanging fruit. It’s part of the vision of how can we work smarter.”
Showing the results of the competition, he fanned through a nearly two-inch thick stack of paper.
According to Communications Manager Marcus Thompson, the submissions have enough energy saving ideas to save a projected annual energy consumption of 900 households.
No only are the ideas catching on at the plant, but they are finding that some of the 1,200 employees are starting to implement the ideas at home, Thompson said.
Collignon points out that the competition was not only good for Volvo, but also for the environment and future generations.
Asked what future he sees for the plant, long term, Collignon questioned, “what is long term?
“If we are successful and remain successful in rethinking and re-engineering our industrial footprint continuously, we’ll have a good future.”
He added, “time will tell. I don’t think any company can stand up today and say ‘yes, we will (always have) the light with us.’”
However, Collignon said he “wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have a belief in the full potential of the plant.”
“We’re all suffering very much from this very bad global economy. But I think there is a positive attitude now that we’ll look for this new dimension, this new level.”