Our daily production record has been broken three times during this period of crisis.

Our daily production record has been broken three times during this period of crisis.

Róbert Smalekker Plant Manager Zalaegerszeg, Hungary

What were you doing before working for Knauf Insulation?

I started my career in the plant in 1995 when it was a subsidiary of the Heraklith Group. When I joined Heraklith, I started as maintenance leader and was later promoted to production manager. In 2009 I became plant manager, so I have wealth of experience of the plant.

What was the greatest challenge of 2020?

For the plant, 2020 started promisingly, with good production results and great key performance indicators. However, the epidemic created an unexpected work environment for everyone.

How were challenges overcome?

Luckily, we are a small plant with around 50 colleagues, so we were able to implement measures quickly and efficiently when the epidemic broke out. We immediately started using masks, placed emphasis on distancing, installed disinfectant in every office, minimised the number of people that could stay in the same room at the same time, and banned foreigners from entering the plant and office area, including truck drivers.

What have we learnt from the crisis?

The situation has certainly highlighted the importance of hygiene rules, which I am convinced we must maintain in the future. In addition, we were able to demonstrate the strength of teamwork — everyone was highly disciplined in following virus protection measures. By paying attention to each other and helping each other, we have managed to successfully navigate the pandemic and the strength of our collaboration is proven by the fact that, so far, there has been no infection in the plant.

How has production been impacted by the crisis?

Production has run uninterrupted and we have been able supply our customers effectively. In fact, our daily production record has been broken three times during this period, which means that since our inception, we have produced the most products in one day with the best OEE, overall equipment effectiveness, and lowest scrap. We have learnt that if we focus a little more on our daily job and our colleagues, we can handle difficult situations well — what’s more we were able to achieve better results compared to normal operation.

And capacity has increased.

Recently, the plant has managed to increase production capacity from a one-shift to a two-shift operation with continuous investment and developments and could further expand the product portfolio from traditional construction boards to higher value, higher quality confection products. These are painted, edge-processed products, which account for 40% of the current portfolio.

What has been a career highlight?

We are very proud that for two consecutive years — 2017 and 2018 — our factory was voted the Best Wood Wool factory in the company. These awards are recognition of the great teamwork at the plant and our commitment to continuous improvement and safety.

Photo of Róbert Smalekker

Róbert is the manager of our Zalaegerszeg Wood Wool plant in Hungary. The plant started production 30 years ago and is 230km west of the capital of Budapest. One of two Knauf Insulation Wood Wool plants, Zalaegerszeg serves customers across the Eastern Europe Region.