Today, the customer doesn‘t buy a product, but a solution

Radim Němeček Business line manager for the Motor Vehicle Industry (MVI)

says Radim Němeček, our Business line manager for the Motor Vehicle Industry (MVI). He adds that for today’s customer, a top-quality product is a given. While technology was once king, now the winner is the one who offers the best-quality service, training and other after-sales support. No doubt, Radim can make such comparisons. He was one of the few there for the birth of – the Industrial Tools division in the Czech Republic 20 years ago. This year, he has made history as the first to receive an award through the Loyalty Recognition Program.

How has Atlas Copco changed during your 20 years here?
Twenty years is a long time, and everybody changes. Even a company like Atlas Copco. When I started here, there were four of us. Now we have more than 160 employees. What was once a year’s revenue we now make in 10 days. Naturally, this change didn’t happen overnight. As market demand grew, a strong company was built, and now it’s a leader and sets the pace for technical development.

How have your customers’ demands grown in that time?
Aside from increased production, the biggest changes are undoubtedly the demand for quality service and flexibility on the part of the company. Market competitiveness is now measured mainly by the support the company can offer its customers. Without products that meet demanding technical requirements, a supplier has no chance.

This must have changed the content of your work a lot.
That’s true. It’s not just about sales, not by a long shot. We have to devote ourselves to the customer long before that. We emphasize customer education, and often we provide consulting right in production. Nowadays, the customer doesn’t buy a product, but a complete solution. And we’re responsible for its working – even for subsequent service, calibration, maintenance, etc.

That’s another reason why in the future, you want to allow customers to complete training at your new Lean centre. Not long ago, you were one of the first to finish it. What’s your take on it?
I was very pleasantly surprised. Especially by all that can be achieved if a person thinks about what he’s doing. And it doesn’t just apply to the production process, but even to the ordinary workday. That’s another reason I’d recommend the training to anyone with a chance to take it.

Let’s go back to the time when the Lean centre didn’t exist. What technology made the greatest advances in your department?
Naturally, as a person with a technical education, I’m most fascinated by the product itself. New technologies have allowed a huge leap in development of tightening technology. Twenty years ago, the main assembly tool was the pneumatic nutrunner. Now an electrically driven nutrunner is almost a given. With the same weight, you get many times the performance, and the assembly quality is beyond comparison. We can communicate with it through wifi, we can remotely control the entire assembly workplace, analyse joints and change the whole tightening process.

And during these years, have you been through any downright weak periods?
Not when it comes to technological development. Naturally, even we felt the 2008 crisis. The automotive market crashed, customers limited their investment, and they started contemplating older technology even for new projects.

What trends do you expect in the future? What do you most look forward to?
I think the traditional nut-and-bolt joint will be part of assembly for a very long time. On the other hand, demands for energy savings and increased safety are making manufacturers consider new materials. They are lighter, more solid and can’t be assembled with a traditional screw joint.

And that’s why you’re now offering SCA adhesive solutions?
Atlas Copco’s development and innovation always respond to customer demand, so this was a natural advance. SCA adhesive solutions represent the latest technology. They’re simple, light and cheaper to produce. Some car manufacturers have started to use various materials based on carbon fibre that can’t be welded or assembled with screw joints. Now it’s time for adhesives.

So cars will be lighter and cheaper in the future?
Everything’s pointing that way. The important thing is that lower vehicle weight shows up in lower operating costs and greater passenger safety.

You have a perfect overview of the whole market. Does anything still surprise you?
No actual surprises, because changes come gradually. But there are definitely things that intrigue me. One is the long-standing difference between Western and Asian views on using tightening technology. Europeans try to transfer responsibility to the technology as much as possible, eliminating the human factor. Meanwhile, the Asians rely on the idea that it’s employees themselves who ensure the greatest quality in assembly. Naturally, these differences are gradually reducing due to market demands and regulations, but they are still interesting to watch.

Asians aren’t the only ones who rely on the staff. Atlas Copco also values quality employees. You’ve recently been awarded by the Loyalty Recognition Program. What does that mean to you?
It’s an award that I greatly prize. It confirms that I’m part of a company that knows its employees and values them.

What is it that’s so special about your work that it hasn’t lost its attraction in all this time?
To tell you the truth, it went by in a flash. Maybe it’s because my work doesn’t just depend on me. If you’ve got a good team around you, a dynamic company behind you and a top-quality product in the warehouse, that keeps you moving forward. Every customer is different, but working on new projects with new people is always interesting and inspiring. Maybe that’s why I still find it fun.

Top managers usually work day and night. How do you relax?
There’s always enough work, and less leisure time, but everyone should find time for relaxation, family and fun. At least on weekends, I try to leave my job at the office. I spend time with family or friends fishing or playing golf.



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