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THE GANTREX "INTRODUCING" SERIES #17

Quality achievement is a mindset and one which must be shared by everyone.

Introducing Agathe Gergaud, General Manager Operations Belgium. Having joined the organization relatively recently, Agathe brings with her a wealth of experience gained with global brands including Häagen Dazs and explains below how she now finds such satisfaction driving quality throughout our very own global Gantrex brand.

Agathe, you joined our team in September 2021. Could you share a little of your career background and what led you to your current role as General Manager – Operations Belgium?

Of course. I joined the Company 8 months ago in Sept. 2021 and am responsible now for leading operations at our plant in Nivelles, Belgium. My role involves looking after production, quality, purchasing and intercompany customer support operations.

Leading to this point, I first worked for 17 years in the dairy industry, for Häagen Dazs and then Ingredia, their cream and milk sole supplier. From Customer Support to developing global Sales processes, I have been involved in international operations, global process improvement and customer management since that time.

In 2014, Ingredia offered me the opportunity to work in Central New York on a 3-year mission to develop a partnership with a group of farmers, monitor the start-off of their new dairy processing plant and implement a sales and inventory operation.

When I returned to Europe at the end of my mission, I landed in Brussels and joined an Intellectual Property Services company Valipat, to lead one of their business units, structure, improve and consolidate their operations. The company placed much importance on quality, which was at the center of their streamlined process & the core of their customer promise. Nevertheless, service, it seemed, was a bit too abstract for me. Gantrex was my next move!

You have a strong background in quality. Why do you think this is such a critical factor in crane rail operations?

Quality is fundamental to everything we do and is an intrinsic part of the culture of Gantrex, the people, the service and the products. It can be seen at every stage of our process. In the production phase, controls are systematically integrated in our process. We have a product quality controller in the warehouse, controlling production, as well as incoming raw materials and goods.

Within the OPC, I manage the Quality Department, consisting of a QA manager and a QC Technician. They are in charge of implementing and monitoring everything in relation to Quality Assurance and ISO processes, as well as controlling quality on our products directly within our suppliers’ sites. We are all constantly seeking out ideas for further improvement and applying practical ways in which to  implement them. Gantrex Belgium validated their recertification for ISO 9001 in 2021. This year, we conducted a control audit which went quite well and we are focusing now on constituting an internal audit team, in order to launch audit operations on our updated processes.

How do you motivate your team to make sure quality stays a top priority?

I am a strong believer in the principle that communication, collaboration and concertation are essential for good leadership. A such, I lead with my managers. I work on the basis that leadership does not come from me alone, but from a team of managers and experts working together and relying on each other too.

I am also big advocate of structure, processes and improvement, for myself first, but also for my teams. Processes and guidelines are essential to provide quality work to customers, internal or external. In the short to mid-term, being able to rely on those processes is crucial for employees to feel more confident about their work, and gain perspective. As an example of this, I specifically made sure the OPC procedures and work instructions were revised and integrated in the ISO process, providing adequate guidance for my team in their day-to-day activities.

In parallel to this we have a dedicated program looking at continuous improvement. We regularly review improvement suggestions that have been made and implement these as and when they have the greatest positive impact. One such improvement saw a new group process for claims implemented this year, and the OPC has certainly embraced it. We meet monthly as a team to sense check our activities as a means of improving our processes, and we also have a monthly Action Meeting to share progress on our open claims and ensure they are being handled appropriately. We track all recorded claims including those from customers, suppliers and also from within the organization.

 

What are you most excited about in the coming year? Any major projects, product innovation, people news?

I am excited to be involved in a number of new projects including our global Greenhouse Carbon Reduction Initiative.  Whilst topical, these types of projects are key to our remaining the industry’s trusted partner and retaining our position as market leader whilst doing everything we can to minimize the impact our operations have on the environment.

I am also involved in the Gantrex HingeGuardTM Short Rail project, in which process improvement comes together with innovation and an agile approach to product development. We’re also currently working on increasing pad production capacity in Nivelles. Pad production has been on the increase, firstly to keep up with demand and secondly to ensure that we can deliver our quality pledge to customers for production in Europe. We are forecasting new investment on our Pad production line, to optimize our process, increasing our production while ensuring that we maintain a healthy work environment for our staff in these areas.

 

And finally, what piece of advice would you give to women looking to enter this industry and build a career such as yours?

I am proud to be a part of a large international group such as Gantrex and lead their historic production site. Some industries, like ours, may not seem like the typical career path. But never let that be something that prevents you achieving your career goals. Cranes and rails should not stop you! Ours is an amazing technical world that has a lot to offer. Plus, the people are passionate about what they do and being able to work alongside them, sharing their vision and goals, that’s one of the things that brings me most job satisfaction.