We are delighted to introduce Xavier De Gheselle, Technical Services Manager for the South West Europe region, who kindly agreed to be interviewed for our new ‘Introducing Series’. Here Xavier gives us a glimpse at what first sparked his passion for the sector, and how he transforms that passion into continuous improvement, leadership and quality delivery for our clients.
Xavier De Gheselle – Quick Facts
Position: Technical Services Manager – South West Europe
Base: Nivelles, Belgium
Industry Experience: >15 years industry experience, >10 years in the railway construction sector
Responsibility: Managing installation team of 15 people on key projects around the region (sometimes up to 50 people)
Guiding Principle: There’s no such thing as bad workers. Only bad Managers.
Xavier, everyone who knows you, clearly sees the passion you have for this industry. Can you remember when you first became interested in engineering and construction?
Actually my father worked in the railway sector and I will never forget how fascinating I found his job and the stories that he used to tell me about what happened on the construction sites. I guess that’s why I chose the same sector.
I started working as Site and later Project Manager for a large organization in the rail sector, focusing on secondary branch lines, tramways and railroad projects for the national rail network.
Bringing together the skills and expertise I had developed over the previous 13years, I started my career with Gantrex in 2016. This has been the perfect career move for me. Becoming part of the Gantrex team I have been able to develop and hone my expertise. There are so many specialties within our field of work, I am grateful to be continually challenged to learn new things and find new solutions. Whether for cranes and specialty rail tracks, such as tracks for overhead cranes, automated warehouses or tracks for STS cranes, working on projects for Gantrex, the global market leader, keeps my passion alive. That original fascination I had as a child is still alive today and helps me strive for quality in everything that I and my teams do for our clients.
You mention quality. In your opinion why is quality at the installation stage so important?
It seems the challenges we face are ever increasing, whether it has to do with timings, price, sustainability or the environment we are working in. Only by running quality through every single thing that we do can we guarantee the outcome that our clients have come to expect from our brand. As a specific example, rail installation tolerances are becoming tighter. Our strength as both designer and installer of crane rail systems means that we can guarantee our specification, and the installation tolerances of the systems we provide. While on site, our installation teams are supervised by a Geometrical Surveyor who guarantees the proper functioning of our systems, and its ongoing performance. Our advanced knowledge and expertise mean we can provide solutions for new systems, but also for older tracks, proposing corrective or maintenance interventions to build maximum life into a system. This is something that Gantrex clients especially appreciate. Without this quality of training, testing and performance, no other provider can offer the same reassurance.
Are there any other challenges you and your team face on a daily basis?
We are facing a hugely diverse range of project sites, across many countries, each with their own language and site specifications. And this certainly comes with a unique set of challenges. Understanding site specifications, from different customers, in different languages and from multiple countries is a key part of my role. During every installation phase, daily communication with the customer is critical to the project success. So, I, along with every member of my team, need to be able to communicate with the customer and other workers on site. Working efficiently, communicating effectively and ensuring that that we deliver each project on time and on budget, underpinned with quality at every stage. That is a real challenge, but it’s one which we thrive on; driving quality, innovation, customer satisfaction and project delivery, on time, every time.
How do you keep your team motivated to keep delivering outstanding projects while meeting these challenges?
There’s a number of ways that I and Gantrex generally make sure that we keep everyone motivated to deliver the very best job.
On my part, I completely believe that there’s no such thing as bad workers, only bad managers. I take my role as leader of my team very, very seriously and try, at all times, to lead by example. It’s up to me to show the right path to the team, and I do this, every day, by setting the standard, being exemplary in my own work and the decisions that I make. I have to help my team evolve. I believe that’s part of my job as a Manager.
This is also supported by the organization. Gantrex ensures that every member of the team knows the strategic objectives of the business, and importantly, the role that each person plays and the contribution that they make. As a business we have a pretty flat hierarchy, which means that all teams, mine included, feel close to the heart of the operation. And in doing so, understand the part they play in the success of the business and the success of our clients.
Our Installation teams are doing exceptionally well and I am very proud of everything that they do. Their commitment and attitude certainly make my job a little easier.
What about you? What do you look back upon as your greatest achievement?
That is a difficult question! To be honest, I always tend to think that my greatest success will be the next project! I very much enjoy the “chasing” phase where we are trying to secure new contracts. I find this as rewarding as the actual installation phase. But to answer your question, my greatest success is undoubtedly the creation of this installation team. Starting from scratch and also starting relatively recently, I am proud to have built a team of absolute professionals who are able to deliver outstanding expertise and skills across all territories within our sector. From France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain to Portugal, North Africa, Central and West Africa, Lebanon and Israel, wherever the team is required I am proud of the expertise we can deliver, through continuous training and close support.
And finally, what project will you be working on next?
We are currently running installations across France, Spain and Luxembourg, alongside a project in Israel. Then, we have new projects in Morocco, French Guiana and Lebanon that are scheduled for our teams to work on. It seems to be non-stop at the moment which is fantastic and it’s great to see clients choosing Gantrex and our installation teams to manage their valuable crane rail system investments.