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“Having the possibility to create, shape and implement new ideas”

Posted: 22 September 2011 | | No comments yet

If you had told me that after graduating as an electromechanical engineer, I would spend most of my career in the railway sector, I would have been surprised but immediately attracted by the prospect.

Rolling Stock products are fascinating and quickly evolving products. The rail sector is an industry where people get a lot of possibilities to demonstrate their creativity and entrepeneurial spirit. And this is perfectly illustrated by Bombardier Transportation’s Business Unit (BU) Bogies belief – ‘Our ideas move people’.

The last 22 years have shaped me as a person and drove me at my current position within Bombardier Transportation.

If you had told me that after graduating as an electromechanical engineer, I would spend most of my career in the railway sector, I would have been surprised but immediately attracted by the prospect. Rolling Stock products are fascinating and quickly evolving products. The rail sector is an industry where people get a lot of possibilities to demonstrate their creativity and entrepeneurial spirit. And this is perfectly illustrated by Bombardier Transportation’s Business Unit (BU) Bogies belief – ‘Our ideas move people’. The last 22 years have shaped me as a person and drove me at my current position within Bombardier Transportation.

If you had told me that after graduating as an electromechanical engineer, I would spend most of my career in the railway sector, I would have been surprised but immediately attracted by the prospect.

Rolling Stock products are fascinating and quickly evolving products. The rail sector is an industry where people get a lot of possibilities to demonstrate their creativity and entrepeneurial spirit. And this is perfectly illustrated by Bombardier Transportation’s Business Unit (BU) Bogies belief – ‘Our ideas move people’.

The last 22 years have shaped me as a person and drove me at my current position within Bombardier Transportation.

After spending 1.5 years as an Officer in the Belgian Army, I joined Dana Spicer Corporation as a buyer of a wide variety of parts, immersing me in a much more practical side of technology after four years of mainly theoretical engineering education.

I then decided to diversify my skills and commenced work at Bombardier. During these first years in the railway industry I held different positions within the Quality Department. These experiences opened my eyes towards the many challenges faced by our clients, the difficulty to correct issues after delivery of the trains and the major impact small problems can have on our products, the reliability and our reputation.

These experiences strengthened my belief that Reliability and Quality are basic but vital for our products – features that we are continuously improving in our FLEXX Bogies. Working one year in the Channel Tunnel maintenance depot of Coquelles (France) within an international team was also quite fascinating. Being Belgian – from a small country – gave me the opportunity to practice several languages and interact with many different nationalities and cultures. This is becoming increasingly important in today’s business.

I then moved back to Procurement – my first centre of interest.I really appreciate working with many different functions inside the company and building bridges to the outside world. During 12 years, I went through a variety of functions in the Bombardier Procurement organisation. Buying many different components gave me a good technical insight into train technology, the supplier base and many manufacturing industries. I also learnt that you can’t do business without trust and mutual respect and that the railway industry is a small world where you have long-lasting business relationships with known partners. I also learnt that the biggest leverage on costs lies at the start of design. From design to commercial operation, there is an absolute need to work in a multidisciplinary team, including customers and suppliers, with close communication and cooperation. This is the only way to achieve the best possible results.

Another major evolution witnessed is that of the world opening up. At the start of my professional career, our market was Western Europe; then Eastern Europe opened up and major opportunities are now developing in the BRIC countries. Finding new sources and new customer bases on the global market has always fascinated me.

In 2005 I gradually stepped into a general management role by taking over the bogie frame manufacturing sites in Eastern Europe. In 2007 I took over the responsibility of President of the Bombardier Bogies BU. It gathers more than 2,000 motivated employees, selling more than 4,000 BOMBARDIER FLEXX bogies a year, dealing with more than 70 projects in parallel and a very broad product portfolio. The bogie is the critical component in a train ensuring safety and comfort at every speed.

Together with my management team, I initially worked on three basic principles: improving quality, reliability and on-time delivery of our products! One of the many enablers was standardising and streamlining our comprehensive portfolio into FLEXX bogie platforms.

As a next step, we initiated ‘Design for Manufacturing’ and ‘Right the First Time’ processes to make our operations leaner, while expanding into new geographic territories by either building a dedicated factory (e.g. in Savli/India) or by cooperating with local partners to grasp the full potential in the emerging markets.

All of the above resulted in improved Total Cost of Ownership of our products and a more efficient and financially sound business, which allowed us to increase the investment into R&D and innovation, as we strive to stay at the leading edge of technology with our products.

Having the possibility to create, shape and implement new ideas and being part of fascinating global projects gives me daily motivation in this challenging industry!

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