Ever since the beginning of my professional career I have put great emphasis on self-development and continuous development of my knowledge in the field of management. Therefore, when I took the position of the President of the Management Board at ALCO-MOT improving employees’ qualifications and implementing IT tools for more efficient operation of the plant became very important to me. Each year, a training and investment program is organised, whose starting point is the needs of our clients in the field of data analysis and changing technologies. We pay attention to the need to digitize data collection and analysis in order to bring us closer to the idea of industry 4.0. Therefore, I focused on the hard skills of employees, e.g. operating a new ERP class program or using Excel for production planning or collecting data on product quality assessment. It has allowed us to automate internal processes and led to improved data flow.
Ensuring technical and cybertechnical competences has so far been at the top of our training priorities list. Employees have participated in many training courses in quality management (e.g. PPAP, MSA, SPC, FMEA) and lean management (e.g. 5S, kaizen, TPM). They have visited other plants in order to observe organizational solutions and improvements that could be applied in ALCO-MOT.
However, raising hard competences has turned out to be insufficient, as leadership and communication skills have turned out to be of utmost importance. Arrival of new employees in the company, and much younger ones at that, has shown that we must learn to work in an intergenerational team, in which people with extensive technical experience have to work with multi-taskers, who quickly and easily adapt to changes and who are impatient too. Young employees grew up surrounded by tools which use the latest technologies and are happy to use them in their professional work, which is what employees of the older generation must be persuaded to do on a daily basis.
The need to develop the plant towards production 4.0 means that having soft skills has become more important than ever before. This is confirmed by the research carried out under the international project “Industrial Engineering and Management of European Higher Education (IE3)”, which aims to design, test, and validate new higher education models in the framework University – Industry Knowledge Alliance. ALCO-MOT is a partner in this project and has been closely following the results of this research. Universities, especially technical ones, have been cooperating with industry for years. Having been an academic lecturer for 20 years, I have completed over 100 implementation projects in industrial plants. My experience confirms what researchers who analyse university curricula have noticed: there is a difference between the needs of industry and what universities offer in terms of soft skills development. Therefore, it is worth complementing engineering curricula with interpersonal competences courses so that, apart from technical skills in using the latest technologies, new engineers have knowledge and tools to work with people who are different from them.