Daniël Smeets
Team Leader
“You can really rely on these men.“

At hall number 3 of the factory at Gunnebo, the (still separate) bodies and doors of the ATM safes rest to dry. The panels of the bodies are constructed from 2 steel metal sheets, each 2 or 3 millimetre thick. In between, concrete reinforcements and – poured in just a few hours ago – the concrete itself. Shaped by the robust steelworks of the preceding section, the doors and bodies are wrapped in steel jigs, to avoid any adjustments in shape while the concrete dries. They will be joined at the Finishing assembly line, where several operations prepare the safes for the final painting and the assembly of the locks. Daniël Smeets, team-leader, sums up these operations which, together, create the daily rhythm of ‘his’ assembly line.

“The cleaning of the rim of the body, the welding of hinges on the rim and doors, removing the jigs. Cleaning the underside of the safe and paint it with red lead. Positioning the safe upright, remove the wooden filling which, together with the jigs, protects the safes from warping when the concrete dries. Applying an opposite weld at the hinges, and subsequently mechanically remove any residues of concrete from the safes. After this cleaning, we burn off any remains of steel fibres which are mixed with the concrete of the CEN-3 and CEN-4 safes, with an application of oxygen and acetylene. We check all pop-nuts and plastic parts. We affix a nameplate with a barcode – the safe thus gets its identity –, we fine-tune the mounting of the door, and, finally, there is the final review using a checklist.“

All safes undergo these steps, and the Finishing Assembly line thus is, on each day, an essential part of fulfilling the production targets. It is a cadence by which, roughly, every station on the line is ‘fed’ with a new safe every 3 minutes. As the amount of work at each station varies per type of safe, and as subsequent batches of particular types of safes can accelerate or slow down the line, one of the major tasks of a teamleader is to maintain an overview on throughput, while guarding the quality of the work.

“Yes, that pressure is present. Ultimately, the targets have to be met. And if our section cannot process sufficient numbers, subsequent sections won’t be able to do so either. Naturally, you can’t control everything, and things like a malfunctioning crane lift can impact these numbers. But we always try to adept, and to avoid a loss of throughput.“

“Although at times stressful, it is a competitive sort of stress, and personally I find it even stimulating. It certainly is true that the focus on numbers has increased in recent years. Customers now demand more – a more speedy delivery, a lower price. At times I really have to wind down when I come home – relax, recharge, in order to meet the challenges the next day. I can be hard work. Safes like the UX1RA CEN-1 type are pretty straightforward – they do not contain many pop-nuts, and its specifications are not that complex. When we have those, the work is relatively easy and at the end of the day, we may even have some spare time to clean the working area. But the Multifresh safes – these are very complex, with an abundance of parts. They slows you down, and require extra hands.“

“It is a challenge, sometimes even a kind of sport, to work together and as a team, meet these targets. At times you just can’t do it. But that’s just a part of life – we will always try, and if there’s a delay, we will try to learn why, and avoid it happening the next time. In the end, we always manage to meet the customers wishes. Our company, the way we work – we are well equipped to address the dynamics of last minute requests, which increasingly typify our market. That is our strength.“

Daniël Smeets is in charge of approximately 17 employees, for a large part consisting of temporary personnel originating in Eastern-Europe. He really doesn’t like to be an authoritarian manager, and avoids stressing hierarchy unless it cannot be avoided. His guiding principle is a trust in others, and he prefers a practical approach to the real-life fact of dealing with many people with just as many personalities and preferences. The job has to be finished – that’s clear, and one of his major drives. But if there’s something troubling anyone, he will try to understand why, and – typical of Gunnebo – find a solution which, if possible, addresses the issue on a personal, human level.

“As a teamleader, I think it is natural to expect from your people a serious commitment to their work. I feel that if you take the time to get to know them, and invest in a mutual understanding, they will be willing to do more, to reach a little higher. I try to deploy each worker in a way that does justice to their individuality, their weaknesses and strengths. And we work together as a team, in good spirits. You can really rely on the men. It is only very sparse – luckily – that you have to be strict, to be firm, in dealing with, for instance, a problem of attitude towards the work. If that occurs, you have to be very clear. Just as you at times have to be clear and decisive in your regular life. But I’d rather never be like that. And I will never use strong language. That’s improper for any manager, and also – it gets you nowhere, on the contrary, it will backfire. People do not forget it if you misbehave, or try to demean them. It’s much better to step back a little, when there’s an irritable situation, and take a moment to reflect on what’s happening. I’ve learned to be calm, before I start a discussion, and address an issue. It made me more aware my own views are just that – my own, and others may have a different perspective. From that in essence more positive approach I can than try to find a solution which, if possible, suits us both.“

“Honesty, for me, is very important. I can’t really stand injustice. When a person assumes to be better, to be superior to others. If that happens, I will tell him, in a personal chat, that this is not the way to go. Because we are all equal. Regardless of nationality or religion. I’ve been to India for Gunnebo, to help shape the production process in our plant in Halol. There are regions in India where the poverty of the people is appalling. During my flight home I thought about how we regard our wealth as normal, as a natural gift, and how I should always remember to be grateful for our plenitude.“

Video.  Teamleader Daniël Smeets.

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