How did you find your way to Umicore?
I studied Civil Engineering, Materials Science, at KUL, where I had guest lectures from a Umicore colleague about metal recycling. It was the first time I had come into contact with the company. Then I had the chance to do a work placement in the Leaching and Electrowinning department and that left a positive impression. After my studies, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a consultant for three and a half years. When I noticed the vacancy for a Process Improvement Manager at Umicore come up during that time, I saw it as the ideal way to combine my knowledge of materials science with my interest in improvement projects and Lean Six Sigma and I applied straight away.
Can you describe your current position at Umicore?
As a Process Improvement Manager I focus on identifying and reducing waste in a process (both administrative and operational), among other things. All over the site, in all the different departments, we identify opportunities for improvement. That may be process improvements, but also all sorts of automation and digitalization projects. We list the projects, draw up business cases and set priorities so that we can then carry out as many projects as possible. To do this we work closely with the various production departments and with external partners.
What do you like about your job?
I like that my job is very varied. At the moment, I am working on projects in three different production departments. And as a result, I have got to know a lot of people in a short space of time. A network like this made it easier at a company like Umicore to be able to do your job properly. I like having contact with lots of people and working in team. I’ve also become familiar with the processes quickly.
What do you like about working at Umicore?
The best thing is the fact that I have great colleagues. We work well together as a team. With my previous employer I often worked from home, during but also after the coronavirus period. I really missed having contact with colleagues and I noticed that that is where I get a lot of satisfaction. Sports activities are organized, we have lunch together, and we regularly go for a drink together after work, etc. Finally, I like the open communication. Everything is up for discussion here.
What do you look forward to when you set off to work in the morning?
Every working day flies by. I’m constantly learning things and it never gets boring. I like involving colleagues from different levels during my work and listening to the different opinions. For example, I spend a lot of time on the factory floor, to involve the operators in our projects too, and listen to their experiences, but I also consult with their coaches, managers and department heads.
What has been the highlight of your time at Umicore so far?
In the short time I’ve worked here, I have already been able to define various opportunities for improvement. The first one has even already been implemented! I got positive feedback about it from all the colleagues concerned, both from operators and department heads.
Any advice for newcomers?
Umicore’s Young Graduate Program is a unique opportunity for newly qualified engineers to put knowledge into practice and at the same time get to know the company well. Looking back, I regret not having started at Umicore via that program myself. It’s the ideal way to get to know yourself better and to sort out which direction you want to head in.
Another piece of advice: As a young engineer, you’ll come up against a lot of resistance to the changes you are trying to implement. My advice is don’t give up straight away, but gather enough information from everyone involved and ask colleagues for advice. One of Umicore’s values is openness. You can go to anyone and by arguing your case sufficiently, you can win people over. Finally, I advise you not to be put off by setbacks. You can only learn from them!