Interview with the Director of Chropynska strojirna, a.s., Jan Pokorny

We bring you an interview with the Director of Chropynska strojirna, a.s., Jan Pokorny, who has revealed his career path, his roles within the company, and a little about his personal life. Together, we will delve into the history and future of the company and learn more about his personal interests and experiences that guide him in both his professional and personal life.

How did you start at Chropynska strojirna?

I joined Chropynska strojirna in 2008 from Skoda Auto, where I held the position of Body Shop Leader. Upon agreement with Robert Kudela, I took over the Engineering division, where I was tasked with developing a new department focused on supplying welding lines and conveyor systems. I began working on a project for Škoda Auto in Kvasiny, the plant from which I had departed. Paradoxically, during one project, I had the opportunity to work both on the side of the customer and the supplier. It was not always ideal, but such situations are part of life. Over time, we started implementing more projects for Škoda Auto, managing multiple projects simultaneously, and expanded our customer base to include other brands of the VW Group and BMW. An interesting fact is that our entry into BMW was through projects in the Rolls Royce welding shop.

How has the Company changed since you started in 2008?

In 2008, I entered a family company that was small and primarily focused on the Czech market. Today, we can say that our company has become a corporate giant. We have undergone significant growth in terms of the number of employees, project scope, and expansion into foreign markets. In 2012, we had 230 employees and an annual turnover of 15 million euros, mainly operating in the Czech market. Today, we are an international company with over 1800 employees in eight countries worldwide and an annual turnover of 150 million euros.

How was it leaving the position of Engineering Division Director?

With a heavy heart. I built this division and have strong ties to it. On the other hand, I left with a peaceful mind knowing that Ondra (Ondrej Malek, Director of the Engineering Division, ed.) and his team know what is expected of them. I was aware of my colleagues loyalty and knew they could ensure the continuity of what I have been striving for since the beginning, ensuring that what we have achieved in 15 years does not disappear.

The Engineering division currently has around 60 employees, mainly project managers, and closely collaborates with the Mlada Boleslav division in the area of design, with its director, Vladimir Soumar, and his team. Some colleagues specialize in supplying welding lines, while others focus on conveyor systems.

Can you describe some of your personal achievements or significant milestones during your time at Chropynska strojirna?

I consider the establishment and successful operation of the Engineering division a success.

Also, building strong and collaborative relationships with our customers, who repeatedly return to us and, I believe, enjoy doing business with us.

I value working with students who work with us as interns, write their theses with us, and later become our colleagues.

Employee satisfaction is also a success for me.

Can you describe some key projects you are currently working on and their significance for our company?

Commercially, the most important projects for us at the moment are those implemented at VW Slovakia, Skoda Auto, and BMW Debrecen and Munich. We are actively working on bids for additional lines at BMW Dingolfing.

Our conveyor specialists are gearing up for action at VW Slovakia, and projects at Skoda Auto and Continental are in full swing.

Another significant project for me is the ongoing implementation of an ERP and PLM system in our group. I fully believe in its successful implementation because the effort and dedication of all our colleagues involved in this project are admirable. I would like to support them in this way and, above all, thank them for it.

Why did you decide to study engineering?

I was not determined to study engineering from a young age. But gradually, I understood that this was where the future lay and what suited me best. I studied at the Technical University of Ostrava, which is a unique university for me, and I greatly appreciate its close connection to the industry. Like everyone else, I have beautiful memories of my student years, even though I worked during my studies.

What does your typical workday look like?

I start my day before seven in the morning. Now I do not travel as much as before the pandemic when I racked up tens of thousands of kilometres per year, so I spend much more time in Chropyne. My calendar includes both routine meetings dealing with daily operations related to the production and engineering projects, and increasingly more events that extend beyond the boundaries of our plant. We discuss setting up processes and the effectiveness of their functioning across the entire group, so that we can use the experiences of others and provide them with what we are good at.

How do you spend your free time?

You probably cannot expect a different answer... I try to spend my free time mainly with my family, but I also make time for my hobby, which is running. I have been running since my school years, and after a long break, I returned to running a few years ago. I enjoy both road and trail running, especially over longer distances. I usually run alone, enjoying solitude and time to sort out my thoughts after days surrounded by people. But to spice things up, I participate in a few races every year. The highlight of this year was the Grossglockner Ultra Trail - South Tyrol Trail, which was 88 kilometres long with 5000 meters of elevation.

We know you love motorcycles. Where have you been on a motorcycle and where did you like it the most?

Yes, I love motorcycles; I have several of them, but I must also admit that I have less and less time for them. I have ridden through Morocco, the Balkans, Turkey, Russian Karelia, and the Nordic countries, but I was particularly impressed by Morocco, where I felt very safe, it is a beautiful country. I also liked Albania and Romania.

Can you describe an interesting project or significant situation that has most influenced your career?

I would not want to choose between projects because each one has something interesting about it. It could be its complexity, new technologies that you are just discovering, or the people you meet.

Like all of us, I am influenced by the changes that life and career bring. Whether it was leaving Skoda Auto for a then smaller family company or, within Chropynska, moving from the Engineering division to leading the Company. I always had to learn a lot of new things and often change my way of thinking.

Which areas of your industry do you consider crucial for the future, and how are you preparing for potential market changes?

The automotive industry is a very competitive and dynamic environment. We see this in the rapidly emerging electromobility, which to some extent is changing the concepts and technologies used in our lines. For us, it is essential to monitor trends, develop knowledge and skills in emerging technologies for joining various materials, and be able to react quickly. An advantage for us is that whether the car is powered by an internal combustion engine or an electric motor with any energy source, it will always need a body - perhaps a slightly different one, but a body, and it is up to us to know how to make it.

Where do you see our company in five years?

My wish is for us to be a stable company capable of managing our own growth, processes, and having a clearly defined vision and goals for at least the next five years. It is important to know where we are heading and how we want to get there. We are already large enough to be considered a corporate company, but I would really like us to continue maintaining the atmosphere of "not just going to work" here. Our company is built on family and value foundations laid by Frantisek Kudela. In my opinion, this cannot be replaced, and I believe it makes the company unique.

Thank you for the interview, and we wish you much success in leading the company, making the right decisions, and a long and prosperous future together.

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