Erkan Üçok, Plant Manager Eskişehir, Turkey

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Erkan Ucok

Erkan is the manager of our Glass Mineral Wool plant at Eskişehir, Turkey — a site that is perfectly located to supply markets in Asia, Africa and Europe. Erkan has been working with Knauf Insulation since 2011.

Communication was key, especially during the lockdown period of the pandemic when almost all workplaces in Eskişehir were closed and our team kept working 24/7.
Erkan Üçok, Plant Manager Eskişehir, Turkey

What were you doing before working for Knauf Insulation?

I was running a Glass Mineral Wool plant in Turkey*.

What have been the greatest challenges of 2020?

Obviously the coronavirus pandemic was and still is the greatest challenge this year.

How did your plant manage this crisis?

We immediately formed a crisis team with frequent and active communication links, supported by central and regional guidelines. The whole team was motivated to roll out and follow the relevant measures.

Are there important learnings you would like to share?

Communication to team members was key, especially during the lockdown period of the pandemic when almost all workplaces in Eskişehir were closed and our plant team kept working 24/7 — worried about themselves and their families. Providing a safe environment at early stages of the pandemic and communicating constantly were vital to ensuring team motivation.

How has your plant been changed by post-COVID safety requirements?

At the first stage of the pandemic, we used distance, air, surface and hygiene (DASH) gap analysis to address all open points. To avoid contact with common surfaces, door knobs, taps, soap and disinfectant dispensers were replaced or converted to ‘sensor’ or ‘foot’ operated. Physical or visual barriers were installed to ensure distancing. The maximum capacity for meeting rooms, control rooms and locker rooms was identified and implemented. Now many meetings are conducted using online platforms.

And a disinfection routine has also been implemented.

Depending on the location and surface, this routine is in place on a shift and daily basis, while bi-weekly disinfection is carried out by a professional company. In August we implemented new measures to ensure fresh air for offices and control rooms. There is a temperature check at the site entrance and masks are required in line with local regulations.

What measures were introduced to keep your team As Safe As Home? 

We introduced many DASH measures and the guidelines provided by Central were very helpful. To ensure we kept them in place, we have generated As Safe As Home checklists for each area and integrated them into our layered auditing app. Regarding the behaviour of team members, a detailed pandemic plan was prepared with the lead of our HSE Manager and distributed to all employees. We overcame social distancing difficulties in locker rooms, canteens and smoking areas with time-slot applications. Non-critical visits or contractor work are not allowed on site.

What is your future ambition for the site?

Our vision is defined by our brand values of and our mission to produce high quality, innovative insulation solutions in a plant where everyone wants to work and feel safe.

What have been your career achievements?

I had the chance to experience different phases of different plants in my career such as taking over a high performing plant, taking over a low performing plant and starting up a new plant. What makes me proud is raising performance in terms of safety, quality, productivity and capacity as a result of good team work. My proudest moments occur when our internal career planning works for my people rather than hiring externally.

How has Continuous Improvement transformed your plant?

After Continuous Improvement was initiated, Eskişehir plant improved tremendously in terms of cleanliness, visuals and the daily management process. The CI steering committee, with the attendance of key supervisors, is committed to our CI journey. However, the power behind success is the engagement of all people at all levels. At our plant, everyone has a chance to join morning meetings and any related root cause analysis, present an idea or spot a hazard. Each employee is a team member of a CI project which is linked to our strategic deployment. The result is that everyone has a role in the journey to meet annual and long-term plant objectives.

What example of teamwork at your plant would you highlight as an important success?

A line capacity project finalised earlier this year is a good example of teamwork at Eskişehir. This project required the involvement and commitment of many team members from all departments and process areas. Even though the project team faced many failures during trials, the positive communication between colleagues — whatever their level, managers or operators — and the enthusiasm of the team ensured the project was a success.

What successes would you like to highlight in connection with safety?

The biggest step change in terms of safety improvement at Eskişehir started with the “HSE Expectations Gap Analysis” initiated by Central HSE at the end of 2015. We have used this tool over the years to define actions for safety maturity improvement, to focus on leading indicators (proactive measures to prevent accidents) and to generate more. By focusing on lagging indicators (which examine how effective measures have been), we had no Lost Time Accidents between 2017 and 2019 and no Lost Time Accidents in the past 12 months of operation.

What recent sustainability successes have been important to the plant in terms of waste management, energy savings or emission reductions?

In 2020 we replaced 6,240 wooden pallets and the same number of cardboard boxes with reusable boxes. The replacement added up to a saving of 342m3 of timber. In addition, for local market shipments we increased the amount of product that can be loaded onto a truck by nearly 20% by adjusting our palletising pattern. As a result this year we are using fewer trucks to transport our products saving 162 tonnes of CO2 emissions compared to 2019.


*Erkan Üçok is currently working in our Johor Bahru plant, Malaysia 


Plant Managers Knauf Insulation
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