Stjepan Mršić - Plant Manager Novi Marof, Croatia

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Stjepan Mrsic Plant Manager Novi Marov, Knauf Insulation

Stjepan joined Knauf Insulation as plant manager of Novi Marof, Croatia, in 2017. Over the years the site has grown to be one of the most important companies in Northern Croatia, not just as a result of business success but also in terms of its important social role. This year the plant celebrates its 40th anniversary.

We now demonstrate more empathy and concern for one another than we ever did before.
Stjepan Mršić, Plant Manager Novi Marof, Croatia

Why is Novi Marof important to Knauf Insulation?

The factory has grown into a serious insulation player and is the only plant dedicated to technical solution products. Novi Marof was the first company's Rock Mineral Wool plant to produce the whole product range with ECOSE® Technology binder with no added formaldehyde. Our technical products are high end and the majority of our portfolio is sold for export. We are one of the biggest exporters in the whole country.

What were you doing before working for the company?

I used to work in the refining sector for INA Plc, the biggest company in Croatia. It is a major producer of crude oil and natural gas with a portfolio of two refineries, over 500 petrol stations and several fuel depots.

What have been the greatest challenges of 2020?

Like most businesses, our priority was our workers and their safety and our main challenge was to maintain continuous production and supply the market throughout the COVID-19 crisis. We adapted quickly and the result was that we did not experience problems with production or raw material supply.

How did your plant overcome the challenges of COVID-19?

I am very cautious by nature, so I took measures even before the crisis affected our community. The main aim was to achieve continuous operations with a healthy and safe environment. The first step was establishing a local crisis team founded by supply chain management, health and safety, public relations and human resources to take care of the complete chain of communication, information and decision-making. It was important to show employees we were actively working on their protection.

What measures were taken?

We bought additional personal protective equipment long before the market shortage. This also helped us to support colleagues in other plants who did not have enough masks. We also purchased disinfection, raw materials and organised measures to keep employees safe and their spirits high. Due to a lack of export demand, we partially switched production to the domestic market which helped us to work without capacity reduction or financial loss. In parallel, we launched an efficiency improvement programme to optimise and keep us profitable. I’m proud to say we have been successful.

Are there important learnings you would like to share?

We now demonstrate more empathy and concern for one another than we ever did before. I want to maintain this positivity as we overcome the COVID-19 crisis because it guarantees long-term business sustainability. In addition, the increased security measures related to the pandemic have significantly improved site safety and this must continue to define our future.

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

The pandemic has shown us that everyone can act responsibly and strictly adhere to prescribed rules — that responsibility must be maintained permanently. The crisis has also been an opportunity for us to develop better work solutions and to accelerate our process of digitalisation. However, the legacy of this crisis will be improved health care at home and at work.

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

We have implemented all safety measures from the DASH — distance, air, surface and hygiene — matrix. These include, for example, physical distancing with clear warnings, partition screens, maximum room occupancy, on-site posters and signage with essential information and ventilation improvements. There are clear and unambiguous rules of conduct for all employees during work and leisure and rules for all visitors and partners who come to our factory. We do not want to miss a single detail that could jeopardise our business. We are aware that there are no 100% guarantees, but we have done everything we can to protect our employees who are our greatest asset.

What is your future ambition for the site?

That our factory is a world leader in innovative solutions such as Technical Solution products and systems and ECOSE Technology. I want great performance in health and safety and achieved capacity/quality targets. I want a solid sustainable future for the plant based on good relations with the local community, competitiveness on the market, flexible production, a healthy, safe working environment with proud employees and a circular economy driven by the best technology.

What have been your proudest career achievements?

I am proud of my people. We might not always share the same view but we have the commitment and partnership to define and implement the best solutions for the plant. I am proud of the 100% switch to ECOSE Technology, our capacity increase across all lines and achieving more than 8,000 operating hours per year and many other things. In my previous company, I was proud of achieving significant efficiency increases that transformed an unprofitable business in a very profitable one in less than three years.

How has Continuous Improvement transformed your plant?

Over the past two years we have achieved considerable success and currently we are assessed as the best company's plant in Rock Mineral Wool technology. Moreover, during the COVID-19 crisis, some practices have been improved and digitalisation has been accelerated. Continuous improvement initiatives and employee ideas have increased our equipment reliability, employee satisfaction and safety as well as improved efficiency.

Which examples highlight teamwork at your plant?

We are proud of the launch of the Ambassador project — people who are recognised as initiators and leaders in their work and motivators of other colleagues when it comes to performing tasks and duties. We divided the ambassadors into three groups: Continuous Improvement, Health and Safety and People and Customer Centricity. All of them work together but each group is also dedicated to a different area to improve business processes and internal and external communication. I am proud to say we have performed many great initiatives and we will continue in the same direction.

What successes would you highlight in connection with safety?

Over the past few years, we have had a slightly increased number of incidents so we have worked a lot on safety standards, equipment gap analysis and awareness. We have developed strong tools for safety reporting, safety dialogues and safety observations so the situation is getting much better. Still, we have a lot of work to do. I am proud of our many improvements in safety mainly through continuous improvement and ambassadors’ ideas, but even though we have achieved a lot, it is never enough.

How does your plant contribute to the local community?

Cooperation with the local community — the people who live here, the government and our associations — is very important to us. As a company, we are focused on being socially responsible and contributing to the development of the local community in all aspects. We have strongly supported the work of numerous Novi Marof associations for many years and we want to continue building on the good relations we have achieved so far. We will continue to support the projects that are of importance to local people.

What sustainability successes have been important to the plant?

Beside ECOSE Technology, the most important improvement was a new approach to working on the main line and improvements to the collection filer and the pipe section pre-material. They allowed us to reduce greenhouse gases and other emissions and ensure enough time to do maintenance on the whole line downstream from the pendulum. That was the main lever for achieving over 8,000 operating hours. We also resolved several waste challenges. I’m proud of our achievements.

What messages do you have for neighbours who are concerned about the environmental impact of your plant?

We are aware that a factory like ours has an impact on neighbours and the environment. In recent years, we have made great efforts to minimise this impact. All emissions are significantly below the allowable and we are the first factory in the Knauf Insulation Group to produce all of its Rock Mineral Wool products using innovative ECOSE Technology. The local community is looking for a responsible neighbour and partner and it is up to us to fully live up to such expectations by building on the success of our sustainability achievements.



Plant Managers Knauf Insulation
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