Anna Michalczuk - Head of R&D

“The secret to innovation is thinking like a child: always ask why.”

12 years as the Head of R&D for Sempertrans have brought invaluable experience to Anna Michalczuk, our Expert of the Month. Starting from just four employees, she developed the department over the years with a team consisting today of over 30 co-workers: chemists, R&D and process engineers, and lab experts.

This expansion is testament to the strong emphasis Sempertrans puts on R&D in order to achieve innovation that goes beyond just producing high quality conveyor belts. Anna explained to us what innovation means for her and Sempertrans.

What does it take to be an innovative company?
For me being innovative entails following customer requirements to make the business profitable. By customer I mean both internal and external stakeholders, who are equally important to me. We have made significant progress in the last few years, bringing Sempertrans closer to customer expectations, for example with a new structure matrix which allows us to be more flexible in the industry.

Most specifically, what does innovation mean for Sempertrans?
At Sempertrans, we always strive to be at the forefront of innovation to adequately respond to market demands and reach customer satisfaction. That’s why we devote a lot of our efforts on developing better properties, better compounds, better products and better processes. The overarching goal is to achieve outstanding innovation, performance and profitability.

How do you maintain an in-depth understanding of markets to be aligned with customer expectations?
Sempertrans’ Application Engineering team is in tune with the market and that’s why they are my main source of information. Not only do they keep a close watch on the changing market and customer expectations, they are also determined to follow new directions in order to forecast where the business will go. They are very open to new ideas and I’m very excited for closer cooperation with them.

How do you encourage your team to build innovation?
The secret to innovation is thinking like a child: always ask why. Why are we doing things like this? It’s a never ending question mark. Then when everything’s said and done, ask yourself again: how can I improve? This philosophy not only applies at work but also in everyday life. It is actually especially relevant in the case of R&D. Customers don’t always tell us what they want from us, therefore we have to offer something new. What can we improve, how can we change for the better?

What is the major roadblock to innovation?
I don’t think there is any limitation in the thinking process to reach innovation. You just have to look around and when you have an idea, think about what can be done to concretise it. However, if I were to name one obstacle, I’d say the rubber itself. Our activity relies heavily on raw materials and considering how volatile they can be, we have to be proactive and try to forecast what is to come despite the unpredictability of the market.

What is your next challenge?
Unlike the tire business, in which there are plenty of big fairs worldwide where information can easily be shared, knowledge and expertise about the conveyor belt industry is quite limited. My personal objective is to grow my team into thinking out-of-the-box and suggesting new ideas. I want to train them into being true industry-thought experts, which requires strong focus on education.

For more information on how Sempertrans maintains its top position in terms of innovation, click here.

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