Grupo Antolín is an automotive company that has very humble origins in Burgos (Central Spain) in a car repair family business. Nowadays it has more than 28,000 workers with facilities in 25 countries. They have five principle lines:
• Car interiors
• Non-metal headliners
In total 4 billion euros of revenue.
Jose Luis shared very personal and relevant experiences about the difficult balance between quality control and diversity in such a complex global structure.
He started with a very funny story in which one of his colleagues tried to apply the motto they learnt at one of the quality update courses they attended “ Standardization is the key to success” But we all know that although you love all your children the same, you cannot treat them all the same. You deal with each of them in a different way. This is why Diversity is so connected with leadership.
We all know that respect is one of the basic starting points of diversity but also of the vision of a company. While talking about worldwide diversity dealing with workers in developing countries at the same time as first class clients, vision has to be the same but the road map totally different.
Further, Jose Luis highlighted that the enneagram should be a compulsory tool for any manager who leads teams. Even though they are not specialists they should use it to be able to understand diversity. We tend to create teams that resemble our profile but this is a big mistake because we are replicating our strengths without adding value and we are not solving our weaknesses.
He illustrated his thoughts with a very practical example regarding a challenge they faced providing leather seats for a premium brand where appearance is key and no wrinkles are acceptable.
Small details like packaging, logistics, humidity control, and heat are key to be aligned with quality standards because the way the leather adapts to the foam after materials are stacked during transport may change. If the client inserts a new variable in the procedures that have a direct relationship with delivered quality without notifying the owner of the value chain (in this case Antolin) this then becomes an issue. With the seat example, Antolin has the seats traveling from the provider in Switzerland to the sewing facility in Morocco and to the assembly in Spain, imagine how just a simple change from the client can impact this entire process.
Standardization is key for guaranteeing good result! It is not the same if you stack 30 units or 20, the weight leaves marks that afterwards become wrinkles. The order in which you sew the different pieces. When diversity enters in the equation things become more complex.
Jose Luis was in charge of opening Antolin’s Morocco plant. We all had our stereotype assumptions about Moroccan workers. Did you know many of them cannot read or write? While it is true that their rhythm is slower, Jose Luis assured us that they are more disciplined than Spaniards but less creative… Spaniards like to improvise! This is a strength in certain jobs but not in standardized procedures. In the end their results are better.
With regard to management objectives. There are three types of companies:
Type A: Driven mainly by instincts no fixed goals and therefore no standardization
Type B: Very focused on goals of different departments, it happens very often that they are independent and not aligned. It is very easy in this business model that people start lying, manipulating figures.
Type C: Action plan is the driver, there are goals but action plans are the main focus. Action plan is the best way to cope with a certain problem.
• First you decide what to measure, you should always be able to measure (for example in his example how many wrinkles can I afford?)
• Afterwards you define actions
• You decide who is the owner
• Timeline to solve the problem
• Measurement of the effectiveness of the plan
• Finally I improve my indicator
Very often immature companies want to go from the problem to the indicator directly. It is a big mistake.
When talking about RSC or Diversity policies they used to offer coffee for everyone but there is people who do not like coffee. He gave us a very good example regarding safety regulations that for Antolin are totally standardized no matter the country or culture. In all plants it is required to use safety shoes. In Morocco there was a huge rejection but, as said, there is not possible negotiation regarding safety. After some months the doctor of the plant reported that half of workforce had fungus in their feet. The reason was easy as they were not used to use closed-toe shoes, they did not have the habit to properly dry their feet after washing them during prayer. That was something they addressed by adapting the roadmap to the new reality but keeping the vision the same.