Fernando Chalup, the Industrial Director of Ternium Argentina, reviews experiences from the very beginning and shares the vision on the axis of management, Industry 4.0 and the role of the leader.
Born in Monte Caseros, Corrientes. He is an Electronic Engineer from the National University of Rosario. He entered as an intern in 1998 and last November he made 23 years in the company.
How were your beginnings in the company?
I started in 1998 in the Galvanized area for the Haedo Plant to undertake what in its time was considered to be an ordinary internship. I had a great expectation, with several dreams. This was taking the first step of something that I had planned and expected in my career. When you start interacting with the physical part of processes, it's very challenging. I always looked at Techint as a great company. I remember the company which made the sewer work at Corrientes had some perforation machines you could fall in love with. I remember the printed “T” in the equipment. As a child, I always liked disassembling, breaking and interacting with things. From the third year of elementary school, I wanted to be an engineer.
How did you apply to be accepted?
As many of you, I got to know Techint through the University in one of the conversations being undertaken for engineering students. It awakened my interest, and this is how I signed up to apply and begin with the selection process.
Would you like to share some thoughts regarding your personal and professional growth at Ternium?
Attachment to the profession and the company is changing. The first thing that remains intact is the passion for what we do. Knowing more deeply our challenges, passion goes increasing. Managing procedures in a port, steel smelting, lamination, a reduction, the fineness of coating, are very challenging projects and this is hard to find in other industries. And later, what was being awakened during the career and in the different positions and working equipment with whom I was, was key of the teamwork needed to achieve our goals.
I personally feel very motivated for both things, given the magnitude and complexity of our procedures and our management of human resources. The latest puts one in a dimension of challenges as important as technique.
Which are the main challenges of management in the Industrial Direction?
The challenge we always have is getting to secure a culture of safety in all our working equipment. This is something we have been building and in which we have evolved very markedly in recent times. In the last four years, the axis took an impulse that accelerated in some way the changes we’re looking for. Something very marked and simple to see is that security is part of the operation and everyday leadership. It stopped being the task of a specialist, or an advisor. We do it ourselves from our roles. If you walk the length of the plant you can see that security is always present as one of our values. We have to be very systemic and achieve territorial working plans. In your area of responsibility, you have empowerment and the duty of putting safety first. Each boss, supervisor, or operator has to feel that the company is empowering him for example, using the tool for task rejection.
As leaders, we have to be very clear in the preventive behaviors we desire and work in the detection of unsafe situations. And from there on, construct specific working plans, which are to be kept updated.
In this environment, in this exercise and the following ones, we have very challenging ongoing projects. This chapter has two relevant dimensions: reduction of the environmental footprint and the sustainability of our operations. All this is aligned with systemic improvement for our industrial performance. The environment nowadays can be found at the edge of our agenda, with a visible and marked commitment.
And last but not least, the challenge of our industrial performance. We must achieve our productive plan in time and form, with quality, with resource and cost efficiency, within a changing context. Consolidating our Industrial performance in the processes for Reduction and Steel Smelting, position us very well competitively in our cost structure. Likewise, we will keep updating our Lamination processes in what belongs to our product range to give the market what we see will be needed.
In the Canning plant, where we run key processes for coating, painting and conformation of our steel.
In what place is technology and Industry 4.0 used?
When I entered one of the things we aspired to was applying new technologies in the diagnosis of performance of operative lines. This advance is produced in the Continuous Casting, Hot Laminator and now in this yearly exercise, in Sinter, we’re implementing predictive analytics, which will allow us to optimize the functionality of the line.
Another very strong axis is what is associated with security. Video analytics applied to the man-machine interaction. There is a lot of internal development starting from great work with systems. This is how we can see technologies applied to auto-elevators (RFID), for the handling of slabs.
Once more, it seems that Ternium's strength is in our people, in finding alternatives to solving problems. That’s where technology opens the door to consolidate ideas. It allows you to concentrate information, visualize it very simply, handle it very swiftly and make analyses to take the best decisions.
We have gone through very complex management of the plant within the pandemic. How do you see the team now?
I see a motivated team with all the challenges presenting themselves here. Positioned as agents of change and seekers of achievement. I’m convinced that we must continue building a more open organization, generating new leaderships that encourage inclusiveness, incentivizing different opinions, so as to learn from different points of view. I think we are going in a very good way.
What characterizes a good leader?
One characteristic is that we need to have the capacity of flexibility and vision of human processes very clearly defined. Getting rid of the idea that the decisions of a leader pass through only one technician. Knowledge is necessary, but it's very far from being sufficient to make a good leader. You need to have empathy, consider the other person, and listen. In the long term, our development is an investment in energy and time. There are moments in our career in which investment is strongly technical and later stops being exclusively technical. You have to start feeding other competencies. This also means to share opinions, asking “How did you see me?” With peers, superiors, with whomever you trust, this is self-development. And I believe that this is what we most need in leadership positions. It’s key to reformulate what competency is.