The new Quality Director at Ternium Argentina goes over the challenges for management in the upcoming months, and the main projects currently underway.
Ricardo Michelini is an Industrial Engineer from ITBA, with a Master in Administration and Business in the CEMA University, and a Master in the MIT Business School at Cambridge, Massachusetts. He joined Ternium in 1999, and last year, he returned to the country to take over the Direction of Quality after working over 12 years in North America for Ternium USA and Ternium Mexico. Previously, he had been working in the Commercial and Planning areas at Ternium Argentina.
How was your return like?
I am very happy to be part of Ternium Argentina once more. I’ve found many friends and colleagues again. In all the team members I find the same passion and commitment I felt when starting in the company.
Which are the main challenges for Quality Management in Ternium Argentina for the 21-22 work period?
When you set management goals, you do it with a basis in recent history. We had a great qualitative performance in the last period which gives us now higher expectations for the current period. We must take into account that we had a great performance in a difficult market, which, with the backdrop of a pandemic, was marked with a violent and sudden fall, followed by a very fast recovery. In this sense, we have proposed to improve qualitative performance in 8 points for falls and 5 points in reprocessing.
How does this goal impact operation?
This implies a strong improvement in several key lines such as Steel, Hot Lamination, Cold Lamination and Painting, taking into account that starting from this working period, we changed our way of managing, accounting for the fall in the line originating the defects instead of doing it in the line detecting it. This will help us to concentrate efforts, tackling defects wherever they were produced, encouraging greater collaboration among areas.
What other strategic axes can you highlight for management?
Priorities related with giving continuity to the development of products and providing technological assistance to our clients and to partake of an ever more demanding market, as is the case of Toyota, one of our main clients in the automobile sector.
And this is how we should have our customers at the center of all we do; security shall continue being our number one priority, as a commitment for each and every one of us. This is why we have to capitalize on the lessons we have obtained and been doing throughout Ternium, such as the initiatives that surged out of this year’s Day of Security, when we stopped several production lines, to reflect upon how to continue improving and contributing to the cultural shift we desire. There is a series of projects being developed from Quality Management to contribute to a safer operation, like the “contactless” plan related to the use of hands and the review of the elements we use. The commitment to environmental care and protection is not less important, and it's become more central to our agenda. We contribute in that regard with larger sampling plans in our effluents and raw materials in our labs. This is also encouraged by the market and our customers themselves because sustainability has now become a fundamental axis in their business strategies.
Laboratories have a key role in verifying the quality of our steel.
Which are the main projects you are focused in management, to tackle these challenges?
The exercise began locally with an external audit for recertification of the ISO 9001 Normativity in our Quality Management System, and certification of IATF Automobile Normativity 16949, in which we achieved great results as part of our continuous improvement process. Our certifications have every time more and more value to guarantee quality in all we do.
At a company level, we’re developing a certification plan for Quality inspectors in the framework of Ternium University starting a pilot test in a sector to be defined. We want to level knowledge, competencies, and abilities in the profile of collaborators occupying this post. Another of the projects in which we are focusing ourselves at a corporate level to attend to the growing demand in the industry is the management of Product Security. The objective is to be able to anticipate any potential problem our products may cause for our customers, or even in the consumer goods market, so as to avoid them. An example of this practice is avoiding generating recalls (of products) in the automobile market.
Regarding our Laboratories, this year we started a mechanization center for samples in the Savio Facility, which is fully automated, together with a coking pilot oven with mobile walls. This equipment has the goal of looking for the best combinations of carbons and petroleum coke to model the production process in our coking facilities. Having this oven is a clear example of applied research which allows us to act with greater flexibility regarding the changes taking place in the offer of this strategic raw material in the market. As a new tool, we shall incorporate the first scanning electronic microscope for the metallographic analysis and inclusionary cleaning.
The development of new products will continue as a very strong differentiation strategy. In this regard, we shall continue identifying the investments that shall allow for the expansion of our technological borders so as to improve our market position.
I want to highlight our new degree of steel SPH590 for Toyota, which used to be imported from Brazil, and which was achieved from the product redesign together with the optimization of performance in the hot laminator. As an acknowledgment, Toyota has rewarded us with the “Outstanding Performance Award 2020” for this matter and the excellence in complying with deliveries and constancy in the quality of our products.
What other tools contribute for continuous improvement in Quality?
Once the second quarter of the said year, we will launch a satisfaction poll to over 200 clients, who, besides evaluating the quality of our products and the new developments, they will also give us their opinion on the sales, delivery, technical assistance, and administrative services. This activity provides value to all our management as suppliers. It provides very significant information to continue strengthening ourselves in the matters appreciated by our customers and getting to point towards our efforts in what is identified as opportunities. In this yearly exercise, projects developed together with Systems will also be key so as to continue automating and developing tools that allow us to access information quickly, and to potentiate our analysis capability.
In our laboratories, so as to achieve higher reliability, we will continue crediting new essays with the Argentinian Accreditation Organization (OAA).
What other message would you like to share with the team of Ternium Argentina?
I am very grateful to everyone for their collaboration and partnership during my arrival and the start of this new stage. I believe we have a great team with which to face all challenges.