She spent a total of eleven years at the company thus far. She started at the manufacturing plant in Karvíná, but was transferred to a sister company in Chicago as a Material Manager three years later. The following year, she moved on to work at the company’s headquarters in Indiana as a Senior Manager for Production Control and Material Systems. After spending two years in the USA, she returned back to the Moravian-Silesian Region, where she negotiated a transfer from Karviná to Hrabová, where CTP would construct a brand new facility. Until Spring of last year, she was primarily in charge of production in the Czech Republic, and now she also has the responsibility of directing the global supply chain, production plans and logistics. This well-accomplished manager is none other than Ing. Karin Hájková, director of Stant Manufacturing s.r.o.
Mrs Hájková, first of all, what drove you to pursue your career path?
My first impulse towards building a career in industry came from my education. I studied at a school that combined chemistry and technology, thus I always thought I would end up as the director of a chemical plant, and at the time, that was my goal. I also added economics to my field of study, where I focused on logistics, to which I ended up devoting my entire professional life. When I started my job as Material Manager, my job mainly consisted of managing warehouses, material orders, production planning and transport.
Thanks to your experience in the USA, you have a more expansive perspective. What can the Czech Republic learn from the global automotive field?
The automotive industry is the same everywhere you look, regardless of whether it is in the USA or here. The industry’s environment is very specific, extremely hectic, and it has very strict rules. One of the strictest areas within the field is passenger safety, where there are strict standards that every supplier has to meet. Essentially, there is little wiggle room to allow for differences in execution. What I do see a difference in, however, is the people’s attitude. If I were to, for example, mention that I have a eight month old child, when applying to a manager position at a Czech company, I would easily be labeled as a mother, who would have to always take time off to take care of a sick child, would not be as dedicated to her job as she should, and would not be able to meet deadlines. Americans, however, are not bothered by this at all. For them it is irrelevant whether or not you have children, whether you are a man or a woman. If you have the desire to do a job, come and do it, that is what is important. They give people room to grow and whenever they notice someone with potential they motivate them.
What advantages do you hold over your competition?
I gave myself the goal of expanding our operation within the Czech Republic beyond the scope of a simple assembly line where products are assembled with little added value. I wanted our branch to become a technological hub, a second headquarters of sorts. I managed to convince the American headquarters that we have some real talent here. This allowed us to start opening up divisions at our Czech branch, which were historically solely located in the US. Our innovation, design development and purchasing departments are very well represented, to the point that our purchasing department handles the purchases of other branches as well. We now also handle the entirety of customer service, servicing North America as well as Europe. Every project that we undertook resulted in big leaps for the company. Presently, we are also working on opening a large validation laboratory, which will house machines capable of testing carbon canisters, which is our main product, making up roughly 40% of our sales. I had no idea that we were the only ones offering these products in the Czech Republic, in which case, if we end up with free stock, we can offer it on the local market.
What are your visions for the future?
With the Euro 7 standard further lowering the allowed emission threshold, it is only a matter of time until the production of combustion engines will be banned entirely. Seeing as combustion engines are currently our main focus, we immediately started developing products that are not tied to that technology. Instead, we are shifting towards hybrid engines and electric vehicles. We now offer a wide variety of cooling system valves which are critical to maintain power output and extend the lifespan of batteries. At Stant, we always patent our products, and as of right now, we are preparing a series of patents for components in battery systems. I believe that the future is looking good for us and that the end of combustion engines will not endanger us.
Mrs Hájková, thank you for the interview.