After a series of internships to prepare his master’s degree, Florent Herson’s last was at French global automotive supplier Faurecia. When he was asked to join the company as an employee, he admits he was a little reluctant. “It was not my plan to work in the automotive industry,” Florent recalls.
“Honestly, in the beginning, I thought I’d only work there for a couple of years. But I had arranged a transformation program at a time when the industry was struggling, and they wanted to use what I had proposed.”
Florent accepted the opportunity and for more than 20 years, Faurecia has supported and embraced his efforts. “Every time I aspire to a new project, challenge, country or position, Faurecia has offered it to me,” he says.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work across numerous projects and fields.” In 2011, Florent moved to Thailand – where the company had no presence or employees – as the manager of a new plant. “Seven months later, we had a team, and we were delivering our first parts to a substantial customer, Ford,” he reflects.
“We continued to build up from scratch. Now the business turns over more than €100 million [US$121 million] in the ASEAN region for Faurecia Interiors.” Florent is adaptable – a new environment or technology doesn’t faze him – and as Asia Pacific Vice President, his vision aligns his diverse team to make projects successful.
“You must be agile and reactive to grow,” he asserts. “The industry is transforming at rapid speed, and it requires adaptation and a unified team to tackle the challenges that come with it.”
You learn best where it’s difficult.
Over 20 years, Faurecia has grown from a regional European operation to having a presence in 37 countries and more than 100,000 employees. One in three vehicles globally is equipped with its technology, such as centre consoles or door panels.
Within the company are four business groups: Faurecia Clean Mobility; Faurecia Seating; Faurecia Interior Systems and Faurecia Clarion Electronics.
“We have 14 product lines under these groups,” Florent explains. “But trends and demand changes at a fast pace, so we must constantly be improving our products.” Change is difficult to undertake for any company, but Florent believes it also provides an opportunity. “I’m a competitive sailor, and I like to win,” he says.
“It’s the same within business; you must be fast and seize opportunity. You can pass through any challenge this way. You can’t view a change purely as a difficult moment.”
Faurecia’s partners are essential to manufacturing equipment with a competitive edge. When considering who to partner with, the business looks for innovation in digitisation, robotics and automation, and people that can develop and deliver on time, at the correct cost.
“The automotive industry focuses on the cost of everything, maybe more so than other industries,” Florent says. “Our supplier partnerships are a win–win situation. I might give them an idea, and we work together to create something concrete. People forget that the equipment is not only a commodity but it can also give you a huge competitive advantage.”
To be successful in different countries, the company responds to local consumers and is a step ahead of them. “We try to predict what they will need in the future,” Florent explains. “We propose innovative solutions through the right product line and meet customer demand with new technology. We’re always challenging our systems to see what we can do better.”
Faurecia ASEAN has developed a digital solution to help its team on the shop floor to oversee operations and predict problems. If they can expect them, they can correct it before it happens. “We have embraced digitisation and have important data systems in place,” Florent says.
“For example, my injection moulding machines in Thailand are connected to our headquarters, and everyone in the company can see what is going on in the machine. Our team in Europe could conduct data analysis to try to prevent a problem and find a solution.” It also needs a strong team across the globe.
“We develop a company culture of excellence,” Florent boasts. “I want to attract talent, and I want to retain them. We have a global capacity to train and develop the right talent, which many of our competitors can’t do. It makes a difference.”
To cultivate a strong, united culture across regions, Florent isn’t scared to send his best people to train in Europe so they can come back with a larger scope. It may be unorthodox, but it works. “Don’t hide your best people. Keep them visible,” he shares.
“I sent my best people abroad. If you want to be among the best, you need to fight with the best. You learn best where it’s difficult. They came back after a few years and took leadership positions in their own countries. I am here to develop people and to make sure the team is as strong as it can be.”
Florent says open-mindedness is also key to success within a company. “When you say you want to learn, you need to learn from everything; every sector,” he explains.
“You must even look outside of your industry. I encourage my team to explore what the automotive industry is doing and what other industry techniques we could deploy and apply. “Anything can be used to improve what you are doing today. You’re never finished improving.”
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