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The Warsaw Voice » Regional Voice » August 26, 2010
Podkarpackie Region
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We Can Do It
August 26, 2010   
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Janusz Zakręcki, chairman of the board and CEO of PZL Mielec, talks to Magdalena Łasak.

What direction has the company taken after privatization?
Thanks to privatization and the strategic investor we found in the Sikorsky corporation, PZL Mielec has clearly consolidated its strong position as a manufacturer of both airplanes and helicopters. Privatization allowed us to acquire new technology and markets for our products. We have also adopted a different approach to recruiting and training our technical staff, whom we need to prepare for new tasks by offering them specialist training. Generally speaking, the company wants to pursue rapid development in all it does. We have carefully planned development regarding increased production, personnel, modernization and the enlargement of our production facilities.

How do you find new business partners?
Our largest business partner, the Sikorsky company, has a very well-organized sales network. By including our product line in its portfolio, Sikorsky automatically enlarged our reach and potential markets to include countries where the corporation is well-established. As far as our product, the M28, is concerned, we have been searching for partners and potential buyers on our own as well, making use of our long experience.

If a tender for helicopter production is launched in Poland, we will take part in it and come forward with a bid. We produce aircraft and we can make helicopters. We can certainly start competing for the domestic market.

What about work with other businesses and institutions in the region?
Somebody once described our work with the local and province local authorities as model cooperation, or full symbiosis. We feel full support for our projects and in return others see our company as a trustworthy employer promising a bright future.

Let me just say that when privatization began, the factory had 1,400 staff and today, we employ 1,900 people. In other words, in the past three years PZL Mielec has increased its number of employees by 500 and given that people come and go, in total we have taken on over 800 new employees. We are still hiring new people this year, aiming to take on several dozen more employees.

We’re open to teaming up with universities, schools, cultural and sports institutions. For example, we are involved in training provided by schools, workshops, job placements and student traineeships. We can observe the participants and choose the ones we would like offer jobs to. We want to be out there in the region. When flooding hit the area, PZL Mielec became actively involved in the relief operation. We came forward with financial support and bought food for those in need and our people traveled to areas that were at risk. All government helicopters that operated in the Mielec and Sandomierz area had a base near our production hall and used our facilities and hangar. Sometimes we would accommodate five to seven helicopters per day. We always want to be of help to our region as much as we can.

We are unable to produce everything at our own facilities and so we only keep projects that constitute the core of our production at the factory, and try to outsource everything else. That’s why we have been working to form a network of local suppliers, first in Mielec, then further out in Podkarpacie province and finally elsewhere in Poland. We work with other businesses on the production of airplanes, helicopter cabins and helicopters themselves.

Producing aircraft means you are responsible for people’s safety in the air. What’s your approach to such a huge responsibility?
I have worked in the aviation industry since 1993. I was born in this region and everyone here has what we call aviation culture in our blood. This is a culture that allows a slightly different attitude where production is concerned. We know perfectly well that the equipment we produce has to be infallible, because human lives are at stake. It is vital to ensure perfectly organized production when it comes to quality and that’s what we do. Our products are high quality and very safe. American experts have given them high ratings in flight tests.

I would like to stress that all accidents involving our aircraft to date have been caused solely by human error. None of the crashes resulted from a flaw in any of the products. But we can draw conclusions even from human error and come up with safety measures to help eliminate such errors in our planes. This is what you do with seven decades of aviation history behind you.

We do our best to conduct as much training as possible, we meet with the staff, discuss possible mistakes and we keep increasing our people’s sense of responsibility for work and product quality, all in order to avoid any problems in the future.

What are your ambitions for the company?
My biggest dream has already come true. Just five years ago, it was anybody’s guess if the factory would survive or not. It was a combination of luck and the commitment of very many people that resulted in the right business partner deciding to invest in us. We have had the same directors ever since, nobody has left, while new people have come on board. As the boss, I am proud of this, because I was there before privatization and I am still here. My people are also happy we made it together through the difficult process of privatization.

My other dreams are, predictably, to do with more helicopters and airplanes, and about our company being Poland’s top aircraft manufacturer and an important producer of aviation products that matter in Europe and around the world.
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