Niclas Pfüller: Make decisions. Implement new innovative ideas

Niclas Pfüller je svými kolegy považován za vizionářského a podnikavého lídra. Osobně se od roku 2004 jako mentor věnuje víc než padesáti vedoucím pracovníkům z Česka, kteří působí na různých pozicích v rozličných oborech i firmách a sklízí úspěch. V ČR vybudoval dva úspěšné podniky, které se řadí k těm největším v rámci obou mateřských koncernů – Dura Automotive ČR a Brose CZ. Přesvědčil akcionáře o potenciálu ČR a podařilo se mu tak zřídit výrobní závod se zcela novým vývojovým oddělením. Přispěl také k založení inovativního duálně vzdělávacího centra pro budoucí mechatroniky. Podporuje principy společenské odpovědnosti podniku Brose CZ.
What do you consider to be your biggest management (professional) success in recent years?
The development of Brose CZ. We started in the Czech Republic as a small production facility a few years back and have now more than 3000 employees, we developed into a Brose Group Lead Plant and its biggest in addition. In past 2,5 years we went from zero to more than 200 employees in central functions who support Brose Group worldwide with Shared Services (IT, Purchasing, Logistics, Controling….) and Product Development from Czech Republic. Last January we successfully resumed responsibility for the entire European transport management of Brose Group. We offer our employees career development in high skilled jobs and make Czech Republic a successful hub for the world – we currently have more than 25 experts somewhere in the Brose World sharing their skills helping other Brose locations. Which was one of the main factors the committee appreciated when I was honored to receive the Automotive News Europe Rising Star Award in 2018.
The latest achievement is only few weeks old – together with the Governor of MSK, Prof. Ivo Vondrák, and Director General of Czech Industry Confederation, Dagmar Kuchtová, we opened the new Brose Dual Education Center where there are currently 11 students in our mechatronic education program we designed together with schools in Ostrava, Rožnov p.R. and Frenštát. Having recognized the lack of graduates with the qualification we need for our highly automated and digitized production, we decided to create the program ourselves. We have been able to convince young people, their parents, schools and institutions to let us run this new way for a better education to foster digitzation and automation which will make us competitive in the long-term.
What recipe do you have to increase the competitiveness of your company? What do you consider to be currently the greatest limitation?
I have hired, empowered and mentored more than 30 new leaders in past years who are now successfully working for Brose or in other Czech companies in various functions. Chosing and mentoring the right people is my basic recipe. Together with them we apply lean principles and on top of that implement continuously new, innovative, digitilization and automation improvement ideas. Currently I do not see limits. There are challenges which we are with our ideas and open mindset ready to face and overcome.
To what extent do you use innovations (smart technologies) to increase the productivity of your company?
With our team we recently developed and implemented an innovative seat production line for a premium car manufacturer. Using collaborative robot to handle the heavy seat and in addition we use AGV’s in the production line to carry and drive the seats from the work station through end of line testers to packaging. All done to give our workers an ergonomical excellent workplace and to increase our productivity. This was combined with an innovative way to link all production work stations with an MES system. This way we generate data and give guidance to employees which improves our quality and efficiency. This concept allows us to produce lot size one with zero finish good stock. Shipping product directly from our production line into the truck and ship to our customers. KPIs and work environment has been significantly improved.
In addition to that we have implemented as the first Brose facility an employee communication App which links our employees with our company. Employees have easy access to information, news are shared instantly, employees have an opportunity to give feedback and share their opinions. Teams are able to share information with each other. Further functionalities are to come. More than 1600 employees of our company use this App already on their smart devices. This project has evolved from being a pilot to a currently running roll-out to the Brose Group globally. 
Can you point out strengths and weaknesses of fresh graduates of different types of schools and education that you employ? Do you deal with intergenerational cooperation between managers and employees?
Each year we have in our company students from Czech Republic and also other European Countries. Our Czech students are well educated. They know the theory well. They are very motivated, eager to learn and they want to achieve new levels. That is great. An area of possible improvement in my experience is that sometimes they lack the practical experience. It is no standard with students that they must do internships in companies. Here we might be able to learn from other countries where students must pass 6 month internship in a foreign country before graduation. I believe this supports the growth of students as a person and their personality. In addition this can bring to our country and companies new ideas and innovation speed.
It is a standard in our company that each new employee gets a dedicated mentor. In this way we ensure that experience and knowledge is shared and fostered. In addition we have Global and Czech Talent Circle Programs. During these programs we have so called „fireside talks“. These are occasions where mature, experienced leaders meet these young talents. They share and exchange experiences.
Talk about challenges and how to master them. This is great way to connect different generations and experiences with each other.
We have also implemented School of Foreman which improves the cooperation between our First Line Managers and employees in the shopfloor. It is a tailored 18 modules program which also includes an assessment center, certification and feedback rounds with the direct supervisor of the foreman. This program has improved significantly the cooperation as well as the strengeth of our first line managers.
How do you motivate your team, how do you work with employee bonuses?
Generally I believe that motivation of my team and employees is basically coming from my inspirational passionate leadership and how my leaders transport that into their teams. Having worked out a Vision „with excellent leadership being lead plant“ and related Strategy Projects with my wider Management Team and our Talents. That is a great motivation. Communicating it and involving employees.That gives my team and our whole organisation inspiration and motivation.
And yes, we use bonuses linked to target achievements with our salaried and shopfloor workforce. I just do not believe that this is the basic long-term motivation driver. In addition we currently work on an innovative new Group Premium Pay System which we expect to implement during 2019. It should be more in line with our Value Stream Production ideas, support customer satisfaction and create a stronger group team work.
Generally Brose promotes enterpreneurial behavior in our leaders. We give employees freedom to make decisions and promote implementation of improvement ideas. This also supports that our teams and employees are motivated.
What do you see the biggest differences in managerial profession 10, 15 years ago and now?
Several years ago our economic, political and industry/automotive environment was much more stable and less complex. These days we talk about VUCA. Changes come and go much quicker. Volatility is much bigger. Greater uncertainty about future. We need to react and adapt quicker. We need to be much more pro-active in anticipating change. I like this challenging environment. Anticipating future change based on current indicators. Applying today new, innovative ideas to ensure that we are with our company also in future competitve and successful.
Your strongest reason why did you accept the nomination for the MANAGER OF THE YEAR?
I believe Manager of the Year is a great platform to promote and share best practices that have proven successful for me as well as learn from the best enterpreneurs in the Czech Republic. I believe that through such cooperation we contribute to the long-term prosperity and well-being of our wonderful country that I consider my home.