Our Technical Department leaders
Who are you?
Well, we are the Technical Department of Solera, created in the beginning of 1992
How did you begin?
We were two people, Andrés Mondéjar and I. The department was originally created to implement the Quality Management system. I had previous knowledge about the subject, having worked before in quality systems in my previous company, and reading some bits from here and there we implemented our very own system and certified it through AENOR in 1997.
To obtain said certification, we hired the services of a company that helped us shaping and formatting our documentation, processes being described and drafted as intended. We set goals and made them projects, taking us to organize the company in a different way. We started working in a much more orderly fashion. It wasn’t easy, we had to change a way of working that had been followed for many years. The support of Carlos Verdejo Monfort, now General manager of Solera, was crucial.
Before the creation of our department, we employed the services of an external firm that devised our products. It was when we got in that we began to take the reins. I shared the workplace for five years with Solera’s founder, Mr. Mariano Verdejo Solera, who instilled in me the spirit of a family business. Manuel Fernández Olmo, manager of our factory located in Cañete, was also around at that time, being a person very knowledgeable in all that product making entailed. We learned a lot from them in all things product manufacturing and started developing it ourselves. We hired draughtsmen to design products, began using SolidWorks, that helps us visualize the product before it is even made. We also have a 3D printing machine that allows us to physically see the product before its manufacturing. Our main role now is developing products.
What can you tell us about the Department's team?
Andrés and I started it all. Andrés tended more to systems while I leaned towards more technical issues. Throughout the life of our department there’s been several engineers and draughtsmen. As of today, the Technical Department has eight people: four engineers, two draughtsmen, a systems manager and one administrative person. Among our whole group, we’ve been in the company for an average of 18 years, having the member with the most time in the company been here for 28 years, and the member with the least time, 2 years.
I know the people in our department very well, I know how to get us to give our all, because each and everyone of them is very technically prepared, the team is well balanced and there’s plenty companionship and teamwork spirit.
There’s also something that’s been very important since the beginning: The Technical department has always oriented to customer satisfaction. One of the most important values we keep in Solera is just that. Every time someone calls, be it installer, direct customer, or final user, we try to give our best solution.
What are the department's duties?
As I said at the begging of the interview, the Technical Department was created to implement the Quality Management system, but little by little we began assuming more tasks through time, for example:
- Product Development
- Implementation and maintenance of systems
- Technical support to clients and other departments
- Environment Management
- Product Certification
- Technical Documentation formulation (declaracions of conformity, technical info sheets for products)
- Audiovisual material creation
- Safety and user handbooks for products
- Participation in events and fairs (MATELEC, Frankfurt, etc.) providing technical support to our commercial colleagues.
- Partnership with other companies. Not only manufacturing but also in R & D with technological institutes to create new products such as innovative materials
- Purchase management of external suppliers. We define and design the product, then we visit the supplier and arrange for them to manufacture exactly as we specify, making sure that they are up to the standards of the law, our customers, and us.
What stands out from your day to day in Solera?
Our willingness to team up with all the other departments and our devotion to customer satisfaction, both internal and external.
What technological advances would you highlight in both your department and Solera?
The implementation of Industry 4.0, digitalization in data retrieval from the factory and form the manufacturing process as a whole, the implementation of Lean Manufacturing, as well as Lean Management for projects…
Another endeavour in which we want to invest ourselves is cybersecurity. We’ve just signed a contract with a company that’s going to help us implement the system so that all data and information from our company and our partners, clients, supplier, etc, is perfectly safe.
As far as manufacturing technology is concerned, the recent addition of a Double Injection Machine and another one that works through bar pulling. Both machines save 40%/50% more energy than previous machines. Step by step we are updating our machinery at the same time we are contributing to reducing our energy consumption, not only for our benefit but also for the benefit of our planet. This way, thanks to our advances, our products are more energetically efficient, lowering energy loss more than their predecessors.
Well, we are also involved in Corporate Social Responsibility. In order to sell to some clients, specially greater multinational ones, we need to pass CSR audits, as well as have our facilities in perfect shape to avoid accidents and have labour conditions up to the requirements of the current legislation.
How much have you achieved in CSR thus far?
We are still implementing, but I can tell you that in our latest audit with TÜV Rheinland 2 years ago, we passed with a score of 98%, almost perfect.
For us, Social Responsibility is the pillar from which every other advance must stem from.
How do your advances benefit our customers?
For all our clients they mean better quality and more added-value products. For our direct clients (distributors), they mean more profitable products, without any after-sale problems. For installers they mean products adapted to their day to day, more reliable and easier to install. For our final users, they mean safer and better-quality products. Actually, we’ve recently received several congratulations from final users for our 8000 Series of multiple bases
Now we are working in expanding several series, such as the Europa Series, a product that has opened new market space for us through its high quality at a reasonable price.
We are also expanding our Blue Series, with its plastic mounting clamp system that saves 40% time for installers and that, after its latest improvements, is enjoying an excellent acceptance. We want to keep on expanding this Series and become market leaders when it comes to this kind of product.
What do you expect to achieve in the future?
Developing products with more added value, with new technologies that we are currently researching with technological institutes. Also implement innovations, something highly demanded from both our customers and our sales team.
We are working to develop products for photovoltaic facilities and electric vehicles as well.
What makes you different from the technical departments of other companies?
We appreciate having visits from installers, who come to the factory, see how we manufacture the products and give us ideas of how they would do things better. These ideas we write down in our CRM and sometimes, when we see them interesting and fitting, we end up implementing in our processes. When we do, we inform the person that proposed that idea that, thanks to them, there’s been that improvement in Solera.
One of the things that AENOR auditor tell us when they come to our factory is “we love that you always have pencil and paper on the table and write down everything. And the next year we come, it’s all done!
We like to be up to date and we sign up to everything we can. For example, AFME (Electrical Material Manufacturers Association) has done an important work all this confinement time, giving a seminar each week with which to get all associates up to speed.
We try to be well informed about all the news in market. Not only myself, but every single member of our team. I think it is very important for all of us to know everything that’s happening in our sector.
We participate in the certification technical committees of AENOR. We are part of the AFME, which have been in committee 30 of normalization and certification of AENOR. We’ve also been participating for 28 years in the drafting of the regulations of the products we manufacture. That helps us being up to date, knowing our product and how to make it so that it meets the requirements demanded by the market, our clients, and the legislation.
On many occasions, when we go to fairs, we receive visits from installers, they congratulate us for our products, giving us specific details about how well they can mount them among other traits. This makes me really proud, because it means recognition of all the work we’ve made thus far.
What do you think is the key to your department’s success?
Being up to date of all things market innovation, our focus in customer satisfaction, giving a quick response to their needs, partnering with technological institutes, and maintaining a mutual understanding with the other departments of Solera.