Introducing Katja Pesu: “The success of the production chain is the responsibility of the whole organisation.”

In our new blog series, we’ll see a lot of red and fire trucks, but we'll also be taking a look at the everyday work of our professionals and climb onto some interesting desks. Katja Pesu, responsible for purchasing and materials management first at Saurus and now the whole NRG, is keen on Lean thinking, which sees ensuring high-quality production as the goals of the whole organisation. 

Take in her exciting interview! As you get to know Katja and the work of a multitasker, we’ll show you our ways of working and our goals in developing our operations. 

What’s your education and career background?

I’m a young lady, 44, who has worked in purchasing for a long time. I have a technician's degree which I've supplemented with various studies tailored to purchasing.

Before the rescue industry, I worked with tractors at Valtra for many years, being responsible for numerous product groups and international procurement. I worked with stakeholders on development, quality and materials planning to achieve the best possible choice of supplier. The work was very hectic but taught me a lot and has provided me with important experience for my current job. 

At Valtra, I was introduced to the Lean way of thinking, which I think should guide the whole company culture: purchasing doesn't just purchase, and manufacturing doesn't just manufacture – finding high quality solutions to problems and succeeding is the responsibility of the whole organisation. Stakeholders’ decisions and good, close collaboration also play a major role in the whole of the production chain. 

What does the work of the Purchasing and Materials manager entail?

In co-operation with other departments, I go through our supply chains every day to see that they are working and that parts arrive for manufacturing in time. We also monitor the order and delivery chains to see that vehicles are completed on schedule. In addition, we currently have many major internal logistics development projects underway, which will impact future purchases and suppliers. For example, we're surveying mutual supply sources for the whole group in order to find synergy gains. 

With my new position, what I first did at Saurus has now expanded to apply to the whole group. With the NRG family, we're implementing the same methods to develop project management, daily management and scheduling. Expanding new tools and methodologies to the whole organisation is incredibly interesting.

In addition to management, I carry out operative purchasing from my assigned suppliers. It’s important for me to maintain a feel for the situation in practice. As we develop our operations, we need to listen even closer to how our material handlers and manufacturing people are doing. It's clear that changes affect the everyday – and when they're successful, they support employees’ well-being as well as their enjoyment of their work.  

Things that are on your desk right now?

Mostly projects related to Vema Lift: for example, we have begun developing project scheduling to ensure a high-quality handover of vehicles on schedule. We are also aiming to utilise methods of daily management already used at Saurus to achieve better transparency and results throughout the organisation. Our goal is deeper co-operation between functions, based on a Lean culture.  

Mass and process thinking is new, so the change in ways of working will take time. However, we have progressed fantastically – the most important thing is to keep our most valuable resource, our personnel, in with the change and to have things progressing in a trustful mood.

What kind of qualities does your work require?

I would say stress tolerance and multitasking: the ability to manage and advance many things at the same time. You also need to prioritise your use of time, even when you have a lot of things going on.

I find empathy and the ability to listen just as important. They help me see things more broadly – instead of just assuming things which are not realistic. You also need determination to reach the goal even when things are difficult, of course 

What's the best or most challenging part of your job? 

I love the feeling when I can hand over a project to the customer on schedule – knowing what our products are used for, which gives it a special touch. I also enjoy quantifying operations with figures, and I feel that I have succeeded if our warehouse value can be reduced by developing project scheduling and materials planning. 

Internally, the most challenging thing is communicating our development operations and increasing awareness: why things are changed and what we can achieve. I hope we can be increasingly successful in that. Changes in supply chains, sudden component shortages and other repercussions of the pandemic won't be gone yet this year either. 

How's the teamwork at NRG?

Through our daily management, we've created a transparent atmosphere and open co-operation, where everyone pulls together and prioritising is easy. Functions related to materials management have also grown closer, and in working with teams, fewer things are under the control of individual employees, so we're finding ways of filling in for others as well. 

We feel that new ways of working have made processes clearer and positive changes are taking place. Of course, it takes patience, because there are many things to tackle before we can say we've achieved a mutual aim. 

Three words your colleagues would use to describe you?

I've worked in expert positions before and not even recognised that management might be my natural strength. Judging from the feedback I've received, I've done at least relatively well: I listen and take others into account. I’m also described as reliable, and people turn to me when they want to get things rolling. I have the courage to take initiative and bring up challenges, even when a packaged solution is not immediately available.

What do you dream of in your work at the moment?

I have a burning desire to take NRG forward, because I see a lot of potential in all our companies. I dream that we can develop our operational processes and culture to correspond to the Lean methodology even better. This will have a significant effect on developing profitability and occupational well-being, which is at the core of implementing change – and a guarantee for its success.

A quick look at the rescue industry, what's topical or coming up?

Going forward, new types of vehicles might be needed, such as rapid-response light vehicles. I also believe that the contents and needs of the vehicles will change in the future. For example, instead of diesel, gas and electricity will be used, remote control is on the way, use of robotics and drones will increase, and the CAFS water damage-reducing extinguishing system will become more common – just to mention a few things.

What do you do after the day is over? 

I like to balance work with renovating my home and taking care of plants. I’m an eager gardener and my home came with a large yard to look after. My spouse is a transportation entrepreneur, and the hobbies of our nine-year-old son also keep us on the move. We also love fishing – it's great to get our old American car out for a summer day's and do some perch fishing!