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Continental Veszprém Plant Manager Looks to Transform Challenges Into Opportunities

Interview

András Mészáros, Continental Veszprém plant manager.

Starting as a trainee at Continental in 2008, András Mészáros has risen through the ranks and become the plant manager in Veszprém this year. He talks with the Budapest Business Journal about his career path, industry challenges, sustainability, and more.

BBJ: Can you share your journey within Continental, from your initial role in 2008 to your current position? What were some key milestones along the way?

András Mészáros: I am an electrical engineer who studied at the Technical University of Budapest. In 2008, during my studies, I applied for a trainee position in surface mounting technology at Continental. Fortunately, I was hired full-time after a year, and eventually, I led the team until 2014. Later, I transitioned to electrification technologies, working on serial development, and then becoming a “focus factory” manager. It was a valuable experience to work with highly mature, well-organized production processes for brake control units while also being involved in evolving hybrid control units for new electric and hybrid vehicles. My career has been marked by continuous change and new tasks, albeit all at the same place. In 2016, I shifted to steering control unit production as head of the focus factory, which later expanded to include software-heavy telematic control, display, and high-performance computer production, often utilizing full automation.

After more than a decade of working in Budapest, I had the opportunity to expand my responsibilities further as the European operations manager for a business area, overseeing 11 additional locations. This experience provided crucial insights into various products, production lines, and technologies, as well as exposure to different plants and teams, which was essential to understanding our business. This role eventually led me to my current position as plant manager in Veszprém.

BBJ: What specific goals and plans do you have for the Veszprém factory in your new role? What are you aiming to achieve with your team here?

AM: The European industry is facing significant competitiveness challenges. We can improve efficiency, speed, and quality by leveraging an innovative and resilient team. Numerous digital and AI-based tools are currently available, and more are being developed, so we need to identify the most suitable ones for our plant. Our primary objective is to become a globally competitive and innovative location.

On the other hand, last year, we continued to develop the attractiveness of our location from the R&D perspective. We highlighted with several campaigns for software developers that Continental is in a truly unique position in the region: we are not only an employer in the city of Veszprém, but anyone in the Balaton region can join us for a thrilling career and great atmosphere. I want to keep building this image and showcase that we are more than a simple manufacturing location. We are a 360-degree site as we work on innovative ideas with our R&D teams, test these ideas and other solutions on our own test track, and manufacture state-of-the-art automotive parts.

BBJ: The European automotive industry has faced significant challenges in recent years. How do you plan to address these and ensure that the Veszprém plant remains competitive and innovative?

AM: I am an engineer, and I believe that engineers are best suited to understand which tools are the most appropriate for the problems we encounter. I strive to lead by example and actively seek to understand the purpose of different tools. I am also eager to be innovative, collaborate with colleagues in addressing challenges, and bring in fresh ideas from sources such as other plants, colleagues, and articles. Having the right mindset is crucial in fostering a highly innovative environment. If a perfect existing digital tool is available, I would advocate using it. This, in itself, is a form of innovation for our plant. We don’t always need to create everything from scratch. Sometimes, adopting an existing tool to solve a problem within our plant’s specific environment efficiently is also a form of innovation.

BBJ: Can you elaborate on the role of the Veszprém plant in developing and producing high-tech, future-proof products? How does this align with Continental’s overall strategic goals?

AM: Plant Veszprém employs several hundred development engineers who work on sensors and brake control units, which have been critical competencies for decades and are required in every newly sold car. However, our development processes and speed must evolve with the same mindset, being open to change, striving for innovation, and choosing the most effective solutions. Our focus is on efficiency when pursuing innovation rather than doing it for the sake of fun.

BBJ: With ESG and CSR aspects gaining importance in the industry, what steps are you taking to ensure the sustainable operation of the plant and the satisfaction of its employees?

AM: We have a roadmap to become a gold-labeled green plant by purchasing 100% renewable electricity and actively working to reduce and recycle our waste in production and supply chain processes. I work with my team to look to the future, considering options like solar or wind energy or energy storage solutions. For example, if solar energy is the solution, perhaps optimizing for lower levels of sunlight in the winter would be beneficial in 5-10 years. Keeping up with the latest trends and solutions will help us make good decisions for our sustainability. We also make a conscious effort to plant trees wherever possible.

Regarding well-being and CSR, we recently organized a Quality and Health Days initiative, consisting of more than 50 presentations over three weeks. Additionally, we actively support sports and theater and identify areas where we can have the most significant impact on our society. I have taught four courses at the university and am involved in partnerships with schools and universities.

Being future-proof isn’t just about having an excellent product and highly digitalized R&D and production. We also need to understand our complete waste and CO2 footprint and take measures to minimize it. Furthermore, we prioritize the well-being of our employees by providing regular checkups, promoting healthier diets, and demonstrating care for future generations. We also aim to be a responsible player in the local community.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of June 14, 2024.

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