Investing in People, Know-how, and Quality Helps Arconic Köfém Grow

Interview

The Arconic-Köfem tree planting. From left: Balázs Gábor; Zsuzsa Varga; Françoise Frost; and Jasper von Zon, the communication director responsible for Europe and Asia.

Photo by Arconic-Köfem.

Marking its 80th anniversary in Hungary, Arconic-Köfém Mill Products Hungary Kft., one of the leading aluminum rolling mills in Europe, has launched a year-long series of events in Székesfehérvár (65 km southwest of Budapest).

One of its most recent celebrations was the opening of the so-called Arconic promenade in Székesfehérvár, where the company’s foundation supported a project planting 80 trees in a natural walkway for the recreation and well-being of local residents.

Underlining its commitment to responsible and ethical operations, the Arconic Foundation has granted some HUF 70 million in investments for local communi-ties and non-profit organizations in 2021.

The Budapest Business Journal talked with Arconic’s local Hungarian leaders, Zsuzsa Varga, HR Director and managing director, and Balázs Gábor, plant manager and managing director, as well as international executives, Rob Woodall, president of global rolled products for Europe and Asia, and the HR director for rolled products and extrusions in Europe, Russia, and Asia, Françoise Frost.

Topics covered included some outstanding business results, core company val-ues, and the challenges of talent management and social engagement in Hun-gary, among other things.

BBJ: What are the main driving factors behind your global success despite current disruptions caused by the pandemic?

Rob Woodall: Overall, our industry is positioned for growth. Building strong partnerships with our global customers, leveraging our technical capabilities, and training our staff is of the utmost importance for us and enables Arconic to meet the growing demand in our end markets. Ground transportation, building and construction, packaging, and industrial sales increased compared to the prior year, and those trends are expected to continue.

BBJ: You have a powerful presence in Europe. What is the role of the Hun-garian unit in this?

RW: Our 2,000 European employees generating 18% of Arconic’s USD 5.7 billion sales speaks for our commitment to the European region. We established a presence in Hungary through our predecessor company Alcoa, almost three decades ago. Arconic-Köfém Mill Products Hungary Kft., in Székesfehérvár, cur-rently employs approximately 800 workers in its rolling mill, cast house, and business support departments. The cast house manufactures rolling mill ingots, round cross-section billets for extrusion and forging purposes- from virtually any type of aluminum alloy. Our main markets are automotive, construction, ma-chine manufacturing, packaging, electrical products, household products, and transportation sectors. Arconic-Köfém plays a vital role within the global Arconic system. Not just on the operations side but also on the business services side as the location is home to a large global shared services department that supports several international Arconic businesses and resource units.

Rob Woodall

BBJ: Arconic-Köfém Mill Products Hungary has been undergoing considera-ble growth. To what can this be attributed?

Balázs Gábor: First of all, we are known for high-quality production. The site has been in operation for 80 years, has implemented various investments, and en-tered new markets throughout its long history. Additionally, our site has recent-ly been ASI [Aluminium Stewardship Initiative] Performance Standard certified, demonstrating our commitment to environmental sustainability. The Hungarian team is strong in know-how and skills, making our operation cost-efficient and well-positioned to meet customer and societal needs.

BBJ: How does the global unit support Arconic in Hungary?

RW: Since the 1990s, when Arconic’s predecessor set foot in Hungary, Köfém operations have been able to tap into Arconic’s U.S. metallurgical scientists. The site was able to start supplying Arconic’s global customer base (90% of the materials produced at Arconic Köfém are exported) and received an array of support in the areas of environment, health, safety, and community involvement. Building solid quality systems brought it to the level it is today. Thanks to the high engagement of our Hungarian workshop and leadership, the location also earned “the right to grow” with various investments during the years.

BBJ: Can you describe the core talent management values of the Hungarian unit?

Françoise Frost: We believe that inclusion and diversity are vital advantages that drive innovation and help advance our business. Employees with diverse backgrounds foster diversity of thought and creativity. We aim to grow our talent pipeline by focusing our employer branding on appealing to all and ensuring we create a highly inclusive workplace driven by fairness and equity. We reward performance and role model behaviors that are aligned with our strong company values. We encourage and support professional development, overall wellness, and career progression for employees at all levels.

Zsuzsa Varga: Since there is no professional education for aluminum works in Hungary, we established a dedicated mentor system to assist our newcomers in onboarding. We have also developed an OKJ specialization since these courses, certified by the National Qualifications Register, have recently been phased out by the government. Our OKJ studies are registered by the Ministry for Innova-tion and Technology, and we encourage and support our staff to take part. We have our own software-supported talent management program helping con-sistent performance evaluation. The COVID-19 pandemic also made us re-think our operations and reshape them to enhance our preparedness for addressing potential disruptive events.

BBJ: How do you see your relationship with the city of Székesfehérvár?

ZsV: We are fully committed to our social responsibility. Arconic-Köfém Mill Products Hungary Ltd. and its predecessor have always considered the development of the local communities as a priority. We believe that we have significant responsibility in creating a valuable staff base, so we work in close partnership with the local secondary and higher education. This year, the Arconic Foundation and our company have backed the local community with some HUF 70 mln. Among the projects we support, we give priority to those that add value to the people living in our communities, which is in line with Arconic’s values. It’s important for us to make our local community and the environment cleaner, greener, more sustainable, more beautiful, and habitable.

BG: The Köfém site has been part of the Szekesfehérvár local community for 80 years. Our long partnership with the community is a good indication that many, if not all, things are going well for both partners. We have always appreciated the support we have received from the local authorities and are proud that we have been able to grow together.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of December 3, 2021.

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