First among equals at Addax Motors
22 February 2023
The first – in all senses of the word – production person at Addax says she is still a little surprised to find that her mix of skills matched all the requirements to work on the production line. But she is no ordinary woman. She is modest and hardworking – she also works as a quality inspector during the weekends at a potato factory – and she’s an astute judge of character.
Building up production output
Of course, being the first has meant that she has grown into the job, just as the production process has evolved. ‘The team,’ she confirms, ‘has grown quite considerably this year. In the past, it took about 60 to 70 hours to build one car. Now we can make a new model in just one day, but we plan to double our daily output.’ When asked how this will be achieved, she explains ‘instead of creating two lines, I’ve made the individual stations’ – the work that needs to be done by each team – ‘smaller. So instead of one station taking up to seven hours, I’ve organised stations of three hours. Apart from doubling the speed, it’s also easier to teach new people what they have to do. The reality is a station of seven hours takes a month or so before you really know everything. With a smaller station, it's easier to put somebody new in that spot.’
A practical test
Our production chief at Addax has, not surprisingly perhaps, devised her own way of seeing who is a good fit for the factory floor. One part of the test is mechanical. Quite simply, she asks potential new recruits to make a headlamp. ‘By the way they build it, I know who’s in front of me,’ she says. ‘It's strange, but I can easily tell if this man or woman would be a good fit in my team. Once recruited and trained, I try to ensure everybody gets the work they like, as somebody who’s happy in their job works much better. If they want to rotate to other stations, they can do so, but some don’t want to and therefore do the same job all the time.’
Now that Addax is enjoying more sales, our production engineers are examining how best to expand production output to meet the increased demand. Will a second line now need to be added? Or will it be better to further extend the current line. The jury is still out on this, but the feeling is that’s probably more efficient to develop a longer line snaking its way through the factory.
Respect for others
The second, and no doubt the most important aspect of the recruitment test, is whether or not the chemistry is right, and whether potential candidates would fit into the Addax team. Currently standing at 16 people, it includes a diverse mix: young and old, from a wide mix of cultural backgrounds.
When asked if her gender has ever caused a problem, our production chief says ‘Not really. After all, it’s just me and my female colleague from HR at the interview. If candidates have a problem with that then we know this is not their place. If you don’t have respect for other people, then please don’t come and work here. Being a woman or a man shouldn’t matter.’
‘I just know whether someone will fit in or not,’ she explains. ‘As soon as somebody’s in front of me, my instinct tells me whether or not they will work well or cause major problems. And because it’s a small team, I prefer somebody who fits in than somebody who can build cars like I’ve never seen before.’
A close-knit team
The team clearly gels well together, and this can be put down to the fact that the production chief has a good feeling for the right candidate. In fact, she probably understands some people better than they do themselves!
The story goes that there was one worker who left Addax because he really wanted to do something else. He had really fitted well into the company and was also a good worker. ‘I’m going to bring him back,’ she said. And sure enough one month later he chose to come back and immediately integrated into the team.
‘I'd rather spend two or three weeks more training my team about what I want them to do, than have somebody who can do it in an instant, but who causes stress. You know, it’s a small space, and I know that they have to get along.’
Preparing to put the vehicles together
The production line, with its three hour modules, is actually only 6 stations long, and each stage is handled by just one person. ‘The first one builds a chassis on wheels. The second one adds the cabin and connects the large electrical parts. The third one does all the rear mudguards and the controller box. Then the fourth installs the battery and the charger. The fifth does the door trims and all the electrical parts. They also check the lights, horn, radio, camera, and complete the dashboard. The sixth aligns the wheels and calibrates the lights, and does a test drive.’ And the others in the production team? They prepare the parts and make them ready to be fitted into and onto the vehicle. For example, two people prepare the cabins for station 2, three people organize the battery pack for station 5, and so on.
Our production chief has the respect of her team, as she clearly knows what she is doing. ‘Before it was mostly me who had to step in and be the ‘butterfly’, as we call it, but the pace of work has increased significantly. I don’t have the time anymore, and besides I'm installing the fast charging unit these days. So now, I’ve written all the instructions out so anyone in the production team can do any job. It’s actually why I think I can manage my team so well … because they know I can do it too. It’s true, I can literally do everything! I remember, while everyone else was at home during the first Corona quarantine, I was here building cars,’ she says. ‘So yeah, I can build our car.’