Camelia Iorga, plant manager of our Architectural Coatings (AC) facility in Bucharest, Romania, believes curiosity, teamwork and fearless experimentation lead to continuous improvement. She has backed up that belief with action, overseeing plant expansions and other improvements that have propelled our company to market leader in a country with exploding consumer demand, strong competitors and a tight labor market.
Early Success Builds Foundation for Improvement
Camelia’s resume has paint all over it. She’s worked in the industry since graduating college in 1990 with a chemical engineering degree. She spent the first half of her career in research and development before moving into production.
Appointed plant manager at her current location in 2006, Camelia joined us through our 2017 acquisition of Deutek, which was a leading Romanian paint and architectural coatings manufacturer.
“When I started at this plant, we were tinting one batch per day. In one year, we increased that to six batches. We did it by overcoming the fear of trying something different and having a team that’s diverse in age, experience, knowledge and more. Some of our people are very curious and creative, and others are excellent at implementation. It’s a good blend.”
Doubling Down on Production Capacity
Camelia and her team of 100 employees remained focused on continuous improvement, doubling the plant’s production volume of paint and plaster that’s sold under the OSKAR™ and DANKE!™ brands. Driving the achievement was rapidly growing demand in the Romanian market, with consumers becoming more educated about and interested in home improvement as their quality of life and disposable income increased. A second driver was a goal and supporting strategic approach to gain market share.
We have very strong competition in our market, and this requires us to be better, faster, and more creative and flexible to stay steps ahead. It’s not easy, but we’re doing it each day. I’m #PPGProud
that we’re now the market leader.
The plant’s most recent big step was automating its filling and palletizing line for white paint, which increased line capacity by 30% while reducing ergonomic and other safety risks.
Filling paint containers and placing them on pallets for shipment required extensive manual operations that could not keep up with the increased speeds of the production lines. Not only was this a bottleneck, it also increased safety risks. In addition, finding people to do this manual work was becoming more difficult as the labor market tightened.
“It is a credit to our employees and our design and engineering team in Amsterdam that we were able to maintain full production capacity while the new line was being installed. It really represented One PPG at its best.”
The changes in our Bucharest factory over the past 5 years are very positively seen also by Camelia's manager Steve Jackson.
We started off having to invest in EHS improvements and capacity expansion and then the more recent automation investment to help offset labor shortages and high salary inflation. We are looking forward to additional projects to improve sustainability, including ways to reduce our energy needs in the future.
In 2023, the plant will be commissioning an automated filling and palletizing line for its plaster products to meet growing demand. Plaster is used on building exteriors for aesthetics and thermal insulation.
We have an energy crisis in Romania, so homeowners are turning to plaster to reduce their energy bills. Demand for the product increased 12% in 2022 on top of 21% the prior year, and it’s expected to grow again in 2023.
Camelia the Waste Buster
Energy conservation is something of a hobby for Camelia, who jokingly boasts that she probably has the lowest home energy bill of her management team. She’s replaced all her home appliances with energy-efficient models, and she limits using her TV since it’s a major energy sapper.
“I grew up when Romania was under communist rule, so we had limited resources. That taught me not to waste anything, whether it be energy, food, water or other consumables. I’ve brought that philosophy into the plant, where we’re always looking for waste.”
Although she has “been in a hurry” ever since she was born, Camelia now pauses to find quiet time to think.
“I’ve learned not to be in a hurry to implement something and instead think about a plan B if things don’t go smoothly. I’m also always looking to learn something new, most recently sustainability and automation. These are important to today’s young people, and we must explore how to better apply them in our operations.”