How to perfectly combine experience and innovation to rise up to the challenge

Post by Christophe Demelenne,
Supply Chain Lead at Railnova
February 3, 2022

Railnova culture is strong. While I realized this during the recruitment process, I didn’t think it was so strong. And, for a new joiner coming with 10 years of experience in supply chain, operations and R&D at a single company, I knew I had to adapt to a new culture quickly. Here are some parts of the Railnova culture I experienced during my first three months:

Day 2: My first success

On my first day at Railnova, I had the pleasure to meet with my Manager – Christian Sprauer, and other Railnovians. After some chit-chat, Christian asked me to do a presentation about my Supply Chain experience in Electronics the next day in front of the whole company. Well, this was my first introduction to Railnovians and the speed at which I’ll have to contribute to the scale-up of the company. I got a tour of the company (including the production), and this helped me point out and articulate the critical aspects of the Railnova Supply Chain in light of my previous experience. This presentation was my first success! Thanks to positive feedback I received, I started to feel that my contribution was truly appreciated. Railnova is a company where you can impact and deliver your first success extremely fast. It has been such a good feeling to contribute from day 2.

Boost your productivity – Bye-bye useless meeting

Another highlight of the culture is the reduction and almost disappearance of meetings in my agenda.

via GIPHY

Indeed, Railnova is performing all coordination and decisions through asynchronous and written communication. The absence of formal, useless and recurrent meetings freed up so much time in my schedule, and boosted my productivity, with dedicated time to work. We call that “uninterrupted focus time”. This was not an easy transition for me because I immediately saw the value of such a culture and onboarded myself with the different tools that support the culture and work environment (such as Basecamp). Once you overcome the fear of writing everything down 🤯🤪 and to people you don’t know very well, you realize that asynchronous communication is much more productive because it forces you to think deeper and articulate your ideas before expressing them on. Also, the time saved from skipping useless meetings can be better invested in high-priority topics. Personally, I wouldn’t have been able to manage the supply chain urgency as I did with the number of meetings I used to have in the past.

Digital and new technologies more than ever

By joining a new company with a start-up spirit, I was prepared to adapt myself to new tools such as a Mac instead of a PC, Google sheets instead of Excel, and increase my usage of modern tools to be more efficient. But, frankly speaking, I was not expecting to remember my old and basic SQL skills to adapt some Jupyter Notebook scripts in the first weeks to ease my supply chain planning duties. It showed me that Railnova is genuinely a digital company at heart, even if it can be confusing initially – let’s admit it. Being surrounded by this innovative spirit floating in Railnova’s atmosphere is definitely pleasing to my engineering background.

It showed me that Railnova is genuinely a digital company at heart

Railnova helps me to be on time at the office and at home!

As a Supply Chain Department Lead, I have to be on-site at the office every day as opposed to many of my colleagues working remotely. So to go to the office I enjoy commuting by train, to avoid the “infamous” traffic jam around Brussels during peak hours, and obviously, Railnova helps me be on time at the office or at home. Thanks to its predictive maintenance application, Railnova reduces the unpredictable downtime of railway rolling stocks. Less downtime means reduced train delays. How cool though, that my job helps me be at home on time?

Building a new supply chain team

Railnova Supply Chain department faced some staffing shortages in 2021, leading to limited control of the operations. While this can be a bit scary, this is also an opportunity to rebuild a new supply chain team. In this case, I worked on 2 parallel and equally important priorities:

  • Keep the operations running, meaning keeping the conveyor loaded so production isn’t blocked, and we can continue to ship products to our customers.
  • Recruiting team members. That is to say defining the (urgent) needs and doing the recruitment process to have more resources to increase the control on the supply chain.

To keep the operations running, my strategy was easy. I put on my helmet and my gloves and went into fire fighting mode.It was difficult for me at the beginning as I could not avoid some fires. Railnova was having a record year when I joined and there was a lot going on. But, keeping the supply chain working with the help of summer students was a great achievement, and a great way to learn how things are done. I had to pick materials, buy raw materials, plan the deliveries, ship products, receive materials, organize RMAs, etc.

During onboarding, new joiners at Railnova are given a first day, first week, first-month to-do list to meet coworkers and progressively become productive. There was so much going on that I had to immediately start recruiting. So, I did what we do the best at Railnova: I adapted my priorities to be agile. This was a success because I was able to recruit 2 supply chain team members in less than 10 weeks after starting.

Other recruitments are foreseen for 2022. Here as well, you realize that Railnova culture is strong when you onboard your first colleagues. I surprised myself by pushing/explaining/reminding the fresh hires that, “if it is not written and communicated, it is as if it hasn’t happened, because other people sitting in Germany or France don’t have a chance to know about it”. Here I am, living the Railnova culture and making it even stronger by onboarding the best I can the new joiners of my team.

Tasting those bits of the Railnova culture, at that speed, made me a Railnovian at heart and turned me into an advocate for this new and different way of working. I am now ready to tackle the next challenges, in the Railnova way!

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