May 10, 2005
We All Thank!
Congrations to us all!
Bloggers, the Alcan team and visitors: in the beginning, it was just a seed; now we have such a big and fruity tree! We have built the We All Can community together and I can say that we all participated. We worked, we synergized and we played win-win.
We, Bloggers won a trip to distinct Alcan units to meet our coach and live an unforgettable experience: the Alcan Day!
Visitors won such an abundant and accurate information about Alcan and its different jobs and activities.
As any of the We All Can participants: I’ll only have good memories from this program. We are thankful of such a creative idea and proud to have participated.
About my coach’s job:
With Cédric, I could learn the importance of being hard-working, organized and rigourous. I also learned the importance of being a good team-player and having a good sense of humour. Communication skills are keys in a manager’s life.
Cédric is very open-minded, dedicated and versatile. Didactic is one of his greatest communication skills: he is able to express himself so well that even complex subject become simple!
I met someone very passionate about his job. I felt like diving in a motivation and enthusiasm pool and I really appreciated it!
About my Alcan Day:
During my Alcan Day, I was received with opened arms. Everyone was very kind. Besides all the technical points I’ve learned, what impressed me most was to see people so happy doing their jobs, so engaged and motivated. More than a team player, I felt being part of the “Alcan family”.
I noticed that Alcan policy is not just written on the paper. It’s real: we can live it on day to day in the company. Everyone is caring for environment, health and safety and they do it naturally.
- dealing with time to balance studies, resting time and blog work,
- respecting deadlines,
- interacting with my co-workers (the blog team and my coach),
- visiting and participating to the blogs.
As I had already heard of Alcan before, through this program I could confirm the impression I had of Alcan, and I could do so from a so privileged position: from the inside, among Alcan people, observing them at work.
It is a very respectful and successful company.
What about your future?
For the next five months, I’ll be doing an internship in Metaux Spéciaux, which used to be a subsidiary of Péchiney, in the French Alps. The region is incredibly beautiful and offers many opportunities in my field. I’d be very keen in finding a job later there. Why not in Alcan? ;)
Now, what about your future after We All Can program ?
I think participating to this program will be a huge plus, if not decisive, in my search for a first job next year. The job market is now so picky that students need to differentiate. By showing you’ve been able, in the same time, to study and participate to such a challenging program like We All Can, I think you definitely can attract recruiter’s attention.
For the time being, my main preoccupation about my future is to make contacts for an internship in the beginning of 2006. I would be keen on doing it abroad, because I would like to improve further my language skills and discover, if the opportunity appears, the anglo-saxon culture. But an opportunity of internship nearby the Alps would be definitely an option too.
I’d like to thank everyone involved: each piece of this puzzle which made this program possible.
I thank Cédric for his engagement and Sogerem team for collaborating to my Alcan day.
I thank We All Can team for the organization and giving me the opportunity to participate.
I thank bloggers and visitors for the constructive contribution posted in my blog.
I thank my husband for doing houseworks while I was blogging!
I thank my husband and my family for motivating and supporting me.
I’ll miss you all, so I hope we’ll keep in touch!
Aline De Almeida Andro
May 09, 2005
Get your guide
Hello dear visitors!
The “We All Can program” is a project created by Alcan (Aluminum Company of Canada) to give European students the opportunity to spend a day in the shoes of an Alcan’s professional and report it to the world through a blog (an internet journal). The purpose of the “Alcan day” is to follow a coach in his activities and discover his profession.
So, I’m here to give you some directions about my blog. As I promised in the very beginning, I’m feeding my blog and it’s getting bigger and bigger every day. To facilitate your navigation through it, I suggest you to explore the different posts using the links bellow: Get to know more about Alcan, its activities and its company's culture!
Firstly, you can find a little bit more about me and about my coach:
As I had the opportunity to see Alcan from the inside, with my curious eyes, I invite you to follow me during my Alcan day, for an adventure in the Centre of the Earth:
Weekly, Alcan participants will discuss about a new topic that I’m sure, will all interest you: engineering or management students, professionals, friends, curious people… Just have a look:
- The Invisible Hand
- Topic 1 – Clients and Suppliers
- We are the world
- Topic 2 - Mr. International
- Topic 3 - Innovation: Dig it!
- Topic 4 - Pursuing Excellence : Challenge, Performance and contribution (NEW!)
For curious people, some curiosities:
- Maintenance: take care of your goose! (NEW!)
- A metallic bird
- Why not Aluminium?
- Let’s prepare fluor-spar!
Do not hesitate to post your commentaries, questions, suggestions and impressions! I’m expecting to have an interactive debate with you!
May 07, 2005
Nowadays, I am in an Engineering school; so soon I will be in the Labor market, just like most of you, readers. And then, I just find out that we keep playing puzzle our whole life! Isn’t it amazing?
At work, it is the same: our job will help to complete a big puzzle and when all the different functions act together, we discover the whole, the global result accomplished.
Then, I went to Sogerem, I spent a whole day in the shoes of my coach and I could observe how he is playing puzzle at Alcan, what is his job’s role, where is Cédric giving his contribution.
The main Cédric’s responsibilities are geology and environment.
The geology is a key service because it will define the exploitation plan and it will allow the work in the mines. Moreover, the Environmental survey Cédric provides is a key service too which involves water quality control.
But, how Cédric’s contribution is evaluated?
1 - Achieve two actions concerning environment:
- Control the fluorine level in the lake close to Sogerem;
- Carry out rehabilitation‘s plan of one of the open-cast mines.
2 - Improve the financial performance
3 - Ensure that the ore provided to the plant meets quality and quantity standards
4 - Carry out prospecting projects:
- Obtain the opening authorization of a new open-cast mine (take a look in what have been done in my Alcan day post, at 9:30!);
- Finalize the prospecting campaign 2005 before July 31st.
5 - Preserve work/life balance
- Finish the work day at 18h!
It is important to highlight that some of the objectives requires the involvement of other people. It means that some objectives are shared. For example, the improvement of the financial performance is an aim which Cédric shares with Didier, the General Director, and Jean François, the Mines responsible. Water quality control involves also many people’s participation.
Contribution will be evaluated with what was carried out to reach the objectives and performance will be assessed checking if the objectives were accomplished. Besides, at the end of the year, a self-evaluation review must be filled out. Thus, the assessment can be done!
Another way to evaluate the quality of Cédric’s job is to compare his modeling work with the results obtained in reality. For example, Cédric is responsible for estimating the quantity of ore which will be extracted and its fluor-spar level. It is essential to plan the exploitation. Cédric will have done a good job if his estimates are actually close to the values found. As fluor-spar ore is very heterogeneous, indeed, it is not a very easy task!
As you can see, all the corporate values and strategic directives are incorporated in Cédric’s objectives:
- EHS is present when we talked about minimizing environmental impacts. It includes rehabilitation of mining sites and the water quality control.
- Maximizing values is represented by the improvement of the financial performance
- Continuous improvement is directly linked to the underground mine, because its exploitation requires a good compromise with the open-cast mine production. They need to run together to balance their weaknesses and assets to satisfy their client: the plant.
Cédric is constantly dealing with various challenges:
Firstly, he needs to look for new fluor-spar reserves. If he detects the presence of these reserves, he needs to localize it and then plan their exploitation. Thus, when reserve supplies are getting smaller, he needs to prove it as soon as possible for a good planning organization.
Secondly, he also needs to forecast the ore’s fluor-spar level to deliver a product of quality to the plant.
Finally, as an environmental manager, Cédric’s challenge is to reduce environmental impact.
But Cédric, how can you remain motivated and productive?
“It is not difficult! The variety of the subjects which I tackle, the new aspects and the various problems require versatility and creativity. It is what allures me most! And to remain productive, there is always necessary to update knowledge!”
May 05, 2005
Maintenance: take care of your goose!
Do you know the Aesop’s fable of the goose and the golden eggs?
This fable is the story of a poor man who discovers one day a golden egg in the nest of his goose. At first, he thinks that it's a trick, but then he takes it to be apprised. He discovers then that it is made of pure gold. Then, day after day, every morning he rushes to the nest to find another golden egg. He becomes very wealthy and it all seems too good to be true.
But with his wealth comes also greed and impatience. Unable to wait day after day for the next egg, the farmer decides to kill the goose and get all eggs at once. And when he opens the goose, there are no eggs inside and there is no way to get anymore. He killed the goose that produced them.
I read this little story in a book called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, written by Stephen Covey. I suggest you to read it as well.
But what does it means? It means that we cannot just think about manufacturing and forget to maintain the machine which provides us with products.
A simple example: you have one week of final exams and oral presentations. The hardest ones will happen Monday and Tuesday. You spend the weekend reviewing your books. If you concentrate just in the subject for the two first exams, you will be so tired that you will not be able to study for the following exams. The risk to fail will rise, even if the next ones are not that difficult, because energy reserve is exhausted. It is necessary to remember that keeping ourselves in good health improves our production capability. We need to find the balance between studies and relaxing.
Maintenance is something very important at Alcan.
At Sogerem, the Alcan’s unit where I spent my Alcan day, they need a lot of heavy engines to work in the mine. Trucks, diggers and shovels need to be maintained to prevent from breakdowns to happen. These machines need to be cared for as we care for our cars. Each one has his own follow-up notebook. The difference is the frequency: maintenance will be done according to the number of working hours! For example, each morning, they dedicate 20 minutes to each machine to stoke up and to check oil. Oil will be drained after 250 working hours! Monthly, 2-3 hours maintenance is done to a detailed verification and to replace wearing parts. For the trucks working in the open-cast mine, tires will be replaced after 3000 working hours. Trucks working in the underground mine will have their tires replaced every 1000 working hours.
To ensure a good maintenance of the machines it is also necessary to manage a wearing parts small stock. Sogerem can also count on the just-in-time Caterpillar service! The plant relies on a maintenance service as well. Every Monday morning, 2 hours are dedicated to check every detail. It assures a good restart-up. Yearly, 3 weeks of heavy maintenance is performed and it guarantees an average 15 -20 hours breakdown per year, which is really great!
Maintenance management requires a very high experience level. Observing old events and then planning correctly allows to anticipate breakdowns and then carry out the maintenance before problems happen.
I'd like to thank Claude, Sogerem Technical Director, for such precious information.
April 26, 2005
A380 ready for take-off!
Today, Airbus officials announced that A380 should make its first test flight tomorrow in Toulouse Blagnac between 10:00 and 10:30 local time. The super jumbo will take-off from runway 32 Right and thousands of people will be there around the airport to watch the roll-out and initial climb of our metallic bird. This incredible challenge for aerospace industry is about to be won and I guess Alcan team, who participated a lot in the program, will keep his breath too!
I wish I could be there too! Hopefully, it will be shown on TV on major news channels.
The flight will last about 3 hours, if the nice weather on Toulouse continues, there is no reason for History to happen tomorrow.
April 24, 2005
Innovation : Dig it !
"Give me something new!". Everyone is dying for it, but do we really want it? Actually a company needs innovation for sure to adapt and to improve itself, but are men really willing to provide it? Sometimes innovation scares as well.
Some companies adopt a top-down organization; they feel more comfortable with it. Innovation then follows the rigid structures of hierarchy. Should Innovation come exclusively from the Innovators? Is that the best way to improve? What if wisdom was collective instead of individual?
North American usually prefers bottom-up organization. That means anyone can participate and submit new ideas to the organization. Who better than the workers know how to improve the processes? How better can you have the workers to accept an innovation when it came from the workers themselves?
I personally experienced that philosophy when working in an iron mine in Brazil. Volunteer workers arranged themselves into groups of five or six animated by a manager. Regularly a prize was awarded to a workgroup coming with the best idea. When each worker turns into a little Leonardo Da Vinci, you can be sure that the company will perform better. This is usually called "Circle of Quality".
In Sogerem, the mine I've spent my Alcan Day, that philosophy is applied too. Anyone can participate to informal meetings and give his opinion or submit ideas. Offices are opened and you are invited to come and exchange. The director of Sogerem even invited me to share with him my impressions inside Sogerem team!
Cédric told me "For important problems, formal meetings are organized and everyone is invited to think about it and provide his piece of advice”.
There are two sources of ideas: ideas which come to fulfill a need and ideas which, like a shooting star, arrive unexpectedly.
As Cédric’s job is involving geology, environment and management, the problems he needs to solve are mainly related to these topics.
The tool Cédric is using to keep himself updated is the technological survey. For example, he receives the summary of scientific journals of geology to be informed on what is going on in this area.
Cédric gave me a good example of a challenge he went through which led to an innovation. Do you remember of the water reservoir? Nearby the mine, there is a lake which is a drinkable water reservoir. Fluorine level must be controlled because it cannot exceed a certain value. But once, during a very dry summer, levels rose above required levels. The problem had to be solved as fast as possible. In such moments, creativity must be working at maximal speed!
After a careful study of available documents related to that issue, Cédric found a method to clean the water but it was generally used for industrial treatment. Here, Cédric’s Innovation was adaptation. With some modifications, Cédric and his team tailored the method to be used with drinkable water treatment. And it worked! Now, fluorine level rarely exceeds the preset level. Anyway, Sogerem is now equipped with an effective weapon to fight against the problem!
We need to keep in mind that Innovation must remain economically coherent. Actually, new ideas can also satisfy an economical goal. Improve results is great, but it is even better if we can do so lowering the costs!
But let’s move back to water treatment. Sogerem has a good method to treat the water which drains through the mining site. Any water resulting from human activity can be neither acid nor basic. So, treating water with a base will require an acid to equilibrate the final result and vice versa. The balance doubles the costs!
So, Cédric had the EUREKA idea of a hybrid treatment! In fact, water is treated with Aluminum salts, which can be acids or basics. As Aluminum is the active agent in the treatment, putting half of acid and half of base will eliminate the need of neutralization! Tests will be undergone during June and July to verify the results of that innovation. They are all confident about it! Try is very important!
In the prospecting area, Cédric looks for innovation as well! He and his team are currently using Geographical Information System (GIS) combined with teledetecting methods to find new prospecting place to mine. GIS is a database which associates terrain data with geological data. As we can see, Sogerem adapt new methods to their specific situation and they ensure to dispose of cutting-edge technology.
As Cédric told me, “the most important thing is that you mustn't be afraid of original solutions, this is how a breakthrough can appear”. Dare is the key to innovation!”
April 14, 2005
What about football?
It's probably a universal link between us all, habitant of the Earth. It's a kind of empathic communication shared by billions of human beings. Brazil has its own special way about football. I have mine too. Even those ones who says “I am not interested about it”, like my mom for example, cannot restrain themselves from checking how their country is doing in the world cup…
I'm amazed to see how football can be such a powerful way to communicate, even for companies. Put an obscure product name on the football shirt of a successful team or in the posters around the field and everyone will know about your latest “bifidus” yoghurt or mp3 “gizmo”.
More than communicate, when Brazilians go to a football stadium or when more than two people are around a TV set or a radio, you can see them sharing their passion, their enthusiasm, their happiness or their sadness. Ok, I confess that it is not that romantic when you are waiting for your birthday present and your dad or your boyfriend offers you a T-shirt of his favorite team but… at least it proves that they love you! ;)
And why I am talking about it? Hm, because I like the French football teams, I am living Saint Etienne in France. It is a town with a great football story. In the Saint Etienne stadium we can feel an atmosphere close to the one you experience in Brazil. The main difference is that French show their passion when in the stadium and it's over when they cross the stadium’s gate. And yesterday I felt this enthusiasm when I entered in my class and someone had written on the blackboard “ALLER O.L.!” . I took me some time to realize that it meant “Go Olympique Lyonnais”, the great Lyon’s team. At this moment, I had a little smile in my face and I thought: deep inside, we are all the same. Brazilians are more expressive, French are less, maybe. But, we are all human beings, we all have the same feelings, we just show them differently. In the end, it is just a matter of adjustment.
You just need to get synchronized with people around you, get the rhythm of the environment, and you will be able to adapt wherever you are.
Unfortunately O.L. lost yesterday but I felt I shared a moment and emotions with French fans.
April 12, 2005
We are the world
Until the present moment I didn’t introduce you to some friends of mine. I was just waiting the right moment to do so:
My best Italian friend is Monica. She studied at the “Politecnico di Torino” and she did a double course in France, at the “Ecole des Mines de Saint Etienne”. Soon she’ll be flying to Brazil, where she will do 6 months’ internship. She speaks Italian, English, Vietnamese (because her parents are Vietnamese), French and so soon, she will speak Portuguese as well! We overcame our adaptation period at the school together. She’s such a very hard working girl. Thank you for being there with me Monica!
My best Spanish friend is Pablo. He lived for some time in the Canary Islands, where he studied in a german school. He studied at “Universidad Politécnica de Madrid” and he did a double course, at the “Ecole des Mines de Saint Etienne” as well. Last week, he flew to California, where he’ll do an internship. He speaks Spanish, English, German and French. He is such a kind and intelligent boy.
My best Israeli friend is Daniel. I adopted him as my old brother, with the authorization of my little sister. ;) Daniel did his studies in Germany, where he studied physics at “Free University Berlin”. He did his master degree in the USA, at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and currently he is in France, studying for his PhD degree that the INRIA Lorraine in Nancy, France. He's such a clever boy… I suggest you to take a look in some music that Denny has composed:
And I have so many stories about my French friends, my German friends, my Senegalese friends, my Brazilian friends, my Polish friends, my Morrocan friends, Colombian friends, Bolivian friends, Chinese ones …
But more than introduce you my friends, I would like you to find what they have in common with you and me. Do you have a guess?
I will give you a hint: we all have a big friend in common…
Be back soon and I will tell you about!
"I am a multicultural person who speaks a lot of languages. I am very open-minded, cultured and sociable. With me, you can have a discussion about E-V-E-R-Y thing. My omnipresence is one of his most brilliant characteristics."
Mr. International is a very good companion of Alcan and of each Alcan’s employee in particular.
My coach for example: Cédric is French. He works in France and speaks French. But when you look at Cédric’s international side, you will find someone who worked 7 years in Kenya and who speaks English and Swahili as well. Cédric’ spouse is Kenyan. At home they speak three languages and they are able to switch from one to another without problem. His friends are all around the world. And don’t forget: presently, he has a Brazilian pupil, (ops that’s me!) ;)
Alcan offers mobility to its managers; Alcan helps them build their careers. Cédric doesn’t have a country in particular which he would like to work. He is just ready to go where Alcan needs him to be and where he will be able to improve his knowledge and experiences. Actually, Cédric already spent 95% of his career abroad.
Alcan offers the opportunity to his managers to continuously improve their skills. Training is often provided and this is a good occasion to meet colleagues from other units from all around the globe. Alcan’s managers have the opportunity to get in touch with their colleagues from abroad. Cédric has been participating to training courses with his Alcan colleagues from Canada, for example. Through these meetings, they can exchange their cultures; they get to know the different ways to work, to think and to solve problems. Combining the assets of every culture, Alcan becomes a world leader in its business!
We don’t need to go very far to find Mr. International. I met him personally. I won a trip to Sogerem, Alcan fluor-spar production site. I could talk in Portuguese with Sogerem director. I discovered that China, with its giant fluor-spar reserves, is responsible for half of the world’s production. So China dramatically influences the price of fluor-spar on the international market. Mexico and African countries like South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Morocco are also important producers worldwide.
Even in the most distant Alcan’s unit, Mr. International is present. Nothing can escape from his influence. I am sure that Mr. International is conscious that 10% of the moon’s crust is constituted of Aluminium. Hm… If I were you I wouldn’t doubt that one day Mr. International could change his name to Mr. Universal and travel to catch it there!
Mr. International doesn’t know frontiers !
April 05, 2005
The Invisible Hand
Inside the company itself, we can identify clients and suppliers, just as in a market. Let’s have a look at the market’s theories.
The famous theory of markets of Adam Smith can be applied here too. To be short: when there is a product shortage, its price rises which stimulates production and eventually cures the shortage. Due to increased competition among manufacturer, the price of the product lowers to a “natural price”. It is the theory of the “invisible hand”. According to Smith, though human motives are selfishness and greed, the free market tends to benefit to the whole society.
YES… BUT INCOMPLETE! John Nash, a brilliant mathematician, won the Economics’ Nobel prize in 1994 for completing Adam Smith “invisible hand’s theory”. And don’t forget that Adam Smith is such a personality in political economics and he’s also a moral philosopher!
John Nash worked in the game theory, currently called Nash equilibrium. Hm… A game in a formal definition is a situation where many actors decide of a strategy, knowing that the result of this strategy will depend of the other’s choices.
John Nash said that, if each actor looks for personal AND collective interest, we’ll tend to benefit society as a whole. He introduced the idea of COOPERATION, instead of competition.
In my point of view, a client-supplier relationship is a COOPERATION interaction. For example, I want to negotiate the lower price with my supplier. But if it’s too low, he’ll have problems in his business and maybe will not be able to supply me. And I need him! So, we need to find the interest equilibrium!
With a good communication between them, clients and suppliers become confident, they cooperate with each other and they will both improve benefits. They climb the progress pyramid together; they play win/win in long term!
But we are here to talk about intern client-supplier relationships. Alcan units are negotiating between them, when the research and development center in developing a new Aluminum alloy to the Aerospace center, for example.
Alcan employees have their client and suppliers as well. So let’s come back to Sogerem and discover these interactions together!
I invite you to visit the following post: Clients and suppliers!