We were presented a few items from the GIR factory by the man who is in charge of the production, working with people and testing the potential of wood – a material with which he grew up.
We visited the GIR factory in Kraljevo, and its essential items were shown to us by one of the factory’s leading men, who is in charge of developing furniture production, a remarkable expert for wood and the technology of its processing – Vladimir Ilic. He created his personal square meter in his office, in which he feels like he’s at his own house, and he also told us what makes his work day and that the most challenging thing is working with over 500 employees within this complex factory which is constantly improving.
BA: How did you get chance to work for GIR?
V.I.: It will sound funny, but I have been actively doing this job basically since I was 7. My father is a carpenter, and I have spent my whole childhood in the workshop, learning practical stuff about wood and machinery, and that is where I got the desire to enroll to the Faculty of forestry and study wood processing. Studying didn’t seem difficult for me because I loved what I was doing and I had a good basic knowledge, and after all those years I had a feeling I had extensive knowledge of wood. However, only after I arrived at GIR did I realize I had just started to learn (laugh). I’m here for almost 6 years, and my real improvement happened at GIR, where I learned all the processes through practice, and through managing such a large factory; how to work with people, planning, organizing – the things I’m still learning and which were the most difficult for me.
BA: What is the biggest challenge in managing a factory?
V.I.: One thing is to make an object out of wood, and completely another is to work with 500 people, guide them and create a system in which those items are produced on a daily basis and in large quantities. Making one item is not the same as making hundreds of them in industrial conditions.
The most difficult and the most complex thing was to adapt to all the people in the factory and learn that you cannot do it by yourself; you have to have a serious group of people, and it’s crucial to have them by your side. The effect of work of the factory itself is far greater if you work on improving the approach of several hundreds of people.
BA: Does your position require the knowledge of every machine?
V.I.: Basically, it’s not that significant, but it is important if you want the people to respect your work, because you have to be familiar with their job. If they feel you can help them, your team trusts you more, and they know to appreciate that and reciprocate. However, in such a large system, you can’t be familiar with all the processes and machines, but you have to know the people that know how to work with them.
BA: What makes a typical working day for you, and what exactly is your job?
V.I.: During these 6 years, I have gone through every part of the factory, I have worked in manufacturing, managed each and every sector, and later the whole production section; then I worked on developing new products, regarding technology and item production. Lately I’ve been also coordinating the acquisition of raw material, and I am especially proud of the advancement of GIR and the space I myself designed and made all the schemes. I travel a lot in order to get acquainted with new technologies and machinery, somewhat deal with finance together with the director, and I also worked in the system of quality control. We work in furniture manufacturing and all that it entails, and that is crucial.
BA: In your opinion, what is the thing that separates GIR from all others in domestic, regional and even the global market?
V.I.: The thing that is GIR’s main characteristic is constant improvement; here we have the opportunity to learn, travel, meet new people and get to know new things, but also the philosophy, that is an attribute of the people within the factory, to always try to be one step in front of the competition.
It is very important to constantly learn new things and not to waste time – the continuous orientation towards success. We wish no less than to become the best factory in the world!
V.I.: For that we need people that don’t find this statement funny and who think that this is possible, whereby it is necessary to work hard, have great co-workers and excellent equipment. For me, frankly, it is never a drag to get up for work, because I’m motivated by the goal I’ve set and the desire to see progress every morning.
BA: Ash wood is a new distinguishing material and a special characteristic of the GIR collection. Now when we stand at the very source of production, it’s the right place to ask how did that selection come about?
V.I.: In a discussion with Bojan we tried to come to a solution which wood we should use to represent ourselves, first to Serbia, and then to the rest of the world. We wanted to find a different wood, apart from oak, because the whole global wood industry moved to that type of wood, and we felt the need to turn away from that logical course and offer our consumers a bit brighter kind of wood. Anatomically and materially, those two types of wood are very similar, apart from the extractive matter which gives the oak its darker color. It took a lot of time and serious examining of technology and tools, but the most demanding process was drying the wood. Any hydrothermal processing leads to changes in the material, and the effort to get a dry white ash is the longest and the most complex process we have undertook. It is important that its structure, clean and pure, can be notice. We are still in the process of perfecting it.
BA: Do you treat differently, within the factory itself, the products you manufacture for GIR brand?
V.I.: Regardless of the type of brand, it is important to us that our part of the job is done flawlessly. Of course, one is more content when he works on something of his own, and that’s the thing that will definitely mark GIR’s future, as well as its place in global wood industry. The brand gives us new possibilities and certainty in work, and also a new position for negotiations.
I commonly go to any business trip with a car, because of numerous destinations I need to visit in one tour. Those are usually Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Romania, Turkey, etc. Of course, I travel around Serbia too; I travel abroad mostly because of the technologies, and through our country mainly for the material.
That’s related to the previous object – I’m often abroad and the passport is always by my side.
Work is important, but it’s necessary to have something other than that. The gloves are linked with martial arts, and one part of my life is still attached to them. During my first college years, when people and space were available to me, I grew to love and started practicing martial arts. I don’t have much time for that anymore, but I occasionally like to do some training; it’s good for the health, after all. The punching bag is actually right here in the office, because I realized that I spend most of my time at GIR, so I just brought here one of the things I love and that are important to me (laugh). The only way for me to continue to practice that in a serious way was to bring the sport inside. In the evening, when it’s quiet in here, I sometimes do a little bit of training.
This is related to the technology and improvement of GIR, drawing lines which will bring us greater productivity and quality. I drew it with my hand and it represents the very beginning in the realization of a new technological idea, as well as informing the equipment manufacturer about our requirements.
Only time, or precisely, lack of time, can prevent me from doing everything I wanted and planned. We have to be friends with time, so the watch is always with me.
I’m well aware it’s not healthy, but not a day goes by without me having a can of Coca-cola. I customarily drink it from the can, and that’s the right amount of sugar that has a good effect on me, at least I think so (laugh).
7. Wood moisture meter
This is a device for contact measuring of moisture, one of the most significant tools in wood industry. It’s an indispensable device for quality testing. You can be very good technologically, but if you don’t have high-quality raw material, it’s all for nothing.
8. Chair piece
This is a piece from a Bok chair, which represents a turning point of GIR’s designer and construction work. Before this chair we manufactured tables, large table plates and other less demanding wooden objects. Since this chair and learning to work on the new machine, a new era of production started, and with it we also set a nice standard for our competition. It took 2 or 3 weeks to make the first chair, and this is the time when I broke my own record for the time I spent at the factory. Whenever I go through the production sector and I see this chair, I remember those first steps towards a more significant and special product.
9. Vernier scale and meter
These are very important things for measuring quality. A meter is more often used in production, and the accuracy of that vernier scale is 0.01 mm and it’s rarely seen in wood industry – a vernier scale of that kind of accuracy is mostly used in the machine industry. That might also illustrate my own obsession with precision and the desire to make all the pieces in GIR perfect. We strive towards that.
10. A rock
I brought it from Greece, from the seaside; it has nothing to do with work. It’s just a little part of a private trip which I brought into this space.