Henryk Dopierała bends over the ceramic in front of him and eyes it critically. After the check, all it takes is a flick of the wrist and the 20 kg iCon toilet bowl is suspended from a lifting device. With its help, Henryk Dopierała transports the ceramic into a cardboard box. Nothing seems easier than this work.
That's true - today. Just a few years ago, this required a lot of physical strength. At the time of traditional manual ceramics production, “Mr Heniu“, as Henryk Dopierała is called at the Polish ceramics factory in Koło, and his colleagues lifted up to one tonne of weight per day. “I am very happy that my workplace was equipped with lifting and turning aids. Without these adaptations, I would not have been able to do my job,“ he says.
The nice side effect
Since Geberit took over the ceramics business, workstation after workstation at the plant in Koło has been equipped with lifting aids and tilting and turning devices. Further, proprietary prototypes for specific work steps are in development.
The technical aids not only contribute to better working conditions for young and old. More and more women are joining the team. In Poland, the legal limit is 15 kg; women are not allowed to lift more than that. Among other things, this limit restricted the recruitment of women until recently. Until 2017, not a single woman worked in production at the Koło plant.
Today, women make up 10% of the total workforce, and 5% in production. “Mixed-age and mixed-gender teams are very important to us,“ emphasises Tomasz Pronin, who has managed the Polish ceramics plant since 2020. “We all benefit from this: Geberit as an employer, because we can consider a wider range of potential employees, motivated women looking for jobs, and us as a team. Mixed teams foster better, objective and empathetic interaction with each other.“
Man, woman, young, old
Today, no one wants to do without mixed teams. “These are also possible for heavier work,“ Barbara Antkiewicz is convinced. The 58-year-old was one of the first women to join Geberit in Koło in 2017. She works in the casting department, where she processes ceramic blanks. “For activities that require strength, we have introduced mixed tandems,“ she continues. “Then we help each other.“ Four months after the introduction of this measure, 15 female colleagues were already working with her in the casting. “I like working here very much. We maintain a friendly, collegial atmosphere. Man, woman, young, old, it doesn't matter at all.“
For Tomasz Pronin, it's just the beginning. Since goal is “zero lifting“, that is, no more lifting. “We want a healthy, motivated team,“ he says. “That's why we invest in technical lifting equipment and automation as well as in prevention and training to change ingrained habits that are hazardous to health.“
Such a corporate culture pays off: The turnover rate in production has halved, despite the dried-up labour market and lack of qualified workers in Koło.