László Török, Yamazaki Mazak’s General Manager for Central and Eastern Europe, embarked on his new role in 2019, just as the company was about to celebrate 100 years of operating in the market. László Török shared his vision and ideas with us.
The upcoming 100 years are thought to be a new challenge for the future in the field of modern machining and new technologies. Do you see your new professional role as a personal challenge?
What better time for a person to join a company? 100 years of continuous progress, growth success and being one of the market leaders is such a great achievement. It’d be difficult to find a person who wouldn’t want to be part of such success. The upcoming period is of course about innovation and the ability to adapt to fast changing environments, also in machining. Innovation and discovery of new technological solutions have always been part of Mazak’s profile. The challenge in the near term is probably speed. It is common knowledge, that the pace of change in technology is increasing exponentially. I was on the other side in my past career, using Mazak technology for our operations. I am very familiar with an ever-changing environment and a systematic performance where products and people are the driving force behind a company’s success. Everything is a challenge for me – and that’s the way it should be. I’ve always believed that when the challenge and employee competence are properly balanced – the best outcome can be delivered – since engagement and motivation is at its highest.
What were your first impressions in your new position and at the new company?
My first impression was a feeling of coming back to a place I was very familiar with. I’d been in contact with Mazak for almost 20 years. The company I worked for was one of the biggest customers of Mazak machines in Hungary. As a mechanical engineer specializing in machine design, I’ve been immersed in machining and machine design all my life. I worked in the field of automotive electronics and pumps. After that I focused on what I like the most – technology and business – great products and new relationships. And by that, I mean all company stakeholders. And if you don’t mind, I will mention my second impression as well – the complexity of being in the heart of Central Europe and bearing the responsibility for 10 countries.
What was your family’s reaction to your new position and your decision to join the company?
I had worked for two companies in my life, both large companies and family owned. I spent almost 20 years in my previous position. It was a great company, that I was building up in Hungary along with a great team that grew from 0 to more than 2,200 employees. My wife and kids were a part of this journey. Once they turned 10 years old, my children took part in our annual family days, they did their work experience at the company during high school and even their final thesis for their university degree. So you can imagine their reaction. They did, however, understand my drive to do something different after so many years, to take on new challenges, so of course they were very supportive of me – as all great families are. Today they already see what a hard, but great decision it was.
Before joining Mazak, you were the CEO at the company Grundfos. Can you tell us what these companies have in common?
As I already mentioned, the attributes that both companies have in common are family ownership and the overall focus and strategy of the company. These days, Grundfos is run by managers who report directly to headquarters. Grundfos and Mazak are both market leaders in their line of business with a high focus on innovation, people and environment. The work culture and environment are what I value the most, the enthusiasm with which the company seeks solutions for its customers, while creating a great work environment for its employees. Additionally, all Mazak machines are built with Grundfos pumps made in my old factory here in Hungary, using mainly Mazak machine tools for producing them. This is another connection to my previous job now and going forward.
What are the goals that you are going to focus on in the near term?
We are working with the management team on new strategic goals for the whole region, for the upcoming period. The most important areas are: Customer Focus – providing the right solution and support to customers in the commercial and technical field. Product Focus – introduction of many new products to customers presented last year during the EMO show in Hannover – including the recognition of Mazak as a laser producer. Strengthening our business relationships with our partners and focusing on retailers is another important goal of ours. They are an essential part of the Mazak Central Eastern Europe group. Last but not least, our goal is business quality. Our partners must perceive us as a flexible and effective partner who is easy to work with.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many manufacturing companies. A lot of your suppliers and customers are undoubtedly among them. How does Mazak continue to operate under these new conditions?
Understandably, we had to make the same decisions as our partners, and I must admit that it wasn’t easy. Firstly, we made sure that all Mazak operations were compliant with World Health Organisation recommendations as well as local authority decisions, while also ensuring that all of our Mazak staff were working under safe conditions. We also took the necessary steps to protect our customers. Many of them continued operations and requested service and support – which we continuously provided. Naturally, we adhered to all precautions necessary to protect staff and customers against COVID-19 in doing so.
Furthermore, we agreed that employees over the age of 64 and those with a chronic illness – thus at greater risk if infected, must stay at home. We introduced the option of working from home for all employees. Alternatively, taking holidays or shifting working hours is another option wherever working from home is not possible. In order to protect all employees, we’ve reduced the movement of people in the offices to the necessary minimum. We also did our best to keep a positive attitude, as much as possible in given circumstances, and we assured employees that the current situation is only temporary.
Which Mazak products are the most important for the European market and why? Do you think that preferences will change due to the situation in the market?
In the Central and Eastern European market, the so called traditional machine tools are the most sought after, such as QT (Quick turn lathe) VCN/VTC (vertical machining center – milling), HCN (horizontal center), Variaxis and also the laser machines – Optiplex and Tube laser. Changes are apparent here as well, just like anywhere else. We are experiencing preferences towards high speed and high accuracy machines, done-in-one concept, intelligent laser processing machines. Labour is more and more expensive in Central and Eastern Europe. Furthermore, the lack of skilled workers has compelled enterprises to take steps to enhance productivity and use more automation solutions. The objective is to enable companies to remain competitive in the long term.
As indicated by your customers, Mazak machines make a significant contribution to an increased efficiency and thus productivity of their production. This is even more important now than before in order to bring the industry back on track. Does Mazak plan to respond in any way, for example with an emphasis on the development of certain specific products?
Contributing to the continuous productivity improvements of our customers has always been one of our strategic goals. Our new machine tool design and concepts aside, where we have taken the expressed and unspoken wishes of our customers into account, we offer the Mazak ISmart factory solution, a comprehensive solution for first class manufacturing. It is a system developed and tested by us, in recent years it has been used and improved in our operations. So, Industry 4.0 is not only a concept for Mazak, it is applied in our production facilities. We are now at the stage where we can provide it to our customers – for maximising their efficiency of factory utilisation and capital investments. It is a great solution especially for those customers who want high flexibility and those who wish to machine small series of different products. This tool supports production scheduling to improve uptime and decrease change overs, Mazatrol programming – process validation with high speed 3D simulation, the new Mazatrol SmoothX and Smooth AI system. Thanks to this, our machines use the fastest and easiest to operate CNC on a global scale, altogether delivering a step change in machine performance and productivity. The new controllers are already intelligent solutions – enabling comprehensive factory tool data management and self-learning.
Can you share with us your vision of production and markets in Europe?
My vision is to bring the modern Mazak machine tools and laser machines even closer to existing and future customers, to provide them with the right solution and support from a commercial and technical point of view and thus contribute to their success. Through these initiatives, we aim to gain market share and strengthen organizational competence for even better service. I would also like to enhance our unique hybrid and multitasking machines with done-in-one technology and make the whole value adding process more ecologically and ergonomically friendly. Last but not least, creating great workplaces for talented people, where everybody can achieve their own personal development targets, is another ambition of mine.
What are the hottest trends in machining and how do the current Mazak products reflect them?
I think the trend in machining is flexibility, manufacture on demand – the just in time approach without big stocks, fast change overs, integration of technologies – hybrid machines – with high automation, VR tools usage. Our customers aim towards the use of big data, digitalisation and the greatest possible level of innovation. I believe that after the COVID-19 pandemic, some industries will address some of their global supply chains and what’s more, I actually see opportunities here for Central and Eastern Europe.
Which Mazak machine do you consider to be the company’s current flagship and why?
Our current flagship is without a doubt the Integ rex series – this equipment’s appearance was a groundbreaking innovation in the industry and the future of machining. It’s a modular machine that allows us to work with hybrid technologies and automation that can use a wide range of machining technologies. Providing operations from raw material to a finished component in one stroke, in one setup with the ultimate DONE-IN-ONE machine. The Integrex is ergonomic, environmentally efficient and of excellent value. With an easy fixturing system, the new Integrex i-series incorporates the very latest technologies, Mazak quality and comprehensive support. While we are speaking about the future, I also need to mention the Mazak Hybrid machines that cover the integration of technologies – classic machining with a friction steel welding process.