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A spoonful of Research and Development

Published: 2020-08-05 08:19

The tiramisú was staring at us in the middle of the table, imploring to be eaten.

This is how my chat with Kevin and Diviezetha started. Its goal was to dig a bit deeper into R&D department and my homemade tiramisú gave me the opportunity to do it with the help of a spoon. It had been conceived as a small reward for their time, but its effect seemed to be much appreciated.

When I first met Kevin and Diviezetha two years ago, we shared another sort of pleasant experience: a summer coffee on the office´s sunny terrace.

Me, Diviezetha and Kevin on Essity´s terrace

But the calendar was set on 2017 when these two Packaging Engineers got acquainted for the first time. At that time Diviezetha was at the beginning of her GO! Program in the Technology team before starting her rotation into different positions, while Kevin was already part of the Global R&D Packaging team of which today they are both precious elements!

A winning team is based on playing the same tune in a synergic way. What if this synergy is the result of diversity?

Kevin Burkhalter is originally from France where he completed his studies. He moved to Sweden 4 years ago after having worked with medical devices in Switzerland.

I was attracted to Scandinavia and when I have been proposed to move here to become an R&D Packaging Engineer for Essity I accepted with enthusiasm since it seemed to be a very nice company. The Swedish work environment is pretty different to what I was used: no hierarchy. Swiss take more steps and time to agree on something, while in Sweden the “consensus” is in force: we first discuss all together and we agree on the final decision. No further steps – it´s done!

Kevin Burkhalter

Diviezetha Thamrin left Indonesia in 2015 to start her Master´s Degree in Industrial Engineering at Chalmers (Göteborg). She spent the following year in the UK where she studied for her dual degree in IT Project Management. Back in Sweden in 2017, where her journey with Essity began.

During my rotation schedule as part of the Essity Go! Program I have worked in two of our factories: in Falkenberg at first and also in the Netherlands for some months as a Process Engineer. After this period concluded, I came back to Sweden and continued the program as part of the Packaging team!

Diviezetha Thamrin

The Global R&D Packaging team changed a lot from the time Kevin joined it. He can be definitively considered its backbone, since it was not existing before Kevin and another colleague started in 2016. Currently 14 members combine their efforts together in this global team which covers different product categories and countries.

What changed from back then?
The working methods were basically born with us. We brainstormed and shaped the way of working together, thanks to the newly arrived members and some employees who knew the previous ways (coming from SCA) and shared their knowledge. Fine-tuning is a never-ending process and it continues every day.

Kevin Burkhalter

So what is the core of Global R&D Packaging?

It all starts with product developers, markets, brand and innovation managers reaching out to the team and asking for a new packaging to be developed for their recently concluded product.

Prototypes

Since the path to the final result takes a lot of time, ensuring the process optimization is key. This originates the need of developing standards and ways of working that suit the team´s work.

The goal of the team is then not just limited to the development of efficient and environmental-friendly packagings for our product lines, but it also aims at the application of effective processes to reach the desired target.

How do they work in practice?

We normally follow more projects at the same time, and they last an average of 1,5 year each.

For what concerns the process development activities (“how to”), we mainly work together. But for our individual projects, we are pretty much autonomous. We just ask each others for suggestions or help when needed, of course!

Kevin Burkhalter

The team spirit is definitively authentic here: Diviezetha waters Kevin´s plants during his holidays!

According to them in facts, the team atmosphere is great to encourage collaboration and they do not feel ashamed to ask for clarification.

Together with a very international environment, originated by quite different backgrounds that add value, this attitude is considered a team strenght.

Chatting and laughing with Kevin and Diviezetha is always fun, but at that point of our conversation the tiramisú was clearly over: it was time for one last question.

What are your main challenges and achievements?

My biggest challenge: the language.
At the beginning working in English was tiring but my level improved a lot. My next challenge is Swedish!
My biggest success: well, beyond the fact that I managed to survive “potatoes” (everywhere in Sweden!), my contribution to building the team. We started from scratch and now this big team can focus on important projects while showing my footprints.

Kevin Burkhalter

My main challenge: overcoming the rigid hierarchy model I was used to. Growing up and studying in contexts where a vertical hierarchy forces you to follow instructions clashes with my current situation: here we are more encouraged to be critical, autonomous and proactive. The language also: all the machine instructions are in Swedish, tricky uh? I´ve been going through trainings before entering the factories.

My main success: I managed to combine the best of the cultures I came across, and take the good part of each. Looking back where I started shows me a long journey. I am happy where I am right now and I am still excited to develop and learn.

Diviezetha Thamrin
Author

Comments
Gary Cowan
26 August 2020

Awesome article Giulia, thanks for sharing!

Erica
05 August 2020

So much fun to get to know Kevin and Divie a bit more! Great and inspiring article as always :)

Ellinor
05 August 2020

Thanks Giulia for an interesting article!

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