Transformation, People and Sustainability: 60 Years of the Pilawa Factory. Interview with Janusz Karwowski, Director of the AkzoNobel Paint Factory in Pilawa

Transformation, People and Sustainability: 60 Years of the Pilawa Factory. Interview with Janusz Karwowski, Director of the AkzoNobel Paint Factory in Pilawa

This year, the factory in Pilawa is celebrating its 60th anniversary. What key changes have taken place since the facility was acquired by AkzoNobel?

When I started working in Pilawa in 2000, three years after the privatization of the dye industry in Poland, I found a very outdated facility, with infrastructure, machinery, buildings and processes from a previous era. At the time, there were more than 50 buildings on the factory site where the various phases of production processes were carried out and the transport of raw materials, semi-finished products, packaging materials, finished products between buildings was one of the main activities.

Today, the Pilawa plant is the second AkzoNobel factory in terms of production volume in Europe and one of the most important factories worldwide. The highly automated plant equipped with modern production lines supplies more than 20 countries worldwide with water-based paints and solvent-based paints. Processes developed and implemented in Pilawa often become a global standard introduced at all of the corporation’s production facilities around the world. We organize training workshops called Lighthouse for managers and specialists from AkzoNobel factories around the world about production and logistics management and production processes and standards. Over the past few years, more than 80 people have attended these workshops. Today it is an attribute of the Pilawa factory.

What do you think is the strength of the factory today, who is behind its success and why?

People. I know it’s a very trendy answer these days, but in our case it’s the honest truth. The plant employs more than 60 people with higher education, which is already unusual compared to foreign factories. If we add to this the huge commitment of the entire staff, a work culture based on key values such as concern for safety and the environment, openness in communication, mutual respect, innovation, and a desire for continuous improvement, we have here a great strength that enables development and excellent results. Probably to some extent my unruly personality and professional passion also have an influence, but it’s quite difficult to judge.

AkzoNobel has been supplying people around the world with its products for years. In your opinion, what role can paints play in people’s lives?

Usually, when we think of paint, we consider it a regular utility product but it can perform various functions in our lives. Paints are used to shape people’s surroundings. We paint rooms to feel good in them, we paint buildings, fences, furniture, various objects to make them look nice and affect our quality of life. We have this slogan in the company – “we bring color to people’s life”.

But there is a second area related to our products. Paints have not only a decorative function, but also a protective one. Products for wood or metal are a good example. They are often called paints for protecting wood or metal. The protective function is the subject of a lot of research and innovation in an effort to provide the best and longest protection possible. And it is working for the planet. After all, thanks to paint, we can use wooden and metal elements for decades. Everyone has a fence or garden furniture in their neighborhood used for many years just thanks to paints. By providing many years of protection, we contribute to saving our planet’s natural resources.

Sustainability is not only a global trend, but also a clear need. The changes that have been taking place in the environment over the past few years clearly indicate that it is of great importance to introduce environmentally friendly solutions, especially by companies such as AkzoNobel, for example. In your opinion, what are the most important activities the factory is implementing in the context of sustainable development?

We carry out a lot of sustainability activities both as an AkzoNobel concern and locally as a factory in Pilawa. At the company level, a strong focus on sustainability can be seen already at the product design phase. This involves using raw materials and materials that are the most environmentally friendly and recycled.

Environmental action at the factory level is especially waste management. Our ambition is to reduce waste generation to zero, and actually we have a lot of success in this field. Today we do not generate waste that ends up in a landfill. All of our waste is recycled, partly at our factory site and the rest by recycling companies. The second area where we are putting a lot of effort is energy management. We are making constant efforts to reduce energy demand and to generate renewable energy on-site at the factory. This year we commissioned a photovoltaic power plant with a capacity of 2 MWp, which provides 24% of our total electricity needs.

Certainly, the future plans of the Pilawa Factory also involve the subject of sustainability. Can you reveal some of the secrets?

We are already working to increase the share of renewable energy produced at the factory in the facility’s total energy demand. Our goal is to produce 80% of the energy consumed by the factory on site. We already have a project for another photovoltaic plant and we are thinking about a wind power plant to ensure an optimal energy mix throughout the year.

Finally, we would like to ask you about the Pilawa factory’s contribution to helping the local community. Does AkzoNobel take action in this field? If so, which are the main ones?

We try to be present in the life of the local community mainly through our products, but not only. Recently, we donated paints for the renovation of the public elementary school no. 5 in Garwolin. We repainted the Bajka kindergarten, and donated funds to organize a lottery during Family Day at the Bajkowa Kraina public kindergarten.

We also respond to special events. At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, when the first wave of refugees arrived, we supported local government refugee assistance centers financially and in material form by purchasing needed equipment.

Janusz Karwowski – Director of the AkzoNobel Paint Factory in Pilawa since April 2008. However, he joined the factory itself in August 2000 – he was, for example, the President of the Management Board and Director of the Polifarb Pilawa S.A. Over the years, he has gained his experience in Polish and foreign companies and institutions, such as Ośrodek Badawczo Rozwojowy Techniki Geologicznej, Mostostal Export, Hudson Park Management and Reemtsma Polska S.A. Janusz Karwowski has a master’s degree in electronics engineering (Politechnika Warszawska, 1981), and additionally received a Master of Business Administration from the University of Minnesota in 2005. He is fluent in English, as well as German in areas related to his professional experience. Privately, he is a husband, as well as a father of two children. In his spare time, he enjoys sports, including tennis, skiing and windsurfing.

Last Updated on September 7, 2023 by Anastazja Lach