Travelling the world with Gerresheimer

“We can do it!” Stephane Pianigiani in China
Düsseldorf,  March 18, 2015. International managers such as Stephane Pianigiani are incredibly important at Gerresheimer and the company has many management and other employees who, like Stephane, work in foreign locations. Global knowledge transfer between the production plants is also an intrinsic aspect of the Gerresheimer corporate culture.

Stephane Pianigiani was born in Italy and spent ten years of his childhood in Hong Kong. He went on to study economics in Nice/ France, as well as political science and business administration in Italy. Stephane is a native speaker of French, Italian and English. He also speaks fluent Spanish and his Mandarin is coming along well.

“We can do it!” Stephane Pianigiani in ChinaIn 2003 Stephane Pianigiani joined Edp as Sales Manager. The company was taken over by Gerresheimer in 2008 and is now part of the Plastic Packaging Division. In 2011 Stephane’s career at Gerresheimer took him back to China, the country where he grew up, when he was appointed as General Manager of the Dongguan plant. This production facility manufactures drug delivery devices such as inhalers and lancets for diabetes sufferers, and infusion products. With his colleagues from the Gerresheimer Regensburg GmbH he established a Technical Competence Center last year.

“I believe that integrity is the most important quality a person can have at both a private and a professional level, “ said Stephane Pianigiani. He describes his life in China in this interview.

What aspect of China impresses you most?

China is an exciting country. It’s impressive how things are changing here at such a fast pace, and how everyone contributes to the community. Everything’s possible in China! Over the last three years the government’s efforts to improve life in China have definitely worked. I can remember a time when very few workers owned cars. And we used to have regular power outages at the Dongguan plant during the summer months. Today, when I look out of the window, I see a car park full of cars and there are no more power cuts.

What did you least expect about China or the Chinese?

I grew up in China because my parents and I spent ten years in Hong Kong. That was definitely an advantage. China did exceed all my expectations though. The growth rates are higher and the development opportunities are greater than in other developing nations and Western Europe.

What have you learned in your new function?

I’ve learned to manage rapid growth. Over the last three years my workforce has increased from 64 to 200, all departments have switched over from Excel to SAP, our sales figures have tripled and we’re opening our new Technical Competence Center. I was designing and implementing new processes on a day to day basis. But we managed to get everything done pretty quickly.

How do you live in Dongguan?

I live in downtown Dongguan. There’s a small but close-knit community of a few thousand expats there. We organize a lot of activities and the whole area has a really positive vibe. I like living there very much. 

What do you do on a regular day at work?

I always start out the day by visiting the production lines. But I spend most of a regular day with the managers and staff in the various departments. We discuss current issues, especially how we can continue improving our processes here in Dongguan. I aim to optimize the processes in our departments so that the managers can run them smoothly without being dependent on one person’s knowledge. Once the optimizations are in place we analyze the KPIs and strategies of all our departments to identify further potential improvements. Lastly, I always try to set an example to my staff by applying our vision, mission and values in my day to day activities.

What do you perceive as the differences between Chinese and European staff?

Unlike other countries, Chinese culture isn’t just a part of people’s lives, it’s also very important at the workplace. This is evident by the approaches taken to problem and conflict resolution. In Europe, differences of opinion are usually communicated directly. In China, they are communicated indirectly and guardedly. Generally, the Chinese are very curious people who take a great interest in their work. They are diligent and keen to learn new process optimization methods. The fact that my Chinese colleagues are so hard working makes our work environment very dynamic, and we are able to implement a great many projects very quickly.

What advice would you give a colleague who is scheduled for or interested in a longer assignment in China?

Some of the experiences that you gain working in China are unique to this country. You should certainly have an open mind. You’ll meet new and interesting people in China, and you’ll face some unfamiliar challenges. If you are willing to embrace the Chinese culture and the Chinese people, you’ll have an unforgettable time there.

How much longer do you intend to stay in Dongguan?

I’ve been working in Dongguan since April 2011 and it isn’t a temporary position. I really like Asia, especially China, so I’d like to stay on for a while longer.

Is there any special experience that you’d like to share with us?

There’s no one single experience that makes my life in China special. The time I’ve spent here is one big unique experience. We’ve achieved so many things at Gerresheimer - workforce expansion, the roll-out of SAP, a successful FDA audit and many others. There’s a lot we still have to do, but my staff have this amazing “We can do it“ attitude. That’s why we close out our projects faster than plants in other parts of the world.

About Gerresheimer

Gerresheimer is a leading global partner to the pharma and healthcare industries. The company’s special glass and plastic products contribute to health and well-being. Gerresheimer is a global organization with 11,000 employees and manufacturing operations in the local markets, close to customers. It has over 40 production facilities in Europe, North and South America and Asia generating revenue in excess of EUR 1.3 billion. The comprehensive product portfolio includes pharmaceutical packaging products as well as convenient and safe drug delivery systems such as insulin pens, inhalers, pre-fillable syringes, vials, ampoules, bottles and containers for liquid and solid pharmaceuticals with closure and safety systems, plus cosmetic packaging products.

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