I AM KRONUS – Juris Strupuls, Foreman

For the eighth “I am KRONUS” interview, we invited Juris Strupulis, foreman of the pallet collars site. He has been with the company for more than 20 years and currently manages a team of 80 people. 

Juris is a prime example of how, with hard work, you can prove yourself and reach new heights. Read the full interview to find out more about his daily work and free time.

How did your career start at KRONUS?


I started working in the pallet division back in Rencēnu iela 6, where KRONUS used to be. I was a production worker, at that time working manual labour in a hangar. After a short time, the pallet collars division, which was located in the same hangar, started to develop. I moved to the collars division. There was a time when I worked around the clock. In the pallet division by day and in the collars site by night. Then I moved to a permanent job in the pallet collars division, where I went through various jobs – riveter, driller, for a while I was also a stoker. Then the first machine-tools came along, it became easier to work. I have worked in all the workplaces at KRONUS, so I slowly progressed. Except for the latest modern machine-tools and equipment, there were none in my time. I was a crew leader for a while, then I became an assistant foreman. Now I have been a foreman for several years.


What do you associate KRONUS with?


KRONUS is like a second home for me. I have spent a lot of time here; I know every nook and cranny. I have grown and developed with the company.


What do you like best about your job?


I cannot say specifically, I like everything, if I did not like something I would not work here. It is not just the money that makes people work here. I have been at KRONUS from day one, everything is known and understood. I know where everything is, like at home. I have never even thought of going and looking for something else. Stability, 20 years have passed and all the problems that have been there have always been solved and the company has withstood everything. We got through the difficult years too. There was a time when there were redundancies, but those stable and reliable employees were appreciated and the company did not want to lose them. Now it is also the case that it is very difficult to find reliable and decent employees.

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What was your first paid job?


After graduating from school, before the army, I worked as a lorry driver, transporting petrol. In school, driving lessons were also compulsory, and by the time we finished Form 11, we all had our driving licenses for categories B and C. I did not have to think about it in parallel.


How has the company changed during your time here?


Only upwards, only moving forward all the time. There is, of course, still room for improvement. Compared to today, the beginning was like the Stone Age. There is very little manual work left. The number of people that would be needed if there was no technology would be at least five times greater.

What challenges do you face in your everyday work?


It is definitely the personnel, the attitude of the personnel is not right, they tend to be fickle. They may come in today and not come in tomorrow. At best, they write and say they will not be there. Other times you sit there and think, maybe something has happened to the person. It seems normal to them. At that point, it is practically impossible to get another employee, so we have to start planning all over again. We plan the next working day the night before with all the employees, so this kind of change affects the whole process if faced with this situation in the morning. The rest can be dealt with and the situation can be resolved. We have seen this fickleness of employees in particular recently. As the company grows, the number of employees increases, so do the problems that have to be faced on a daily basis.


Can the support of KRONUS and other managers be felt in the professional development path?


Yes, of course. This is one of the key aspects that helps to continue doing things. Without support, nothing would exist. It is not that we are alone in production and management seems not to care, it is not like that. There is a lot of support, there is genuine sympathy, there are meetings where we are listened to and problems are solved. They actually address them, not just put them on paper and set them aside. If an employee asks something, we try to solve the problem ourselves, if that is not possible, we pass it on to management and it is solved. We definitely feel heard and listened to.


What is it like to work with LEAN and the Adizes methodology on a daily basis?


They are all improvement processes. In the past people worked differently, now they are told and shown how it is easier, more convenient and faster. There is a plus to any kind of learning. I myself have done a lot of courses and training, which definitely contributes to self-development. The knowledge I gained 20 years ago would not really help me in my daily life today. That is why I have to keep learning and improving. Every employee has the opportunity to learn. The career ladder is open and there is room for everyone to grow.


Does the team turn to you for advice?


We have a meeting time from 15:00 to 16:00 every day, and employees definitely make use of this time. That does not mean that they cannot come and talk outside these hours. Employees talk to us and we talk to them. That is how the sense of collective is built. The employees are also very supportive of each other, it is not like a new employee will be refused help or what they do not understand won’t be explained. The collective spirit is visible and felt!

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What is the next professional development objective?


I do not want to go higher; I do not know why. I am not eighteen anymore. At the moment here I feel great. I think I do my job well; I have been praised and received bonuses more than once. If the results of my work were not visible, I would certainly not have received anything. I can say with confidence that at the moment I am where I am supposed to be.


How do you spend your free time?


I go fishing and travel. I try to travel outside Latvia during my holidays. I certainly do not stay at home. I only started fishing about five years ago. I started carp fishing with a colleague. My record is a 9 kg 400 g carp. So far I only fish in Latvia, I would really like to go to Sweden.

Jura Strupuļa rekords

What is the most memorable destination?


Probably Tenerife, Canary Islands. I have been there several times; it is very beautiful and it is also a good place to relax. Once a year I definitely try to travel somewhere.


How does your daily work life look?


I get up at five in the morning, and I am at work by six. Then follows the work process, meetings, starting up the site, assigning workers to machines. Then all the controls, the necessary tables, planning the next processes. Around 19:30, I have to make sure that the next shift is in place and everything is in order. The working day ends around 19:45.

What is the process for recruiting a new employee?


First, an interview in the office, then a demonstration of the work process and production in general, followed by interviews with the foremen. We explain what it is like to work for almost 10 hours non-stop. We show videos of how people work; we ask where the candidate would like to work. We inform them about our four categories, because the salary varies according to them. If we see that the person is performing at 100%, we can automatically assign the next category. Of course, there are people who do not want to start working after these interviews. Or they say they are going to come to work during the interview, but in reality they do not show up for training the next day.


What is your motto in life?


Only forwards! I love to set records and here is something to compete against, so the goal is always to be first and to achieve more. It is a healthy competition all the time.

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