Portraits

UTC’s HALL OF FAME Astrid Rutkowski with a whiff of innovation

Ever since she graduated from UTC in 1992, Astrid Rutkowski has been working in luxury bottles for perfumes and cosmetics with the industrial glass-making Group Pochet. Her passion for this sector has enabled her to progress professionally and to enjoy self-fulfilment in a world where innovation and transverse functionalities are key values.

UTC’s HALL OF FAME Astrid Rutkowski with a whiff of innovation

It was during her end-of-studies placement at UTC that the young graduate who majored in mechanical engineering, elective specialty QA (quality assessment) came to know the Pochet Group established in 1623 as a family business and which now has 5 000 personnel. Now, some twenty years later, she has moved up to the top of the managerial ladder and has no regrets as to her track-record. “I did have an opportunity with Renault Cars in Mexico but I preferred to work with a product that combined technicity, design, aesthetics”, explains Astrid who has since become head of Development and Innovation with the Group, as of July 2016. Controlling the complete value chain and engaging in close relationships with the Group’s customers were also strong reasons for her choice. Indeed, she recommends similar adventures for all “general engineering” graduates from UTC: “In this specialty field, there are lots of room for improvement in the industrial processes involved and this alone offers magnificent prospects in terms of the intellectual challenges – it is an specialty where we engineers can still enjoy a complete overview of a product from design to production line finish and QA”.

 

A promising industrial experimental field

Thanks to a ‘polyvalent’ training background and her capacity too, acquired at UTC, to integrate new knowledge, Astrid familiarized herself with a field that initially was totally unknown to her. Her first position in QA control brought her a transverse, in-depth, understanding of how the enterprise Pochet operated and let her discover just how complex this field is. Seven years’ experience provided the solid bases for her to progress. She moved to a Development positingand was there until last year. Her career path was a sort of revelation of accumulated experience. “My current responsibilities in innovation-intensive activities are a logical follow-on to the functions I discharged before and QA allows you to pinpoint when things go wrong, whereas development allows you to implement solutions to the problems you have identified and finally, innovation paves the way to imaginative, future products”. Astrid was the first woman to hold a managerial position with the company and thereby was able to observe and accompany numerous evolutions of the Pochet Group as one of the lead companies in the specialty sector of luxury bottling. “There have been quite a few technical and organizational innovations since I joined the Group and production now is almost entirely automated, with a lean management approach completing the “family’ management policies that I found when I first joined them”, recalls Astrid who now manages a team of 70 staff.

 

Through her years of experience, she has enriched her engineering skills using approaches that also take into account market trends. But even in the luxury markets, technical engineering excellence and high-level aesthetics are no longer self-sufficient to guarantee one’s place in the market-place. Astrid Rutkowski has observed a widening scope of the core business “The competition forces us to get involved in more diversified roles where we must now propose solutions better adapted to uses and not just products that comply with customers specifications”. Improving, for example, how lip-gloss tubes work is just one improvement in product design. We launched a study with the main gloss brands (those who actually formulae and make the gloss itself) and also with consumers, to avoid the gloss colours degrading the external aesthetics of the sticks. “When you are seeking to produce an impeccable luxury item, there is no advantage at all if the product is smeared each time you use it”. Simultaneous use of different materials also tend stop complexify production. We must also aim at reducing the as yet excessive amount of residues. With some 400 new product developments each year in its catalogue, the Pochet Group is continuously taking on new engineering challenges. The luxury bottling sector represents an industrial experimental field which prove s particularly innovative. Astrid Rutkowski invites young “general” engineers, especially those who graduate from UTC, to discover a specialist area that could prove highly promising for their choice of career.