From UTC-GB Grad. to Lean Manager in Vietnam

With her university training in Bio-engineering (UTC-GB), followed by management studies, Julie Le Bourvellec joined the Decathlon Group in Vietnam in the framework of a VIE (international volunteers for enterprise) programme. So, what is her mission there? It consists of improving a supplier’s production to the Group.

From UTC-GB Grad. to Lean Manager in Vietnam

Decathlon is an industrial and commercial brand group that proposes a vast range of attractive sports items to its customers, and also enables young engineers to enjoy their first industrial experience outside the usual run-of-the-mill positions. "For the past year I have been in charge of organizing the production output of one of the Group's partners, with 2 000 personnel", explains Julie Le Bourvellec, posted currently to Decathlon Vietnam, under a VIE agreement (VIE=international volunteers for enterprise). After graduation from UTC with the elective major Bio-Engineering, this young lady made the most of the transverse MPI elective specialty to focus on management of innovative projects. "The MPI elective specialty makes students aware of the issues of project management, in different sectors and types of project", she underscores. She learned, for example, how to work in groups and "notably how to work with local personalities and to see that they sometimes have different ways to do things than we do", she says, adding that in fact she had not imagined becoming a bio-engineer.

From 'Bio-engineering' to Management

After a 6-month placement in Iceland, working as a junior research scientist, studying the marine life eco-system (notably in the culture and identification of sea bacteria), Julie chose to do a specialist Master's degree at the prestigious Ecole Centrale Paris (Industrial Management, Projects and Supply Chains) and immediately after, she left for Cambodia for another 6-month placement in production management at a textile factory. She was then recruited by Decathlon Vietnam as a 'Lean Manager' for their Textile Department. She and her team work on a daily basis with a supplier of Decathlon with the aim to improve its production.

Beyond the question of languages

"My assignment costs of analysing how the factory is operated as a whole, from cloth cutting, stock management and to production line assembly. Her objective is to improve on the processes involved, the tools and methods", explains Julie Le Bourvellec. As we may imagine, none of the workers speaks English and Julie has to resort to hand signals, drawings and a smattering of Vietnamese to try to make herself understood on the shop-floor. "Fortunately for me, my Decathon colleages who speak English are always on hand to help out with our exchanges with the partner", she underscores without, however, showing any emotions in respect to this somewhat complicated situation. Julie admits that is often difficult to be correctly understood, beyond the language barriers. 'Understanding' people is a key word in this sort of job, because 'lean management' is a management culture base on employee participation in management decision talking processes.

Did you say "lean management"?

This management technique originated in Japan, and implies the presence on the production workshop floor of the lean manager whose role it is to observe the production line situations and to take the local working conditions into account. The objective is to transform previous practices and eliminate those that do not bring any added value, to make savings and avoid wastes. This lean approach is applied to the way equipment is operated, to work post methods, task organization and to the overall operating scheme.

"We have a rather special role in the supplier's factory", explains Julie Le Bourvellec, "Decathlon is both client and partner and helps its suppliers to continuously improve their production". A special relationship exists in a no les special context: the supplier's entire production output goes to a single client- Decathlon. Julie Le Bourvellec has been in Vietnam for a year now and has signed up for a one-year extension to her VIE agreement. She would thereafter like to continue the Decathlon adventure in South-East Asia, perhaps in countries like India and China. Regional development is a strategic policy choice for the Decathlon Group and could offer our young lady new challenges and interesting career prospects.