Beyond What Can Be Measured: Meet Marcin Walczyk

01. September 2023 | 9 min read

While nowadays, most people understand the role quality management plays in production, very few know how complex and intricate these processes can be. Thus, we asked Marcin Walczyk, Quality Engineer at Pipelife Poland, to show us his working day. From testing raw materials to finding optimal production parameters and even designing new protocols, Marcin's responsibilities never seem dull or monotonous. With over twenty years of experience, he has shaped numerous production achievements at Pipelife Poland, approaching every challenge with a solutions-driven mindset and a genuine desire to learn.

Quality manager of Pipelife Poland at work

Quality Management: A Work Behind the Scenes

Compared to the always-present humming and buzzing of the production lines at Pipelife Poland's Kartoszyno plant, the laboratory of the Quality Department feels surprisingly serene and calm. Even the air temperature here remains at 23 °C throughout the year to ensure an optimal testing environment. Yet, the people working at the Department, led by the experienced Quality Engineer Marcin Walczyk are full of energy and have a very hands-on approach.  

Making sure the numerous products manufactured at Kartoszyno meet and exceed customer expectations is a great responsibility, but it's easy to see that Marcin loves his job.

"The most important part of our work is testing raw materials used for production," he explains enthusiastically, demonstrating dark grey polypropylene pellets as an example. "These must be tested every time, every batch we receive — whether they meet the requirements to be used for a particular application."

And that's only the start of Marcin's many responsibilities. The Quality Department is involved in every production stage, from initial designs to final products leaving the facility.

"We work closely with the production department when new products are developed to determine their optimal production parameters," Marcin continues. "And there is also testing of the products themselves to make sure they meet the industry standards. At the Quality Department of Pipelife Poland, we have the ability to carry out a great variety of extensive tests, and I believe this is what sets us apart from competitors."

Quality manager of Pipelife Poland testing product

20 Years of Dedication to Craft

When Marcin joined Pipelife Poland as a Quality Controller more than two decades ago, the Kartoszyno plant was much smaller. Over the years, the Department's responsibilities have grown together with the production site, which is now one of the largest injection and welding centers in the country. More than 2000 various products can be made at Kartoszyno, totaling around 700 tons of production per month.

Marcin's experience and attentiveness to his tasks have been integral to cementing the excellent reputation Pipelife Poland is known for.

"Initially, we had injection molding machines for polypropylene [products] only. Later, we started the production of PVC fittings, than manholes and then Master3Plus [acoustic soil and waste pipe] fittings," he says. "The different technologies introduced at the plant required learning about each of them, finding ways to control and evaluate these systems."

Ensuring that Pipelife's products meet the highest quality standards goes beyond following the already established testing procedures, and Marcin has conducted an impressive amount of research himself. One of his proprietary protocols allows for finding optimal production parameters for PP fittings, considering their shrinkage — and the protocol is still used in production daily.

"It was a study of several years," Marcin recalls. "But based on these results, control charters were introduced, taking into account how the dimensions of polypropylene fittings change over time and what the initial production parameters should be to ensure the final product meets the standards. I think this is my most significant achievement to this day."

Quality manager of Pipelife Poland at work

Striving for Knowledge

Marcin joined Pipelife Poland in 1999, immediately after graduating from the Gdańsk University of Technology. His specialization in Polymer Technology combined with a genuine interest in plastics processing has helped him build a remarkable career.

"At the beginning, I had to learn a lot, really a lot about our products," Marcin admits. "But my pursuit for knowledge was appreciated and recognized, and soon I was promoted to the role of Quality Specialist."

In parallel to his increasing work responsibilities, Marcin completed postgraduate studies in quality management and in 2023, became the Quality Engineer, leading the four-people team in the Kartoszyno plant.

"What I like most about working here is the lack of monotony — every day is different. This is due to the variety of our product range, but also due to the variety of production challenges that we have to resolve. I like that we are all very solutions-oriented, and we find these solutions working closely with colleagues from different departments."

Quality manager of Pipelife Poland at work

Balancing It All

Unsurprisingly, Marcin is equally committed to continuous learning and trying new things in his free time. One of his hobbies is making fruit and herbal liquors, using the local ingredients found in the forests of the Kasubian region — wild blackberry and elderberry flowers are two of his favorite ingredients.

Besides, Marcin enjoys sports and even completed the Gdańsk marathon in 2017. Not many people know that he picked up long-distance running only in his forties.

"The initial motivation was to maintain my health and fitness," Marcin says. "In the beginning, it was short distances; then it became five kilometers, ten, and then I set myself a challenge — to complete a marathon. Running makes you tired, but it also gives a boost of positive energy, which I hope I can transfer at work and at home."

Marcin's greatest happiness is his family, including two sons with whom he spends most of his free time. While finding time for it all sounds admirable, for Marcin, multi-tasking seems to come easily.

Quality manager of Pipelife Poland at work

Heading the Developments Ahead

In recent years, Pipelife Poland has become a game changer when it comes to a circular plastics economy, and Marcin's expertise has helped coin this success. In fact, he begins a pressure test of a Stormbox E stormwater management crate — made from 100% recycled polypropylene — just before the interview. Making highly reliable products from recycled plastics requires a particularly careful testing approach.

"When the decision was made to increase the uptake of recyclates in production, we had to adapt testing, too," explains Marcin. "A special measuring equipment was purchased, and we introduced additional tests, such as the short-term compression strength, the oxidation induction time, and measuring the moisture content."

Currently, Pipelife Poland uses 56 kg of recycled raw material per ton of non-pressure products, and the figure is to increase even more as new products are in the pipeline. While Marcin cannot disclose too many details, he admits that the tests look promising.

When asked what's needed to become a trailblazer in quality management, his answer is simple:

"I think the most crucial is a never-ending willingness to learn. About products, procedures, methods, production technologies, types of research... In this field, you must study, read and reread again — thus, it's important to be self-driven and always thirsty for new knowledge."

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