Name: Francesco Ciancia
Title: Plant manager
Company: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Location: Kragujevac, Serbia
Family: Separated; son, Raffaele, 7
Born: Avellino, Italy
Languages: Italian, English, French, Serbian
Education: Degree in mechanical engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I started to work in manufacturing after having spent one year in r&d innovation. I was attracted by this dynamic technological world, and liked to observe how it was possible that so many technological and innovative items could be put into that one system that we call a car. In the plant, it is incredible to see how people, equipment and materials contribute to the creation of such a complex product.
My greatest professional achievement was becoming a plant manager for FCA in 2013. I would say that my greatest personal achievement was becoming a father in 2007.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
Professionally, it was losing a very smart young engineer to another company. That taught me the importance of empowering young people and constantly working with them on developing their futures.
What is your current challenge at work?
To make FCA Serbia a competitive international plant managed by local people. When I arrived here in 2013, there wasn’t much of an automotive culture in terms of line production, efficiency and productivity. A lot of Italian expats were covering all the top and middle management positions. During the first two years I was here, we ran an intensive training and coaching program and we are very proud of the results. Now we have only a few expats from Italy who are here in the top management of the plant, and a lot of the departments are managed by Serbians. So we have a Serbian automotive culture using Fiat’s standards. My vision is to make this plant one of the best in the world and to have it managed 100 percent by well-trained local people.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The speed at which things change. Obviously everything related to new technologies is moving faster today than ever before. But here’s another example: When I was just starting to work in the plants, the factory hierarchy was a strict pyramid. Back in 2002, my direct boss said to me, “If you see the plant manager, please don’t look him in the eye.” But only a few years later, you could go into the plant and see the plant manager on the shop floor with the workers. This was not something you would have seen in the past.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Lead people with honesty and openness and by being true to who you are.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
You will enjoy your career only if you consider what you have just done today to be “old.” You have to be thinking about the future and planning your dreams for tomorrow.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
I would spend time talking face to face with all members of my new team. This is what I did when I became plant manager. I called people into my office in groups of five and spoke with them for half an hour without interruption. I wanted to know what they thought of the company, their departments and what their expectations were. It was also the best way for me to set individual targets with the new team.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
Either manufacturing manager for an entire region within a big company or general manager of a business unit.
What do you do to relax?
I like spending the weekend with my son, going out with friends, jogging, and reading books. For myself, I like to read thrillers and books by smart American writers. For my job, I like to read about leadership. I am really interested in the soft skills that allow people to become leaders.
2013-present: Plant manager, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Kragujevac, Serbia
2011-2013: Assembly unit manager, FCA plant, Cassino, Italy
2010-2011: Body-in-white unit manager, FCA plant, Cassino
2007-2010: Assembly unit manager, FCA plant, Melfi, Italy
2005-2007: Process engineering manager, FCA plant, Melfi
2004-2005: Line supervisor, FCA plant, Melfi
2002-2004: Elementary technological unit supervisor, FCA plant, Melfi