It is the nuances that determine whether a car attains true perfection. Jozef Kabaň (38), Chief Designer of the Škoda brand, shares his quest for perfection and precision with his colleague Marek Smýkal (39), Head of Tools, Jigs and Fixtures. Both men are experts in coordinating and fine-tuning details.
GUARDIANS OF PRECISION – Chief Designer Jozef Kabaň (left) and Marek Smýkal, Head of Tools, Jigs and Fixtures, at Škoda Auto in Mladá Boleslav.
“I always say to my colleagues that we should aim for perfection in everything we do,” explains designer Jozef Kabaň as he stands on the shop floor of Škoda Auto’s factory in Mladá Boleslav. This is where the 1,050-strong workforce at the tools, jigs and fixtures facility develops and produces components for the entire Škoda product range. It is a building in which ideas become reality – under the watchful eye of tooling specialist Marek Smýkal, who is currently showing his designer colleague around the machines. “This here is the pressing tool for the outer panel of a Fabia side-door,” explains Smýkal, while Kabaň examines the component carefully and runs his fingertips over the metal forms.
The gigantic facility not only produces the pressing tools that provide the basis for vehicle body shells, but also the molds for manufacturing engine blocks and clutch housings. In addition, the Czech specialists construct entire production lines such as highly-automated welding lines for body shell production.
Even though design and tool construction may seem worlds apart at first glance, they do in fact have much in common. Jozef Kabaň and Marek Smýkal both agree: Attaining maximum precision is vital, whether designing a new car or constructing the tools to manufacture it. Both managers have the same goal – to ensure the best design and the best quality for the Škoda brand and its customers.
LOVE OF SIMPLICITY
As Kabaň inspects the pressing tools and Smýkal fills him in on the details, it is clear how both men are driven by a love of detail in their respective professions. “Škoda design is the embodiment of an extremely high utility value, a love of simplicity, and at the same time a commitment to perfect workmanship,” explains Kabaň . He feels that Škoda cars have “character, they have their own soul – you can see they have been made by people who love their work and understand it inside out.” Smýkal adds: “A passion for cars and precision is also a must in tool making. After all, that is the only way our tools, molds and welding lines can correspond exactly to the designer’s blueprints and be used to produce a car out of sheet metal and steel.”
For Kabaň , the first step towards working at Škoda was taking part in a Volkswagen design competition. Still a student at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava at the time, cars became a passion for him – as he puts it “something very close to my heart”. Kabaň is sure of one thing: “Customers don’t select their brand and model based on rational factors alone. Emotions have a say, too.” The design is the first direct contact a person has with a car. It evokes emotions intuitively. Kabaň : “Design is a key selling point. It reflects the quality of the product and gives shape to the Škoda brand.”