Contributor interview with Jonathan CAILLOUX: R&D Project Manager

27 November 2023
Jonathan, R&D Project Manager at Tricoflex and keen researcher, talks about his career and explains why he loves his job.

Jonathan, R&D Project Manager and inveterate researcher, tells us about his career as a doctoral student in plastics engineering, with passion.

Can you tell us more about your background ?

I am a graduate of the European School of Materials Engineering in Nancy (EEIGM). During my studies, I was able to study and do work placements in various European countries such as England, Sweden, Germany and finally Spain.
In addition to my engineering degree, I also completed a European Masters in Materials Engineering. This training opened the door to a doctoral thesis at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona, where I worked on the application of the reactive extrusion process to biosourced and biodegradable plastics.
After obtaining my thesis in 2016, I worked as extrusion and material characterisation pole manager at a technology centre in Spain. My duties covered public and private sector R&D projects, project management and results disclosure. I also worked as a trainer for manufacturers in the plastics sector.
After six years, feeling the need for more diversity in my work, I applied for a job in industry and was given the opportunity to join TRICOFLEX.

Can you tell us about your job?

My role as R&D Project Manager at TRICOFLEX encompasses several exciting aspects:

  • Research and innovation tasks: I conduct feasibility and expert studies leading to the design of new products and/or the introduction of new technologies.
  • New hose development tasks: Working with the sales and technical teams, I help to draw up the functional specifications for new hoses, while ensuring that the Quality-Cost-Delivery triangle is met.
  • Technological and competitive analysis; on materials, implementation processes, competing patents and current regulations.
  • Project management, with the most accurate possible monitoring of the major costs generated.
  • Training: I’ve recently started training our national and international sales teams in our products

Why did you choose this career path?

My decision to go into plastics processing was a natural consequence of my academic career. As an R&D Project Manager, I chose this path because it allows me to work in a variety of activities on a daily basis, to discover new things and to satisfy my curiosity and creativity.

Do you have to travel a lot in your job?

Travelling (nationally and internationally) is an integral part of my job. It’s necessary to visit customers to understand their needs, to take part in international trade fairs and coworking events to keep up to date, and to visit our colleagues in the EXEL group in France and abroad.

Are you working with other teams?

I work across several departments. We set up a different multidisciplinary team for each project. We work closely with the prototyping technician attached to our department and we occasionally mobilise additional resources from different departments for (pre-)industrial testing.

When do you get involved in a project?

My involvement in a project starts at the specification phase. In collaboration with the marketing and sales teams, we assess the needs, define the specifications, identify the technological obstacles and finally plan how to proceed. Defining the necessary resources is also crucial, as they are involved on an ad hoc basis throughout our projects.

How do you manage your priorities as an R&D Project Manager?

As an R&D project manager, you have to bear in mind that we’re there to provide a solution to customers for products that we don’t yet manufacture.

Priority is therefore given to requests from the sales team, so that they can respond as quickly as possible to a problem faced by our current or future customers. This is followed by longer-term projects where the technological barriers are longer and more complicated to overcome.

What skills and qualities are needed to succeed in your job?

To succeed in my job, it’s essential to maintain a pragmatic mindset, to be rigorously organised, calm and creative. Calmness is essential, because stress is detrimental to creativity.

In terms of skills, solid knowledge of the plastics industry is essential, but not the only one. Being able to make proposals is also a major asset, as is a good capacity to adapt to change so as to be able to deal with the various problems we may encounter during the course of our projects.

How long have you been working at TRICOFLEX and what do you like about the company?

I joined TRICOFLEX in 2021. What sets this company apart is its human scale, which means that processes are less cumbersome than in multinationals. I know most of my colleagues and I know who to turn to when I need help. I particularly appreciate the serenity and autonomy I have at my disposal, as well as the organisation of our new R&D department. The good working atmosphere within and between the different teams is also a positive feature of this company.

Can you tell us more about the challenges you face in your assignments?

Among many other tasks, the R&D department is responsible for introducing new ideas and/or new manufacturing processes in order to unlock technological barriers for our plant.

As each problem is unique, we often have to start from scratch and call into question a number of known elements. However, I would say that the greatest challenge during my assignments is to be able to disconnect from what we are currently doing and really try to develop something innovative and new that could set us apart from our competitors.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a Project Manager in the plastics industry?

Don’t limit your creativity while remaining structured and organised, because the job of “R&D project manager” is also synonymous with “managing several projects at the same time”.

If you had to eliminate one thing from your daily life, what would it be?

I would choose to do away with daily car journeys in favour of public transport! That way, I could save energy and use that time as a break.

Do you have any hobbies outside TRICOFLEX?

Apart from TRICOFLEX, I love sailing (fortunately we have one of the largest artificial lakes in mainland France close to home!) Otherwise, I’m also involved in renovation and construction work.

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