People in Lighting: Chiara Le

Chiara Le - Purchasing Project Leader at Schréder
Chiara Le
Purchasing Project Leader - Schréder

Companies are defined by the people who work for them: for over a century, Schréder has been at the forefront of lighting thanks to its employees worldwide. Throughout 2022 we’ll be focusing on the people who make Schréder what it is, including their career path, landmark projects and their thoughts on where lighting is headed next.

Chiara Le is a Purchasing Project Leader for Schréder at our campus in Liège, Belgium. With a background in industrial engineering, she worked in the automotive sector for many years, including roles at Fiat, Piaggio and Peugeot in France, Italy and Vietnam. With global supply chains heavily disrupted, purchasing teams worldwide are living through a time of incredible challenges. Chiara brings her sourcing expertise to Schréder, playing a vital role in ensuring customers get lighting systems installed and working - on time, every time.

 

I grew up bilingual…

My family came to Italy after the Vietnam War, so I grew up completely bilingual and feel 90% Italian, especially when it comes to coffee, pizza and tiramisu. I trained as an industrial engineer, with a touch of economics, and when I graduated I thought I’d work on a big industrial process, but instead I was approached by a recruiter to work at Fiat. 


It showed me how broad a role in purchasing is…

So I started working as a buyer, even though I’d applied to be in quality control, because they noticed I had good negotiating skills. I started as a junior and worked my way up to a senior role, with responsibility for buying everything - chemicals, mechanical parts, electronics. After that I went to work for Piaggio in Vietnam, on a project producing their scooters in the country, before coming to Peugeot in France.


I was looking for a better work-life balance…

And I heard about the role at Schréder. It was not an easy transition because I started in the pandemic. Although they gave me all the tools, the computer, everything, I didn't meet anybody face-to-face in the first few months. I still feel quite new after 18 months! At the same time, the company has been taking lots of steps to make newcomers feel welcome - for example, as soon as we were allowed to meet outside, we did a walk in the open air with the CEO, meeting each other and our managers.
 

My role takes in every aspect of making the product…

I work in the new product development process. My main activity is working on the project to ensure the core supply selection and documentation is done correctly. I source new products, considering the technical targets, the allowable cost, and the quality that we want to have. My main job is to keep the investment within the budget and keep the cost of the luminaire at a sensible level.
 

Buying multiple resources…

Anything that the project requires in terms of direct material! Aluminium casting, printed circuit board assemblies, gaskets, rubber parts, silicon parts to small screws and washers – because we always need small screws and washers - everything. One of my jobs is trying to push towards using standard parts for small items. The body and the cover of the luminaire aren’t something that can be standardised, but smaller parts can. For the body, we need to be able to customise them to the customer’s request!
 

Dealing with multiple teams, internally and externally…

Externally, I don't usually look for new suppliers, I use suppliers that are already validated by Schréder, but sometimes if there’s something new we need, I have to seek that out. Internally, I work with two design centres, one in Belgium and one in the UK. From a design point of view, we try to find solutions that can keep costs under control. Depending on where the luminaire is assembled, I work with our different factories in Portugal, Spain and Hungary - all of these aspects affect the cost, too. 
 

In the middle of a global supply chain crisis…

It’s not always easy! The world is not helping us right now. Sometimes we need to postpone certain phases because we don't have the parts, or there’s a shipment issue. We have built up stock levels of items we need a lot, but you also have to improvise. Sometimes, for example, when we don't have a driver, we look together with the technical people to find an alternative, and look at every factory that has stock.
 

Suppliers have been helpful…

Sometimes you need to accept a price increase, other times it’s better to say ‘we can wait another two weeks’ and it’s a lot of day-by-day juggling. You need to do a lot of small actions to get a better result. With suppliers, if you prepare things well in advance, most of the time you can get a good result. Sometimes, it’s still a nightmare, but that’s life! There will always be challenges - the question is how you react to them.
 

At the same time, customers are demanding greater sustainability…

We build sustainability within the design. When we design a luminaire, we need to think: how can we recycle it? How can we ship it in a better way? How can we avoid waste material? What is the life cycle of the product and its parts? There’s a lot of work on this area: we don’t speak about it as a special, separate point, because we think about it from the very beginning. It’s built into the process.
 

A sustainable supply chain is the future of the business…

We’ve made sustainability an integral part of what we do, so we want others to join us. As part of our Together for Our Future plan, we are asking all Group suppliers to confirm their adherence to RBA standards. So far, a total of 90% have already confirmed that they comply.
 

And my work-life balance is getting there!

The company has been very supportive of working from home, and supported me in working abroad last year when I hadn’t had a chance to take any holiday. I’m slowly discovering Liège... the pandemic has pushed us all to stay in our apartments and stay on the internet, but now I’m going out to work, seeing people, and experiencing life. Luckily, I learnt French in my previous job… it was a do or die situation, I had to speak French or couldn't function in day-to-day life! It showed me the importance of sticking to things, even when it’s tough.

Connect with Chiara on LinkedIn!