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Innovation from the role of supervisor

Published 27.4.2022

Juan Pablo Hernández is currently working at Los Bronces IV in Santiago de Chile. Thanks to him and Sebastián Dávila, drones were used to perform land surveys at the works, and the results were so promising that they’re now being used in other projects.

Juan Pablo Hernández joined Techint E&C in 2017 as a surveyor at Fortin de Piedra, when Tecpetrol was just starting work to develop the area, and he worked on other projects for YPF, Mega, and Pluspetrol, for instance. He defines himself as a surveyor “by trade”, a profession he inherited from his father, who passed on a deep passion for his craft as well as the gift of an inquiring mind.

Juan looks at the world with the belief that “everything can be improved” and the certainty that with knowledge and perseverance, changes are possible. Thanks to them, drones were recently incorporated as tools to carry out surveys and collect topographic information on the works.

When he’s not working, Juan spends his time with his family in Piedra del Aguila (province of Neuquen), particularly with his 8-year-old daughter, or he goes fly-fishing. However, the way he really likes to relax is to come up with new ideas. “You need to constantly be thinking of new ideas. You might get it wrong, but you can also get it right, and help to make things better all around. If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t make anything at all!”

Studying the land from the sky

For Juan, reality can always be improved upon; all it takes is figuring out how to obtain the changes sought. Quite often, his analysis and research lead to surprisingly successful results, which was the case with the incorporation of drones as work tools for projects.

The first time he had the chance to play with a drone and see how it worked, he realized just how valuable it could be for surveying. “First, my brother bought a drone to take photos and videos, and then I followed his lead, and began to research different applications at work. This was mid-2018 so I started taking it to the project at La Calera where I was working at the time, to try it out and learn how to use it.” As time went on, the way the drone was used was steadily improved, and by the beginning of 2020, it was being flown at the operations at the Mega project, including a weekly monitoring system and updates for all sectors.

Drones were crucial during the pandemic, as people were unable to go to and see the works in person, and many customers were unable to travel from Buenos Aires. Thanks to the drones they were able to monitor progress on an ongoing basis.

When innovation bears fruit

Incorporating drones meant a steep learning curve, as, “It took us about two years. We started by taking simple aerial photographs and today, we’re making 3D models of our facilities and pipelines. The material collected by the drones is now associated with a number of different programs being used in parallel, such as Arcgis, which centralizes information and adds engineering and data from the progress of the works to the photogrammetry.”

Throughout this journey of innovation, Juan points out that the company's support was essential. “I always felt that people were rooting for me, especially my boss, Tiago Zurita, and Guillermo Eyherabide, who not only supported my research but were also instrumental in making sure the tool developed and grew thanks to their ideas and proposals. Their trust and continued drive helped me grow at a professional level, and I gained confidence in terms of what I felt able to offer. In addition, the Innovation Department was also extremely supportive, and Guillermo Cremaschi repeatedly emphasized the importance of this innovative project and endorsed the decision to replicate it in other countries.” Juan explains that he’s been getting calls from Mexico, Peru and Chile to provide training and guidance for implementation, and is working on manuals, tutorials and instructions.

The pandemic effect: globalized work and permanent training

Beyond listing all the problems caused by the pandemic, Juan is enthusiastic about the many benefits that emerged from this crisis scenario. “On the one hand, thanks to all the technological tools brought in to make up for in-person work, we were able to globalize things, erasing the distance between field and office. This is wonderful, because now, from the field, thanks to Microsoft Teams, we can talk to experts or meet with colleagues in their offices anywhere in the world.” The pandemic enabled employees to have access to state-of-the-art tools allowing them to work collaboratively at an international scale. Also thanks to technological development, Juan explains that now it’s much easier to train without having to leave the workplace. “The company has included us in all their training programs, which has changed our lives. I’m taking part in the Supervisor’s Development Plan, which is amazing, as it keeps me on the ball and ensures I am always learning something new. During the pandemic, this was incredibly helpful for me."

The parental mandate: a vocation for teaching

Juan had a great teacher in his father, who’s been a surveyor for over forty years. He explains that initially, his father used to pass certain tasks on to him, instilling in him the confidence to carry them out, but always there to help if necessary. “I believe that one should always teach everything one knows. In the first place, it’s a way of recognizing employees who give their best every day. I want people to grow and learn! I believe that it’s our obligation, as supervisors, as a way of fulfilling our role in the company, to contribute to training human resources so that they can do top quality work. The challenge is to continue learning so you always have something new to teach.”

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