The new generation reaches for the stars

22.03.2017 — In 2016, over 40 years after reunification, Vietnam ranks among the world’s fastest-growing economies. The living standards of its 90 million inhabitants are improving tangibly. Serviceplus went in search of examples of the new affluence.
Huynh Thien Nhon’s right wrist glitters as the managing director shows his activity tracker. This novelty by the jeweler Swarovski monitors the number of steps he takes each day, the calories he burns, even his sleeping rhythms. The tracker’s large black crystal was made in Austria but assembly was carried out at the Swarovski subsidiary, Marigot Vietnam LLC, at Amata Industrial Park near Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Due to its strategic location on Highway no. 1 which connects the South of Vietnam with the North, Nestlé and YKK are also based in Amata.

Over 1,500 people work for Marigot here, the majority of them young women. Jobs in industry are in high demand as they are well-paid—wage packets with which young people can at last purchase consumer goods and brand products. The youth of Vietnam meets, fashionably dressed, at the newly opened cafés in the city and orient its life-style on the USA and Europe.

I meet Nhon at the administration offices. They might easily be located in Berlin or New York with high gloss furnishings and meeting niches. On the wall hangs a portrait of the company founder, Daniel Swarovski. In interview, Nhon describes his vision of a “happy factory”. Following acquisition of the license in 2011 and the purchase of 50,000 square meters of land, construction commenced in autumn of 2012. Only ten months later, the first product shipments were on their way to Europe. “A record for Swarovski,” he says. Since 2014, Marigot Vietnam’s progress has gathered speed and in 2016, over 3.6 billion jewelry articles were produced. Jewelry, like fashion, has very short product cycles; each season, customers expect new products. And because the Vietnamese subsidiary is small, “still young and full of energy,” Swarovski tests new ideas there, for example, new production processes. Nhon’s background and that of the development team is in other sectors such as the electronics, automotive and shoe industries. It enables them to take a different point of view, explains the production manager. Discoveries that prove of value are passed on to the “flag ship” company in neighboring Thailand with six production plants.

Marigot Vietnam is continuously growing: The first construction phase of the next factory has been completed and there are already blue prints for factory 3 and 4. All operations conform to strict requirements on use of natural resources, LED lighting and use of solar energy: Marigot’s sustainability program is something of an exception in Vietnam.

The existing kitchen, which we visit following the interview, will soon be too small. The new one is already constructed and can be used if necessary. Huynh Thien Nhon would like “to do something different” to make his workforce comfortable. This includes staff catering: An open-air canteen—with a roof of course but open on all sides—allows a pleasant breeze which cools the midday temperatures of 35 degrees. It’s an opportunity to sit in the fresh air after hours at an airconditioned workplace.

The digital clock hanging over the service line shows 11:00 as the first group of employees arrives in light blue shirts. Each color stands for a different production section. Around 1,600 diners pass through the service line in just one and a quarter hours. Diners combine the components that make up the meal themselves: rice, fish, meat, various vegetables and Phở, a noodle soup and national treasure. One of Huynh Thien Nhon’s ideas: each last Friday of the month sees an especially superior meal. In addition, a sticker is attached to the bottom of random trays and the lucky winner may pick up a gift. Marigot pays the costs of staff catering which has been provided by Dussmann Service since August 2016. Food is one of the most sensitive factors for the workforce, says the production manager. Swarovski is a premium product and the Swarovski strategy “Spirit 2010” describes the commitment to being an attractive employer. Both apply to catering. “We try to provide better food than home cooking, to create a second home. Good food leads to good products,” he says, making the connection. The previous service provider was unable to fulfill these requirements and a new one was sought. “We were not looking for a supplier. We were looking for a partnership where we listen to each other, a long-term cooperation” says Nhon.

In addition to the inherent expression of appreciation for employees, staff catering is important for other reasons. In this industry, hygiene and efficiency are priorities. If an employee leaves the plant for lunch, they may carry microorganisms back to the workplace or come too late.

A crumb-free workplace

Located only a few streets away is a large American semi-conductor manufacturer. Around 2,300 employees build and test hybrid integrated circuits and power discretes. Due to the clean-room conditions necessary in this manufacturing process, the client has opted for meal delivery. Onsite food preparation, so close to chip production, would generate too many particles. Bread is excluded because just a single crumb from an operative’s work clothes could destroy a whole production batch.

A year ago, Dussmann Service commenced delivery from its central kitchen. Freshly prepared meals are delivered to the restaurant in Dussmann Delightful design each day via Highway no. 1. Jason Nguyen is the client contact responsible for discipline and safety in the workplace. He ensures, for example, that foods for the night shift are light and easy to eat because workers are tired then, he says. Screens in the staff restaurant show examples of safety hazards at work. Strict compliance with hand hygiene regulations, especially after eating, is enforced.

Catering for the growing tourism industry

From 1,100,000 Dong, around forty Euros, you can fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok. This is possible on Vietjet Air, Vietnam’s first private airline which also operates in other Asian countries. For a further 110,000 Dong, passengers can book a hot meal—a service used by around 800 passengers daily. Tourism is on the increase and the trend is expected to grow. Dussmann recognized such airlines as potential clients early on and opened its central production kitchen in 2012.

Nearly 28 operatives produce around 3,500 meals a day and there are now clients from other sectors too. Each client is assigned a regular team who is familiar with the client’s specific requirements. For airlines, exact portioning is important but also the arrangement of the individual components in the aluminum tray.

The kitchen is HACCP-certified. This means strict quality assurance throughout from goods receipt to delivery. “The most important thing is Handdesinfektion” says the head of quality assurance at Dussmann Vietnam in German. Her name is Nguyen Thi Ngoc Diep—“Just call me Ms. Diep”. Her skills were acquired at the state hygiene institute and during her studies of nutritional science in Germany. In the portioning room, operatives wear gloves, aprons, special footwear, caps and face masks. “It’s almost a clean-room” smiles Ms. Diep. The meals are frozen in aluminum trays for at least twelve fifteen hours at –3 to –5 degrees C and delivered to the airlines next morning. An emergency power generator guarantees the cool chain even in the case of a power cut.

Elsewhere in Vietnam, the standards that Dussmann works to have yet to be established. Critical inspection results are published in internet and recently, national TV devoted a live program to the Prime Minister’s visit to local Restaurants and catering companies. These are gentle attempts by the government to establish stricter hygiene and food safety standards in the name of improved national health.

More service for the growing middle class

In Vietnam, those with heart problems or other medical issues who can afford it go to a private hospital such as Tam Duc Cardiology Hospital. The hospital is a fairly small but is a successful joint-stock operation treating 80,000 ambulatory and in-patients each year. The hospital participates in humanitarian projects such as “Connecting to Love” which provides free medical care in central regions of the country with the objective of helping the poorer rural communities. We meet the clinic director and the head of human resources who contracted Dussmann Service over half a year ago to carry out cleaning service and clinical hygiene. Dussmann is well-known as the first company to import cleaning equipment and products from Germany. Cleaning in hospitals is monitored by the health ministry; in all other sectors, no standards or monitoring procedures are applied. Dussmann has global experience of applying quality assurance standards and therefore has a double advantage. “So far, we are happy with the choice,” says the head of human resources.

PS: While meals are being cooked, packed and delivered, Ms. Diep prays for health and luck at the small shrine in the central kitchen. The Vietnamese honor their ancestors in this way on the first and fifteenth of the moon calendar. This evening, a super-moon is expected— it will appear 30 percent larger than usual as the distance to the Earth is a mere 367.607 kilometers. The last time this occurred was 70 years ago. On the way back to the city it shines over the Saigon river.
Michaela Mehls

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Michaela Mehls
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Markus Talanow
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Michaela Mehls
Phone +49 30 2025-2525+49 30 2025-2525