Tevva’s Director of Manufacturing, Chris Bracey, joined the EV pioneering company at an exciting time.
Tasked, along with a talent-packed Manufacturing Engineering team, to oversee the production line at Tevva’s UK base, ensuring that we meet our deadline of delivering the first trucks to customers this year, Chris saw an opportunity to oversee a high-performing team that has been built from the ground up.
With more than a quarter century’s experience in manufacturing, Chris’ automotive pedigree is clear. Having worked at Ford and Jaguar Land Rover, among others, he has led, or been part of, manufacturing engineering teams in places as far flung as India, Romania, Spain and Germany.
He was headhunted with this experience in mind and is now heading up a team at Tevva that is rich in automotive knowhow.
Chris said: “I came to Tevva last year to build a manufacturing team from the ground up. You rarely get the chance to do something like that once in your career – but this was the second time. It was an unmissable opportunity.”
When he worked at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), Chris was part of what he describes as, a “high-performing team.” At that stage, the company had made the decision to start building engines again, Chris says.
“We needed to find the right people, to establish a culture and amass competence,” he added. “Although building the factory was fun, for me it was more about assembling the right team, creating structures and processes which ensure that the organization works.”
In all the manufacturing teams he’s worked in, Chris insists that the constant focus was always on working through insights, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the team and ensuring that the team was able to hold each other to account.
Chris sees many parallels between previous roles and the one he holds at Tevva.
“It’s a new group of people, an eclectic mix. Some have 30-45 years’ experience but there are also young people who’ve arrived here out of graduate schemes – engineers who are embarking on their careers.
“So, to take that group, to establish the culture and add into the mix a launch team, an operations team and other strands – that was a big challenge. That’s a rare opportunity and one that drew me to Tevva from a manufacturing point of view.”
Another draw for Chris was Tevva’s purpose, to electrify freight and not waste any time in making its climate change agenda a cast-iron reality.
“It’s something that resonated with me,” he admits. “To electrify something that, by its very nature, is making money while it’s being used, there’s a potential there to have a big, hugely positive impact on the environment.”
Chris summarises his role as doing whatever is needed to support team members throughout the company, who are delivering trucks to Tevva customers.
He said: “It’s in support of the thematic goal for 2022, to get the first truck to the first customer by Autumn. Then, just as important, delivering trucks to our other customers and setting in stone Tevva’s reputation for reliability.”
The task is not without its challenges, Chris admits. Worldwide supply chain problems have hampered many industries, including the automotive, and that’s one reason why Tevva has opted for a leaner, simpler production system.
“I see many companies in this industry going for highly automated production systems, so lots of robots. When you go that route a lot of money is spent and a dizzying number of products need to be sold for it to justify that investment.
“At Tevva, from day one, we’re putting in systems that ensure we’re achieving the right level of quality, but with much less emphasis on automated systems.
“The team is focused on getting these trucks to market and ensuring that the quality is there. The good thing is that our efficiency and production rates will ramp up as we go along. It’s a hugely exciting time, the team is really empowered which is an inspiring thing to see and be part of.”
In the process of putting the manufacturing team together at Tevva, there has been an emphasis at on appointing key people and utilizing their career experience.
A robust model for finding the right people has been deployed and this has been reflected in how the validation, testing and manufacturing systems have been established.
Chris’ team has linked these to a quality system which means a final product that’s robust from both a design and a manufacturing point of view.
A major bonus of having a leaner production system is that it will be much easier to replicate as Tevva’s inexorable growth continues. Another is that a simpler system will make building the full range of trucks that the company has planned: 7.5t BEV, 7.5t hydrogen, 12t and 19t all the easier, as compared to a highly automated production line.
Chris said: “Our system is agile, both in what it can accommodate in terms of product complexity and because we can flex the volume up or down with relative ease.
“The challenge we faced was how to create a system quickly that ensures value for customers, as well as one that allows us to iterate on it and keep growing it.”
Chris thinks that the manufacturing mentality of the automotive industry has shifted in this direction.
He added: “What we’re doing with this localized production system, is building where we are going to sell. That reduces the footprint of shipping parts in and what’s more, it allows us to build in various locations close to where the markets are.”
The goal driving Tevva’s production line ‘design’ is to build an electric truck every hour, meeting demand as companies follow the flow of business traffic to Electrify Now.
This aim will not be without obstacles, as Chris admits. But he feels certain that the direction Tevva has taken is the right one.
He said: “The team we have, the attitudes I see every day, their experience, as well as their tenacity and drive, is quite remarkable. I have worked for huge automotive companies and sometimes it felt like they were supertankers. It takes a long time for them to alter course. I’ve worked in nimbler organisations too but change and the ability to rethink systems have always proved to be a problem.
“Our biggest opportunity at Tevva is to harness the can-do attitude and entrepreneurial spirit we have here in spades. We are drawing on that, putting in a level of control where it matters. Being able to do that is hugely rewarding.”
One of Chris’ team recently revealed what they most enjoy about being at the company.
“They said that working here has made them feel more empowered than they did in 25 years working at a major OEM”, Chris said. “That says a lot about Tevva.”