Meet New Buffet President Jérôme Perrod

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Meet New Buffet President Jérôme Perrod
PROFILES
Meet New
Buffet President
Jérôme Perrod
Stressing the importance
of teamwork, hands-on manager
says you can’t run
a company from
a “remote corner office”
Jérôme Perrod, the
newly appointed
president of the
Buffet Group.
Jérôme Perrod, the newly appointed president of the Buffet Group, brings a
diverse résumé to the task of managing one of the world’s premier wind instrument makers. Acknowledging the global standing of Buffet’s product offering,
which in addition to the acclaimed clarinet includes the meinl & weston, B&S,
Scherzer, Courtois, and Besson brasswinds, Perrod says his role is to refine an
“already excellent” manufacturing operation and to “continue a distinguished tradition.”
the 51-year-old Paris native started his career at as a management consultant
after graduating from France’s prestigious ecole Polytechnic. From there, he
joined the Valeo Group, a €12.5 billion (sales) automotive components manufacturer. Starting as a marketing manager, over the next six years he held posts of
increasing responsibility including the management of a joint venture with
motorola to produce automotive electronics and heading a large factory that
manufactured cooling systems. describing Valeo as a “graduate school” in management, Perrod says his experience there taught him the basics of organizing
people around the goal of managing a business.
In 1996, Perrod got the chance to apply his experience, managing the French
subsidiary of wilo, a German company that produces pumps for heating systems.
the operation he took over was struggling: poor service had alienated customers,
market share was slipping due to misdirected product development, and morale
was low. over the next six years, he restructured the product offering, overhauled
manufacturing operations, and placed an emphasis on customer service relationships. the initiatives produced positive results, driving revenues from €350 million to €1.0 billion and increasing eBItdA as a percentage of sales from 3% to
10%.
For the past six years, Perrod held a variety of senior management posts at Arc
International, a €1.0 billion (sales) French-based manufacturer of glassware and
tableware. the company is a global enterprise with factories in europe, russia,
China, and the U.S., producing dishes and glassware at every price point. during
his tenure there he was involved in every facet of the business: manufacturing,
product development, global sales and marketing, and strategy.
Automotive components, heating pumps, and tableware outwardly have little in
common with professional-grade musical instruments. yet, Perrod says that his past
experiences have direct relevance to the challenges in running Buffet. At wilo, he
attributes the financial improvements in large part to his success in bridging the culMUSIC TRADES November 2014
NEW LEADERSHIP AT BUFFET
tural divide that separated workers at the French factory with management at the
German parent company. “when I got there, we had two companies that weren’t
cooperating,” he says. “we reorganized the group, giving responsibilities to French
and German employees, getting them to determine common goals. through the
communication came understanding, and the result of the French and German
teams working together was powerful.” he says these skills are directly applicable
to the Buffet Group, which produces clarinets with 170 employees at a plant in
mantes France, but also has more than 300 employees at brasswind and woodwind
plants in markneukirchen, Germany. Forging closer ties between these two operations, he says, holds the promise for improved sales and profits and more effective
product development.
Perrod also notes similarities between the instrument maker’s craft and the challenges faced at Arc International, where managers spent long hours consulting with
premier wine makers around the world to create specific wine glasses to accentuate the flavor and aroma of a specific vintage. like a musical instrument, he points
out that there is no objective standard for measuring the perfect wine glass. “In
both, you have to understand the art involved and learn how to listen to the artists,”
he adds. “I have learned the importance of listening.”
“You have to be on the factory floor, talking
with people, because they’re the ones
with the answers.”
Perrod’s introduction to “lean manufacturing” techniques at Valeo, which has
been credited with introducing the concept to europe, has guided his approach
at every subsequent job. “lean manufacturing is a principle you can apply to any
human activity,” he says. “It’s about looking at operations to see how you can do
them more efficiently with less waste.” not surprisingly, he says the instrument
making process, which involves hundreds of discrete operations, from boring
out wood blanks to spinning brass bells, can unquestionably benefit from the
application of “lean” techniques. however, he is quick to point out that the benefits of lean techniques come not from changing the individual operations, but
by changing how the work flow is organized. “If an operation involves inserting
a screw, you insert the screw,” he says. “But how you work with your suppliers,
how you organize the processes, and how you motivate the people to do the
best job possible is where you can create tremendous improvements in efficiency and quality.”
he places special emphasis on the word “people.” whether making pumps,
glassware, or clarinets, Perrod says motivated people are the key, to quality, and
you can’t make it happen from a “remote corner office.” he adds, “you have to
be on the factory floor, talking with the people, because they’re the ones with the
answers,” he says. that’s why immediately after signing on at Buffet he spent the
next two weeks on the factory floor, shadowing workers and performing every
operation in the manufacturing process. After his factory immersion, he hit the
road and began visiting customers and artists around the world to get a better
understanding of the marketplace.
A majority of the world’s top clarinetists choose Buffet, the Courtois brand has
a distinguished legacy that dates back close to 250 years, and the
markneukirchen factories possess centuries of brass making experience.
however, Perrod says the Buffet Group’s greatest asset is a skilled workforce that
takes joy in crafting fine instruments. “our human resources director at mantes
is a clarinet graduate of the Paris Conservatory,” he observes. “like everyone else
here, she’s here because she loves being involved with music and musical instruments. this is what makes this a great organization.”
MUSIC TRADES November 2014