Strzeblowskie Kopalnie Surowców Mineralnych Sp z o.o. (SKSM) delivers mineral products for specific applications in industries such as the ceramic industry, glass industry, and construction. How do you address challenges in promoting and selling mineral products to those sectors, particularly in the context of the current energy challenges?

Danuta: With over two decades of experience, we've established ourselves as a reliable supplier to various sectors. Our expertise and advanced production technology allow us to offer a diverse range of products, customized to meet customer specifications. In response to market demands, we've invested in research and development, enhancing our capabilities and ensuring product quality and consistency.

Despite challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic and energy crises, we've maintained timely product delivery, reinforcing trust with our customers. However, challenges persist, notably exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, impacting raw material supply chains and necessitating adaptations in production methods.

We remain committed to supporting our customers through these difficulties while addressing broader industry challenges, including workforce training, resource availability, and environmental sustainability. Our investments in renewable energy, such as photovoltaic panels, underscore our dedication to environmental responsibility and long-term viability.

In your role, you mention working on individual projects related to grinding on demand. Could you provide examples of such projects and how they have benefited your clients in terms of production efficiency or cost savings?

Danuta: The launch of the production line for highly fragmented mineral resources has opened new possibilities for us. Already in the conceptual phase of the project, we planned to allocate part of our production capacity for on-demand grinding. This idea was driven by market needs.

Our business partners approached us with inquiries about grinding various materials, including ceramic scrap from defective products generated during sanitary ceramics production. Grinding this material to the appropriate granularity allows it to be reused in sanitary ware production, thus creating additional value.

Such action aligns with the principles of a closed-loop system, practically meaning minimizing waste. Therefore, the benefit is twofold. Creating the opportunity to undertake such orders has paved the way for us to enter entirely new industries. Sometimes, a one-time service can evolve into a long-term partnership.

Considering the diverse capacities of your production facilities, including silos, warehouses, and storage boxes, how do you ensure the efficient management of raw materials, and what role do these facilities play in meeting market demands?

Danuta: We strategically expanded our infrastructure and made investments based on customer needs and industry trends. Anticipating significant growth in the ceramic tile market, we adapted our production to accommodate the demand, particularly with the introduction of gres porcelain tiles.

This required adjustments in our feldspar processing, with investments in facilities for producing feldspar grits and an automated homogenization line. Ensuring uniformity in large batches of raw materials, sometimes up to 8000 tons, is essential to meet customer expectations.

Our expanded warehouse for finished products now stores up to 160,000 tons of homogenized feldspar grit, supporting our production management needs. Managing diverse products derived from natural deposits, with 24 qualitatively different variants, demands meticulous planning and quality control, facilitated by our modern laboratory and competent team.

Additionally, we expanded our production capacity for finely ground products, supported by a modern grinding line and packaging infrastructure. These investments have bolstered our presence across various industries and markets, both domestically and internationally. Customers value our proximity, reliability, and consistent delivery of high-quality products, further solidifying our reputation as a trusted supplier.

You emphasize the importance of offering knowledge and support to clients in the utilization of hard mineral resources. Can you share a specific instance where your expertise led to a successful outcome for a client in the ceramic, glass, or construction industry?

Danuta: There were several such instances, although I cannot speak about all of them. Undoubtedly, we put significant effort into supporting the customer in implementing finely ground feldspar products for sanitary ware production. We worked on both selecting the appropriate chemical composition and the granulation of the product.

It was not an easy task, as the goal was to replace feldspar products that had been imported for years from Scandinavia or Turkey. The project required close collaboration between the customer and SKSM. I am pleased that there was openness to suggestions from our side, and at the same time, I appreciate the trust bestowed upon us. Knowledge, deposit parameters, access to modern technologies, and above all, consistency in seeking optimal solutions turned out to be the recipe for success.

How did you navigate and thrive in an industry traditionally perceived as male-dominated, involving heavy machinery and challenging working conditions, ultimately progressing from your initial role as the head of production to your current position as the sales director over nearly two decades at SKSM?

Danuta: Transitioning from head of production to sales director over nearly two decades at SKSM, required acquiring diverse competencies at each step. As a technologist, I faced significant learning curves, establishing the role to address market demands and translating customer challenges into mining production capabilities.

Supplementing my education in ceramics was essential, leading to studies at AGH University of Science and Technology, amidst the challenges of balancing work and motherhood. As production manager, creativity reached new heights, overseeing not only production but also conducting numerous research and investment projects. Witnessing ideas materialize into modern production facilities was truly remarkable.

Today, as Director of Sales, I leverage my extensive production experience. I possess in-depth knowledge of our products and capabilities, enabling me to support customers effectively. The journey to my current position wasn't easy, requiring perseverance and character.

The increasing presence of women in the mining industry reflects its evolving openness, despite representing only 15% of the workforce currently. I find inspiration in Anna Quindlen's words, emphasizing the balance of strength and warmth required for success “a woman must be as strong as a nail and as warm as toast”.

 Thank you, Danuta Rajczakowska, for the deep insight into your work and area of expertise.

Danuta Rajczakowska mgr. inz.

Holds a master’s degree in engineering, graduating from the Faculty of Chemistry at Wrocław University of Science and Technology, as well as the Faculty of Ceramics at AGH University of Science and Technology.

Additionally, she completed postgraduate studies in Quality Management at the Wrocław Technology Transfer Center of Wrocław University of Science and Technology.

She is certified as an ISO 9001 and 14001 Auditor, and she holds a certification as a Quality Manager.

Since 2005, she has been employed at Strzeblowskie Kopalnie Surowców Mineralnych Sp z o.o., where she previously served as Production Manager and Head of the Research, Development, and Technology Department until June 2021. Currently, she holds the position of Director of Sales.

She is a co-inventor of patents for the Homogenization Line for feldspar raw material and the Production Line for high-finely ground ceramic and glass raw materials. She advocates for the employment and career advancement of women in the mining industry and related sectors.

She is a member of the Wrocław branch of the Association of Mining Engineers and Technicians (SIiTG) and has contributed as a co-author to articles in both scientific and popular science journals. She has also been a speaker at scientific conferences.

Get in touch with Danuta.