Making it in Poland!

Editorial note from Michael Dembinski and Dorota Kierbiedź, Contact online issue 36 (131) 2018.

This issue of Contact Magazine Online focuses on manufacturing – a vital part of the Polish economy (indeed of any economy). Manufacturing makes up 19% of the value added of Poland’s GDP, according to the World Bank, rising from 14% in 2003. In the case of the UK, it is just 9%, while Germany’s is 21%. A vibrant manufacturing sector is essential to the health of a nation’s economy, and here in Poland there’s a great story to be told. BPCC members are doing their bit! The chamber represents over 30 manufacturing facilities across Poland, mostly in the south of the country.

The rising proportion of Poland’s GDP that is represented by manufacturing is to some extent the result of the wave of foreign direct investment that came to Poland around the time of EU accession. Over the last few years, we have seen supply chains shortening and drawing in suppliers ever closer to their clients. This has resulted in a wave of British smaller and medium-sized manufacturers moving to Poland, where they have been happy with the quality of the workforce and modern infrastructure.

British capital in Poland has tended to continue investing and reinvesting, rather than clipping the coupons and sending home the dividends. Examples are highlighted in this issue of Contact. GKN Driveline opened a second factory in Oleśnica; Johnson Matthey is building a second factory in Gliwice; Cedo (producer of bin bags under the Paclan brand) is building a third factory in Kąty Wrocławskie; Bodycote PLC now has seven factories in Poland (five were acquisitions, the latest two being green-field developments). Poeton is building a second factory in Rzeszów for coating parts destined for the aerospace sector.

As manufacturers invest and grow, so they need buildings. Segro is busy building and operating them, while Floorcrete focuses on specialist flooring for factories – including antibacterial floors for the food processing industry. British investment in manufacturing in Poland is diverse – from aerospace and automotive (mentioned above) to food and drink (Twining’s Tea and AB Foods sauces) and the packaging for that sector (Linpak). Imperial Tobacco and BAT both manufacture cigarettes.

Stretching across a wide swathe of southern Poland, mainly along the A4 corridor from the German border right across to the Ukrainian border, manufacturing industry is thriving and continually adding more value as advanced technologies move in. The days of Poland as a low-cost based for basic metal-bashing activities are coming to an end.

Firms like Aero Gearbox International, a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and French firm Safran, are showing the way. AGI, based in Ropczyce near Rzeszów, makes transmission systems for the very latest generation of jet engines. At a meeting of the BPCC’s Manufacturing Industries Group in September 2018, members had the chance to discuss the next generation of workplace automation that would be pushing factories into the world of Industry 4.0. The next meeting of the group will be held on 31 October 2018 at the factory of Polaris Industries in Opole, which manufactures quads and – from the New Year – motorcycles under the Indian brand.

Manufacturing is all about precision and process. Renishaw makes measuring equipment of the highest standard – the British firm also makes 3D printers that print metal parts. And BSI Group – with its iconic Kitemark – sets the standards, audits and certificates manufacturers in many specialist areas. Environmental protection and energy usage are two incredibly important subjects for manufacturers; one BPCC member in Poland for whom these are paramount is Arcelor Mittal, a firm that is investing heavily to minimise its impact on the environment.

If there is one concern that keeps factory managers awake at night, it is the recruitment and retention of shop-floor workers (see this article from Hays). With unemployment at a record low (lower than in the UK, according to Eurostat), employers have to up their game, looking at the non-wage factors which are becoming increasing important to employees (see this article from Dehora). Issues such as work-life balance and soft skills that lead to an improvement in workplace culture suddenly acquire great significance in the battle to retain employees.

Technology is advancing at an ever-faster pace. Tomorrow’s factories will be even more automated with robots talking to robots, working in understanding with their human operatives, who in turn will need to learn new skills to keep up with technology. This topic was discussed at CEO Breakfasts held by the BPCC in Warsaw and in Kraków last month, asking what the Polish state should be doing to ensure the education system is preparing young people for the world of work as it will be in five and ten years’ time.

Leadership in manufacturing is as important as in manufacturing as it is in the service sector. Two articles, from Project Beyond Borders and Sysco, look at the programmes available for industry to raise leadership skills on the factory floor, based on solid experience in well-known British manufacturers.

http://bpcc.org.pl/contact-magazine/issues/25