Elkom Trade S.A. has almost 50 years of experience in the metal industry. You specialize in top-quality logistics and storage systems.
Especially for the Manufacturing Journal, the interview was given by – Mr. Tomasz Piersa, President of the management board of ELKOM TRADE S.A.
Please tell us, what were the beginnings of Elkom Trade and what were the most important moments in the history of its development?
Elkom has been working with wire since its inception. Company manufactured various products from wine containers, car roof racks, umbrellas to shop equipment. After the harsh years of the previous system, the Company in the 90s slowly began to withdraw from the very saturated sector of shop equipment manufacturers and reoriented itself to the production of logistics systems for the industrial sector. It then became the main supplier among others, for the largest PET preform manufacturer in the world. For over a decade, it gained experience, know-how and developed the technology of production of other wire products. Another key moment was the crisis of 2007, the effects of which the company felt in 2009. At that time, we decided to stay in the industry, but we changed the Company from a product supplier to a value supplier. We followed the logic of the extended product and focused on several key attributes in our opinion, such as durability, timeliness of deliveries, personalized offer and after-sales services. This allowed us to build a very lasting relationship with our partners based on predictability and professionalism. We are currently going through the next stage - automating operations carried out with our carriers. We designed and implemented for production several prototypes of machines for manipulating our products at various stages of their use. This will definitely make us stand out in the near future, because we will start to offer machines and devices supporting our basic production.
You are leading in the production of mesh containers, extensions, roller containers and profile structures. You are also developing your product range towards modular display systems. Can you tell us more about the products offered, production technologies and the company’s manufacturing facilities?
We are able to provide almost all the needs of internal, production and warehouse logistics in most industries. Our systems function at virtually every stage of their production processes and delivery of the final product to their customer in turn. I will show this on the example of the PET preform industry. Our containers are so versatile that preform extrusion machines have been integrated with them. So, directly from the machine, the finished product is filled with it. At this moment, our container participates in the production process at our partner. Then the container with products goes to the warehouse and awaits preparation for shipment. At the moment, it has a warehouse function. After loading on a truck carrying the order to the customer, it fulfils a logistic function. Interestingly, the customer takes the same functions - that is, storage and production, because both warehouses and machines for further preform processing (bottle blowing) are also integrated with these containers. Of course, this is only one industry and one type of product that we design. I specially used this word because our basic formula of cooperation is intensive work with the client in order to comprehensively analyse his needs in order to design the most appropriate logistics solution. An interesting example is the wine market, where in Europe alone there are at least several hundred types of bottles. And to optimize the process at our client’s, each bottle type requires a different solution. The most interesting example we have recently achieved is to design, with one of the world’s largest cosmetic giants, a container for transporting already blown bottles in the production process. The solutions we used in the carrier itself and the corrections in the process resulting from these changes resulted in a reduction of 90% of the staff at this stage of the process. To overcome all of this, we use sophisticated IT solutions for design and construction. We have a dedicated and professional technology service and Product Managers. It is a mix of experience and youthful fantasy. The most important thing is that these people push the borders themselves. The machine park that we currently have secures our basic production needs. Of course, we cooperate with some of the production. Due to the fact that this is not always the most effective form of conducting the production process, we decided to invest in order to secure our production potential in order to minimize external services. After years of experience, we believe that we are able to shape the process best, when we control the largest part of it personally.
Elkom Trade is a partner for companies from many industries. Who do you particularly address your products to and what makes your offer stand out from the competition?
Our offer is addressed in particular to partners who value stability of both cooperation and the offered product. We are guided by the broadly defined quality - starting from the durability and reliability of products, through the high quality of cooperation and communication to the after-sales services at the highest level. This means that our partner feels comfortable at every stage of the product’s life, starting with the need, through the offer process to repair or regenerate the carrier. And that distinguishes us from the wide competition. That is why we are certainly not the right choice for entities expecting a typical budget solution. We do not even try to compete with Eastern imports. For years, we have been operating on the broadly understood market of all kinds of glass and plastic bottles and preforms for their production, from juice and beverage producers to cosmetics and chemistry. We serve the wine industry and sparkling wines including champagnes. We’ve been working in the automotive and municipal industry for years. We are currently successfully appearing in the retail industry. The investment, which we are currently running despite a pandemic, aims to provide us with a greater range of solutions and competences mainly for products made of pipes, profiles and sheet metal. This means that we will be able to enter the automotive and retail industries with greater impetus and a wider offer.
Your products gain recognition of the world’s largest concerns and reach the markets of almost the whole world. Please tell us what is the most important in your business? What is the strategic potential of your company and the key to its success?
Undoubtedly, an individual approach to each partner. Of course, not everyone needs and expects it, but certainly everyone appreciates it. It can be said that we are a tailor who tailors cooperation rules for each partner individually. Each partner is different, so each of them needs a slightly different product, its modification, each has different payment, logistics and quality preferences. On many levels, we are able to flexibly adapt our approach to expectations. We have such tools and possibilities. It certainly makes us stand out.
Achieving business success is not possible without qualified staff. Can you tell us about a team of specialists who build the brand and success of Elkom Trade on a daily basis?
As we know, the pillars of every enterprise are financial capital and human capital. Our company employs approximately 200 people. Employees’ knowledge, experience and commitment have great economic value for our organization. A great source of our employees’ values is their ability to motivate themselves, broaden their knowledge and draw conclusions. Their daily work affects a number of strategic values of our company - it improves efficiency, increases efficiency, uses the opportunities created by the market, maintains the quality of our products at a high level. As a Management Board, we conduct a policy of openness in communication, open doors, i.e. our availability for all crew members, being close and supporting them on a daily basis. Mutual respect is one of the values that affects the brand and the success of our company.
The quality of the products and services offered is a priority for your company, which is why you work only with selected partners & suppliers. Would you like to particularly distinguish any companies - your most important partners?
It seems to me that it would be unfair in the first place and secondly, that this would be against our vision of functioning. Our every partner is unique because it is unrepeatable. Each of them has a differently organized internal process, a different customer structure, operates in other markets, etc. We treat each partner individually, hence the personalized approach, and therefore the offer and principles of cooperation. Each of them is unique and deserves to be distinction.
What are the most important investments related to the company’s development over the past few years?
The largest investment in the history of our company is underway. We are building a new production plant in the investment complex in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. We started the investment at the beginning of 2019. As part of the planned investment, a factory with an area of 5700 square meters a social and office building with an area of 1300 square meters will be built. The investment will be built with the participation of EU funds of the Intelligent Development Operational Program. This is the next stage of our development. We want to expand the product offer and production potential, which will allow us to enter new markets so that we can offer products to a growing number of recipients and run not a dozen projects at the same time, but dozens. It is crucial for us because until now we were an organization that knew its capabilities and therefore, we had to give up some projects. We are currently ready to meet the clients’ needs first and secondly to create and implement our own solutions thanks to our know-how resulting from experience.
How do you assess the future of the industry in which the company operates, what are the company’s plans in this regard?
We are currently the main producer of collective packaging for the PET industry in Europe. We assume an annual growth of few percent on this market. We intend to follow this increase at least directly. However, we expect a very large growth in the retail and logistics industry related to e-commerce (especially now after the COVID pandemic). This is the industry we are currently focusing on and which we want to interest ourselves in. Investments in both infrastructure and machine park are to allow us to increase the potential for functioning in this industry. We are currently developing a strategic plan that we had to modify for reasons of the pandemic. However, we knew from analyses in which areas and industries we want to develop, thanks to which we went through the perturbation associated with COVID-19 quite efficiently. Having a development “road map”, we know what we are striving for and how to achieve it. Markets and clients operating on them operate quite flexibly, therefore we also must be up to date and even half a step ahead.
In addition to business activity, social activity is equally important. Do you engage locally in non-industry activities, such as charities, sporting and cultural events?
In the literature, the 1973 statement by Andy Carroll is often quoted as saying that “corporate social responsibility is a great term, because it certainly means something, but not always the same for everyone.” In our understanding, social responsibility means social, ethical and ecological activities in our immediate environment. The current situation in our country has made that we joined the #PomocDlaMedyka campaign. We gave the Rescue Group of the Polish Red Cross Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski 120 liters of disinfectant liquid and 1000 pairs of disposable gloves. We also run ecological activities. We meet whole families and clean forests. In the spring of last year, we cleaned 6000 m2 of forest and collected over 1000 kg of garbage. This year we wanted to break our own record, but unfortunately the pandemic thwarted our plans. We also join local charity campaigns, support the Ostrowiec handball and volleyball team KSZO Ostrowiec. We support local firefighters and policemen. We support financially the facilities where small children learn not only from Ostrowiec. For many years, together with our employees, we have been involved in such activities, because in business we are also guided by the heart.
What achievements are you most proud of?
I can say I’m proud of two things. Over the years, I managed to build a team of people who made everything I talked about possible and the borders ceased to exist. I didn’t do it. Possibly, I supervised or co-managed. Without this team, nothing that is currently happening at this company would not have been possible. I think they know it too and are also proud of it. The second thing is the trust of our long-time customers, including the most powerful global concerns on four continents. It is very difficult to maintain cooperation with buyers or financial directors for years. Something must be up, since they have been working with us even in some cases for several years without a break. They are probably satisfied with the quality of pre and after-sales service. This is undoubtedly a source of pride.