The Simoldes Group is one of the largest producers of plastic automotive components in Europe. The company, founded in 1959 in Portugal, started exporting in 1961. The Plastic Division of Simoldes Group consists of 9 production units located all over the world. It is one of the few groups that is able to support and manufacture parts for leading OEMs such as Renault, Volvo, Volkswagen, Audi, Nissan, Toyota, Porsche, Honda, Mercedes, GM, Mitsubishi, Dacia, Seat, PSA, Skoda, BMW, etc. The branch in Poland has been operating since 2004 and is based in Jelcz-Laskowice. Thanks to investments in employees, increased expenditure on internal training, expansion of the machine park, as well as proper production planning, it was possible to strengthen the company’s position on the local market and as a key supplier in the Eastern region.
Especially for Manufacturing Journal magazine an exclusive interview was given by Mr. Rui Angelo, General Director of Simoldes Plasticos Polska Sp. z o.o.
Could you briefly describe the Simoldes Plasticos Polska company?
Simoldes Plasticos Polska started operation in 2004, mainly supplying OEM Plants from VW group. After a period of consolidation, an expansion process was implemented in order to increase the presence in the Eastern region, not only with additional internal capacity, but as a support for the new companies such as Simoldes Plasticos Czech Republic. Being a global provider A7 VW Golf for all trunks, as well as posts VW Tiguan represent an important step towards a positive presence among major clients, contributing to the learning process and experience of the team. In the past years the diverse technologies implemented in the processes, supported by the growing maturity of our organization and employees, contributes to increase the role of key suppliers in the region. Actually, we are increasing our participation on the recent electrical car models in order to follow the trend and keep the sustained growth, keeping the strategy of participating in a diverse number of car models and elevating the added value of our products.
Please tell us what made your company so successful and gained the trust of its customers?
First of all, the importance of our mission and values are an integral part of every single employee. We need to understand and to be identified with it. The consolidation of our continuous improvement process supporting our sustainable performance based on the clear identified Key Success Factors as well as the key drivers for Competitiveness. We are recognized by our tooling knowledge as well as the plastic injection allowing us to be innovative and simple on finding competitive solutions for customer needs. Quality and cost effectiveness are the basis for building a lasting relationship with customers, sustained on flexibility, speed and customer proximity. We always try to be inside customer kitchen to understand better the customer needs and give the right answers.
Which strategies have proven to be the most useful over time?
Our performance is based on customer satisfaction, focus on Quality, delivery and competitive solutions. We need to keep getting closer to our customers, ensure sustainable growth and look to anticipate what our customer will require from the supply chain. We need to keep developing our skills and presence in the market, to be ready to answer efficiently to customer needs. This must be done with sustained profitability and developing our people which are key for success.
What are the exclusive elements that make your company unique from the point of view of production?
Nowadays the only way to be unique is to be good at what we do, which is not achievable for every company because it is a result from several factors. Performance and competitiveness are crucial to achieve results. In Simoldes Plasticos Polska we can say we reached a maturity level which allows us to be ready for diversity and for high demanding customers. We are now going from simple plastic components and entry level cars, to plastic parts combined with additional technologies applied mainly in premium cars.
Worldwide industry boldly focuses on robotics and automation of production processes. Does the Simoldes Plasticos Polska is also part of a trend of 4.0 Industry and invests in the latest technology?
Companies need to follow and even anticipate the trend, as Industry 4.0 is very important to maintain us competitively. We have a global program to ensure the development of industry 4.0, but of course this is a principle which must be done according to the level of automation possible in our processes. We have been using robotics and automation for a long time as part of our process, which is used to support and complement the necessary human actions ensured by our employees and to drive us to guarantee stable processes and products, with competitive performance.
Can you tell us more about your products, used technologies?
In Simoldes Plastics division we can say we are able to ensure most of the technologies applied in Plastic moulding. Not all technologies are in all Manufacturing Plants, but we are able to setup or move in case of customer needs in any location. Of course, in our strategy we split the business by customer proximity but also by specialization of the Plant. We can consider as main technologies applied in Simoldes Plasticos Polska Injection (injection molding, bi-injection, low pressure, gas injection), Finishing (welding, Cutting, Assemblies, Gluing and wrapping) as well as surface finishing. Products can be present in any automotive vehicle plastic part or set, from interior trims (trunk, trims, roof, doors, seats and cockpit) to exterior trims (side protections, roof supports, deflectors, absorbers, Wheel Arch liners and engine parts).
How many people do you employ at this moment?
We currently employ over 600 people in the Simoldes Plasticos Polska factory.
What were the new services and technological innovations introduced by your Research & Development department in the last period?
In Simoldes Plasticos Polska we have been growing with Gas Injection components, textile parts and sets with electrical components. We have several automated processes of application of components, welding or gluing and different poka yoke concepts. Globally we participate in several developments linked with weight reduction, noise cancelation and sensor touching concepts which are part of the recent trend of electrical cars where we have an important participation on the newly developed models.
Have any significant investments been made recently? Are you planning any investments in the nearest future? How the new investments can change your company’s growth trajectory?
As part of the strategy we have been investing gradually and sustained but aligned with customer development. The growth plan in the region started in 2012 with the initial expansion process increasing the internal production capacity. This was followed by a new Plant in Czech Republic and complemented with a possible third plant in the region. Important step to develop Wrapping unit technology in the region and consolidate maturity on technologies such as Gas Injection and Low pressure with textiles. We do important investment in our employees development, and we plan to keep strongly focusing on it. Replacing machine parts and automating our processes is essential while keeping it simple and competitive. We are investing on process control and injection excellence to ensure the product and process stability as well as the necessary performance in order to secure our customers with the high quality performance.
Are you planning to launch any new products, services in the near future?
We must keep competitive on our products and ensure we produce according to the customer requirements. The investment on added value products is increasing the difficulty and we need to be ready for that higher and demanding level, but also aligned with pressure to reduce the total costs. We have been trying to be as close as possible to our main customers and ensure we are ready to replace them on some activities we can add to our supplied parts and services.
Are there any eco-friendly solutions you have implemented in your company?
We are ISO 14001 certified since 2015. The Environment care is on our mindset and we are following the best practices to be part of the eco-friendly solutions.
What other certificates your company owns?
We have ISO 9001, IATF 16949 and from main customer Formel Q Capability and QSB+. Apart from formal certificates, the best certificate is the customer thrust and recognition.
The quality of products and services is your priority. You know perfectly well that there is no place for compromises in your industry, which is why you work only among the best suppliers and subcontractors.
The supply chain needs to be ensured for our customers and as a success factor. We need to deal with our suppliers as partners in the business and support their development, but they need to have clear requirements and step up with their responsibility on the process, and our role is also to ensure this link and the proper communication. We have some companies which have been developing and have been following our journey in this region and all of them are very important to achieve the targets. Most important is that all participants in the process have their contribution or added value otherwise they are not needed. We have been working to ensure we are cooperating with all companies with the same understanding.
Where are your main markets?
We have a privileged geographic position and we supply automotive manufacturers from France, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and of course Poland.
Who are your most important customers right now?
The Volkswagen Group, including Skoda, Audi and Volkswagen and PSA, which are merging with Fiat Chrysler. This is complemented by Toyota, BMW and new potential customers present in the region.
What are the current market trends affecting your company?
Definitively the electric cars introduction in the market is affecting us and we need to follow, because independently of the engine, all cars have plastic components. The automatization needs are the other aspect we need to keep developing to continue being part as a key partner for our current clients, and ensure we are ready to convince the new potential customers to sustain our growth plan.
World currently is struggling with the consequences of a pandemic coronavirus. How do you evaluate the future of the industry in which the company operates, what are the company’s plans in connection with this?
We need to be ready for different business models after pandemic times. We need to learn how to continue our business but most important is to ensure the health and safety for our employees. We must be rigorous with the protective measures and be always ready when the customer will need us. In 2020 we focused again on communication and development of employees engagement with the company activities. We used several tools including the social media, newsletter, and other actions because we could not count so much on social activities due to restrictions. It is important to ensure our community understands we are here for them and they need to be and to feel part of the full process.
What are your plans for gaining new foreign markets?
As explained before we are present in most of the countries and markets around Poland. The plan is to keep getting closer with some activities near the main customers, continue to develop the solutions to increase relationships with new potential customers and reach manufacturing plants where we do not supply yet but we can convince them of being a good candidate to be partners and part of their supply chain. We want to keep growing and strongly securing our position as a key player for the automotive industry in the region.