“Our employees are our greatest value, and Gruner in Serbia would not be this successful without their energy and commitment,” says Vladica Stanković, director at GRUNER SERBIAN D.O.O., Vlasotince, speaking to CorD
The news that German company Gruner opened a new production facility on 18th October, in which it invested 3.5 million euros, is only a continuation of this company’s successful operation in Vlasotince, which started way back in 2007.
It was then that Gruner made two moves: the first related to its place of business: instead of a “big” urban centre, the choice fell to Vlasotince; the second move was for Gruner to position itself as a significant player in the recent economic history of Serbia, given that it is the first company to launch automotive production in this area for a long time.
Today GRUNER Serbian d.o.o. has 480 employees in Serbia alone and a production facility covering 7,000m2. “Vlasotince is, among other things, our location for automotive products, while the total investment amounts to 11 million euros,” says director of Gruner Serbia Mr Vladica Stanković, speaking to CorD.
– Ten years ago, we started working in one rented hall and with just a dozen workers. That year we exported a single product, designed for smart meters on the U.S. market, and we only produced 50,000 units. Today we export more than 30 different products in a total of 7.3 million units.
GRUNER has existed and operated in Germany for over 60 years. In your opinion, what influenced this company to recognise a small plant in Vlasotince as having the potential to be a serious business?
– In my opinion, our owners primarily recognised the potential of our people. When I say this, I mean our experts, engineers and other highly qualified people. And it’s not just about our “expertise” – I think they also recognised “good business energy” in us, as well as the determination with which we convinced them to constantly invest and expand operations. Thus, from a rented hall, we arrived at three serious production plants.
The first two house production capacities for the automotive industry, while the third hall is used for the production of plastic and metal parts that are incorporated into our final products, as well as a tool shop for maintaining and producing new tools.
The management of our parent company in Germany provides us with support in every sense, and is also open to our ideas and projects
I would like to emphasise that the buyers of our products are Daimler-Mercedes, Renault, Peugeot, Porsche and many other top-class auto brands.
Along with expressing gratitude towards the management of our parent company, who provided us with support in every sense, I would also like to thank my colleagues, production manager Igor Rajković and quality manager Predrag Mladenović, for the 10 years of work and effort that they’ve invested to date.
With a view to the German model, Serbia is trying to apply its own model of dual education. And Gruner is already involved in that process. What tangible benefits do you gain from this type of education as an employer?
– Within the framework of the new plant, we’ve also opened a training workshop for pupils studying to be industrial mechanics. Based on an agreement with the school and the local self-government, and with the great support of GIZ (the German Organisation for International Cooperation), Gruner has, along with five other companies in Vlasotince, become part of the dual education system.
The local and regional needs of the economy were analysed, the subject was designed and formed in the school, and thus we started. Pupils from the second and third year of secondary school spend two and three days a week training at the factory under expert supervision. They are also stimulated with monetary compensation, which is actually a kind of scholarship. This is a very good and successful system, and the example of Germany proves that in many ways.
At the same time, we received qualified staff that respond to the needs of the economy, while young people get the chance to gain employment immediately after finishing school, and in their own town.
It is very important to listen to the needs of business people and to educate young people to be able to start working immediately after finishing school. This method of cooperation between the economy, education and the state is the best stock for the future.