In just 13 years, Gruner has, as a company, succeeded in changing the economic situation in the south of Serbia and providing adequate earnings for almost 600 workers and their families through the expanding of production facilities and conquering of new markets and technologies
Gruner’s owners are satisfied with the company’s operations in Serbia and with the workers, both those from the production side and it highly qualified personnel. They believe that there would be no work, no expansion of production facilities or new hiring of staff without mutual satisfaction.
You started operations in Serbia from a rented hall with around a dozen workers and one product for smart meters. How did you conquer the market?
– We produced relays for smart meters, for General Electric and the U.S. market, producing around 50,000 units at a weekly level. Our owners recognised the potentials of Serbia and its southern region, so already by 2009 they’d built the first production hall of 2,000 square metres. We started cooperating with the automotive industry the very next year, initially with Daimler, then later with other manufacturers. Apart from relays, during that period we also started working on the “start stop system”, according to the wishes and requirements of Daimler, which we still produce today, although in an improved, generation 4, version. This product is our pride, because the entire development and production line is designed and realised at our factory in Serbia.
We built another 2,000-square-metre hall in 2012 and started with new technologies, then already in 2013 the need emerged for a new expansion of production capacities. Thus, in 2014 we reached a total of 7,000 square metres of production facilities and more than 300 employees.
It was during this period that we started with plastic injection, and then also with the production of metal parts for our own needs, which required the procurement of new machines, and that led to the establishment of a small tool shop with the latest technologies.
Our plan is to build a new hall of 3,000 square metres for the production of plastics and a new tool shop as soon as possible
After 13 years of operations in Serbia, you now have more than 550 employees and 7,000m2 of production facilities, with around 12.5 million euros having been invested. What’s next in your plans?
– We currently have 570 employees, which is less than at the end of 2019 and is a consequence of the pandemic that slowed us down and reduced our sales. We hope to recoup everything that’s been lost in the period ahead. Fluctuation are very small with us, and interest in work at in our factory in Vlasotince is high, because such a large number of different production processes is the dream of every young engineer who’s eager for knowledge.
Our plan is to build a new hall of 3,000 square metres for the production of plastics and a new tool shop. That should serve for the maintenance of tools for our production, but also for the production of certain tools both for our market and foreign ones.
Have you started applying your own model of dual education with the opening of your workshop for training students? How are your impressions?
– We launched the model of dual education back in 2016, in cooperation with GIZ and the Technical School from Vlasotince, as pioneers in this field. It initially only covered a course for industrial mechanics, but now we already have courses for electricians and mechatronics engineers.
In order for education and industry to develop in parallel, education needs to listen to the demands of the economy. In that way young people would leave high schools and be capable of starting work immediately, without additional training. Dual education has helped us to quickly find professional personnel for our specific needs. If the dual education model was transferred to higher education institutions, emerging from colleges would be young experts who could perform specific jobs immediately upon graduating.