Austria’s JAF Group represents one of Central Europe’s largest wholesalers of wood-based panel materials and timber. It has been operating in Serbia since 2008, and during that time has earned a reputation as a reliable distributor, which – alongside quality – ensures the delivery of a wide array of products throughout the entire territory of Serbia. With a programme of renowned suppliers, its warehouses succeed in responding to all the demands of the furniture and construction industries. JAF Group opened its Serbian subsidiary with headquarters in Nova Pazova, while it has had a modern exhibition space in New Belgrade since 2019
JAF is a partner that you can rely on at all times. In its machining centre in Nova Pazova, the company offers customised service cutting, edging, material processing with a CNC machine, as well as cutting, joining and veneer press services.
JAF continues to achieve exceptional results in Serbia, led by General Manager Melanija Pavlović, a graduate architectural engineer who continues to share and upgrade her many years of experience with JAF’s entire team in Serbia.
The JAF Group is Austria’s largest supplier of wood panel materials and timber. Apart from the impressive figures – 75 years in existence, a turnover exceeding a billion euros, 58 subsidiaries in 18 countries – what else do we need to know about JAF?
It is interesting to mention the historical data about the way a small family business, established in 1948, developed, advanced and grew its business over the years to become a major corporation. “JAF” is an abbreviation of the names of the founders – Josef and Antonia Frischeis, whose descendants are still in the business today. The founder had a vision and strategy to expand his business eastwards, so the business developed in such a way that JAF is known for its professionalism in many Balkan and Central European countries, and is also recognised as a reliable partner. “Wood is our world” represents the guiding notion that runs through our business.
You sell only high-quality products made by renowned manufacturers. Do you manage to satisfy the needs of the market even under conditions of rising demand?
The Serbian market is demanding, as are many markets in the region, but also in Austria. Our portfolio encompasses sales of plywood, refined plywood, raw plywood, MDF, veneers, compact panel boards, decking, timber, natural wood etc. 2020 was a year that brought numerous challenges that confronted the world for the first time, but also JAF Group. We thought that 2020 was the toughest year, but 2021 has proved to be even more demanding in a different way. Price hikes and shortages of raw materials impacted on increasing the prices of panelling materials and wood in general, as well as the extending of delivery deadlines on the part of suppliers. Considering that we are a large corporation and have good networking, we succeeded in meeting all of our customers’ needs and procuring enough goods, even during these challenging times of increased demand. Our mission is to be close to the customer and to be a reliable partner in doing business.
Have you managed to return your operations to regular flows after the shock of 2020 and what do you predict for the period ahead?
We managed to end 2020 successfully, although forecasts had been pessimistic in May, given the outbreak and development of the pandemic. 2021 began in a new rhythm, with increased demand, and has so far yielded results that exceed those planned.
The period ahead will be more than challenging, considering the situation with shortages of numerous raw materials or delays in their delivery. This has a major knock-on effect on the final products that we distribute or supply. Timely planning is needed, and efforts to ensure that the warehouses are filled with goods so that we have something to offer the market and our customers.
The close and intensive cooperation between JAF and Austrian institutions in Serbia is based on the constant advancement of operations, working conditions for employees and other segments that contribute to constant growth and development. How much does their support mean to you?
We, as representatives of Austrian capital in Serbia, have excellent cooperation with the Embassy of Austria and the commercial department of the Embassy of Austria. We are grateful for the support that we receive from H.E. Nikolaus Lutterotti and Erika Teoman Brenner. Thanks to the initiative of Advantage Austria and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, we have joined the Dual Education programme in order to help educate and advance young people, providing them with secure employment and enabling them to remain in Serbia. Our industry has a staffing shortage and we have a constant need for professional personnel who can gain the knowledge and experience required to work in the furniture industry through high school education.
Thanks to the initiative of Advantage Austria and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, we have joined the Dual Education programme in order to help educate and advance young people, providing them with secure employment and enabling them to remain in Serbia
You are proud of the company’s rich tradition, while you are simultaneously focused on the future and the world of innovation. Is that precisely why JAF is number 1?
If you don’t follow the trends in business, then you lose step with business. The market dictates the rules and we respect and adapt to those rules. Technology is advancing, design and raw materials are changing, and with that also the final products. Daily innovations also have an impact on various segments of our operations. By monitoring trends, our innovation team has developed online platforms that enable our partners to operate more efficiently. A great advantage is that customers have access to our “Online Shop”, “Veneer World”, “Decorfinder” and others. JAF is a socially responsible company that takes care of its customers, employees and operations. JAF is number 1 as a reliable partner that, through its operations and support, guarantees high-quality and consistency for its customers.
Since the establishment of its Serbian subsidiary, JAF has been striving to provide its customers – apart from high-quality goods – with the assistance and support of wood technology and forestry engineers, as well as expert advisors. Is it difficult to find skilled workers and to what extent do you succeed in motivating your employees to stay with JAF for many years?
We are proud that ten engineers work at our company, thanks to whom our customers receive high-quality technical support and advice on the selection of materials and systemic solutions for their projects. It isn’t easy to find qualified workers and we are struggling with staff shortages. Many companies have opened subsidiaries in the Municipality of Stara Pazova over recent years and everyone needs workers. People comprise business and it is necessary to invest in people through working conditions, insurance, education, and assured and timely earnings. Our employees are our strength and the drivers of our development.