ROAD TO IABM INTERVIEWS
“WE CONSIDERED 35 LOCATIONS IN 7 COUNTRIES, BUT IT WAS IN POLAND THAT WE LOCATED THE ONLY EUROPEAN ENGINE AND BATTERY FACTORY OUTSIDE GERMANY”.
Interview with Ewa Łabno-Falęcka, Director of Corporate Communications and External Affairs at Mercedes-Benz Poland
Building business relations in the automotive sector is the main goal of the International Automotive Business Meeting, during which experts and representatives of the industry from all over the world will meet online on October 20th.
Dr. Ewa Łabno-Falęcka is a graduate of German philology at the Jagiellonian University. Since 2000 she has been responsible for communication and external relations in Daimler AG Group in Poland (including Mercedes-Benz Poland and Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Poland). She is actively involved in the activation of women, improvement of transport conditions and road safety. She is a winner of many awards and distinctions, including those granted by Polish and German authorities. In 2017 Mercedes started building engines and batteries in south-western Poland, investing over 500 million Euro and employing over 1000 people.
There are automotive companies that limit themselves to selling their cars in Poland. Your company has decided to locate a factory in our country. What was the decisive factor?
The factory of engines, and soon also electric batteries for cars, in Jawor is an important element of the concern’s development strategy. Since the end of last year, it has been supplying Mercedes car factories with extremely efficient new generation engines. From the beginning it has been an important link in the global production network of the brand (more than 30 factories around the world) due to the increase in demand for both conventional cars and cars with alternative drive, i.e. hybrids and emission-free electric vehicles. The factory is based on the most modern production methods and innovative technologies of “Industry 4.0”.
The plant was established on an area of about 50 hectares in Lower Silesia, in Jawor, and is the first Mercedes factory in Poland and the only engine and battery factory in Europe outside Germany. As usual, many factors have decided to invest in Poland, including the size and shape of the plot, good talks with the Polish government, local authorities and the Wałbrzych Special Economic Zone, the potential and costs of the labor market and – not without significance – the proximity of the Wrocaw agglomeration with its educational and cultural offer. Jawor was one of 35 locations in seven Central and Eastern European countries. The choice of the location was supported by, among others, its favourable location at the junction of the A4 freeway and the S3 expressway.
Many companies may consider locating their production in Poland. What products may be our specialty and why? Is motorization one of them?
Poland is a leader in several sectors, agricolture, furniture production (we are the world’s fourth largest exporter of furniture), window joinery and silver; Poland is also a European leader in the cosmetics industry. As far as the automotive industry is concerned (cars, car parts and accessories), we export goods for over 23 billion Euros per year, which is over 10% of our GDP. Daimler AG has long appreciated the level of human resources qualifications in Poland and the value of personnel education. The company responsible for building both factories, Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Poland, cooperates with technical schools in the region. Mercedes has opened a patronage class Mechatronik in the District Centre for Vocational and Continuing Education in Jawor and cooperates with the Car School Complex in Legnica and Wrocław University of Technology.
What attributes does Poland have in relation to other countries in the region? I mean the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia?
Poland is the largest country in Central and Eastern Europe, although, for example, in the ranking of investment attractiveness in this region (according to the survey of the economic situation conducted annually by the Polish-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry), we lost our leading position to the Czech Republic. Our advantage is, among others, a large internal market and the level of human capital – investors highly value their readiness for work, commitment and efficiency. The quality of road infrastructure has improved significantly, air transport has developed and railroads are waiting in line.
Poland has 14 airports from which both domestic and international flights are serviced. These are: Warsaw WAW, Warsaw Modlin WMI, Kraków KRK, Gdańsk GDN, Katowice KTW, Wrocław WRO, Poznań POZ, Rzeszów RZE, Szczecin SZZ, Lublin LUZ, Bydgoszcz BZG, Łódź LCJ, Olsztyn Mazury SZY and Zielona Góra IEG.
The strong points are telecommunication and ICT networks, which we could see during the lockdown, when companies moved the works to the network from Friday to Monday. The quality of cooperation with local and self-government administration is also important.
Is the fact that Poland maintains its own currency and running a business is exposed to exchange rate fluctuations a big obstacle?
As I mentioned, Poland is an attractive country for investors. Germany alone has invested over EUR 110 billion in our country. The Czech Republic is not part of the Monetary Union either, the fact that we have our own currency is not so important, although entering the Eurozone would certainly make Poland more attractive. Foreign investments cause the capital to flow into the country, which after the exchange strengthens the value of the national currency.
When deciding on the location of investments, not everything can be predicted. Does your real experience allow you to define those aspects that have surprised you “up” and “down”?
We were really surprised by the model cooperation with the Ministry of Development and with the WSSE and local and regional authorities. They were very helpful in solving many smaller and bigger problems. For this purpose, we created a working group which discussed about investment problems such as employee transport, housing or vocational education. On the other hand, Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Poland has participated in the life of the local community from the very beginning. Together with the city and regional authorities, we have implemented many educational and social projects.
Is the production base that you have created in Poland your last word? Are you planning further investments?
For now, we are working on starting the second shift in the engine factory and the first lines of electric batteries production. From Jawor we can get the whole drive systems to our factories in the world that are waiting for these motors and batteries.
There are certain associations, or perhaps stereotypes, when you see the words “Made in Germany” or “Made in Japan” on a product. What are the associations of European customers when they see the sign “Made in Poland”?
Once, Dr. Irena Eris told me that she does not emphasize the origin of her great products, because “Made in Poland” is not associated well. “Made in Germany” is associated well, so this positive association builds a competitive advantage. On the other hand, a single company or brand is not able to change its perception of the country. Systemic, long-term and certainly resource-intensive action is necessary. Political and social conditions such as the level of respect for employee rights, human rights and tolerance for otherness are important. Unfortunately, we have a problem with that recently – potential investors value “diversity”, send their employees of different skin color or sexual preferences to Poland and do not want to expose them to danger. Here it is absolutely necessary to stop xenophobic or homophobic agitation.
How do you assess the possibility of taking over part of the production, so far located in China by Polish sub-suppliers? Coronavirus has shown that the supply chain has suddenly been interrupted, which has caused huge negative consequences in creating the final product.
It is possible that the globalization as we know it, the so-called “container globalization”, associated with an extensive supply chain of large corporations, which in search of lower labor and production costs jumped from country to country, continent to continent, importing parts and products in large containers (hence the name) over long distances, is ending.
According to the report of the Polish Economic Institute “Trade Routes after the COVID-19 pandemic”, the importance of China in global supply chains will decrease, even 10-20% of supplies of semi-finished and finished products from China may be replaced by production from the EU. Poland could gain 8.3 billion USD of investment.
Economists claim that “container globalization” will give way to the so-called “network globalization,” based on open intermediary platforms that connect buyer and bidder. Network globalization is based on data globalization, i.e., the cross-border flow of information which, in addition to the free movement of people, capital, products and services, will become the greatest value for the economy and business. However, we should remember that many elements (not only labour costs) are taken into account when planning investments, e.g. transport, communication network, availability of educated staff or legal stability of the country.
Thank you for the interview.
(The interview was conducted by Krzysztof Kowalski, electromobility expert)
About International Automotive Business Meeting
International Automotive Business Meeting (IABM) is an elite meeting of the automotive sector, which brings together industry leaders and experts, car manufacturers, the largest Tier 1 and 2 suppliers, representatives of European, Polish and local authorities, institutions and industry associations. The event is attended by over 300 representatives of companies from Poland, Europe and the largest global automotive markets such as China, Japan, India and the United States.
IABM provides independent, professional and reliable knowledge on the situation on the automotive market in Poland and worldwide. The objective of IABM is to provide a clear vision of the changes in the automotive sector in the near future and its impact on the supply chain and to determine how electromobility and advanced driver assistance systems will affect the development of the automotive sector in Poland and worldwide. IABM is a unique opportunity to gain a detailed insight into the automotive industry and new technologies associated with it, as well as build a network of contacts in the industry and acquire business partners.
During this year’s online edition of IABM each participant will have many networking opportunities .
In the previous edition of IABM, representatives of 270 companies took part in 5 Speed Business Mixer sessions and hundreds of B2B meetings. Many of the conducted talks resulted in later cooperation between companies.
Detailed program and registration for the online edition available here: www.iabmevent.com
Organizers: Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Poland, Katowice Special Economic Zone (KSEZ) and Silesia Automotive & Advanced Manufacturing Cluster, City of Dąbrowa Górnicza.
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