Striking the balance between innovation and consistency, auto manufacturing specialist Futaba Czech s.r.o has established an esteemed reputation by providing quality at a lower cost
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Thomas Arnold
The Czech Republic is renowned as a leading hub of European manufacturing, and rightly so.
As of right now, the country is considered to be one of the most suitable locations for global manufacturing businesses to expand or relocate to according to Cushman & Wakefield’s Manufacturing Risk Index report, ranking first in Europe and fifth globally.
Known as the heart of Europe, Czech Republic’s central location on the continent provides strategic access to the vast majority of the region and indeed world’s major markets. Combine this with an influx of foreign investments, a high degree of economic security and a stable political scene and it’s easy to see why the auto manufacturing industry is thriving across the country.
A heavy presence from the likes of Škoda Auto, Toyota Peugeot Citroën Automobile (TPCA) and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech, for example, has seen automotive products come to account for 50 percent of all Czech exports, the sector directly employing approximately 160,000 people.
“The auto manufacturing industry here is world-class,” affirms Lukas Velfl, “contributing substantially to both the national economy and national employment.
“It’s why I myself got involved. I had studied management in manufacturing at university and became captivated by the auto sector, so joining Futaba Czech s.r.o made sense as both a natural progression and an exciting opportunity.”
Starting out as a quality assurance manager, Velfl has spent the past 13 years working his way up through the ranks of Futaba Czech, a leading producer of automotive parts for body and car suspensions, now standing as the company’s General Manager of Business Development.
“In my eyes, it’s the high service standards and product quality that set this country apart,” he adds.
Futaba Czech itself is one company that embodies these national differentiators.
Operating in an environment saturated by 800 companies (including 55 of the global top 100 tier-one suppliers) and the rise in customer expectations that has been accompanied by this, it has been forced to stay ahead of the curve, doing so with a unique and diverse offering.
“Our core business is driven by the production of high-quality vehicle parts,” Velfl explains. “These include lightweight and durable body parts, chassis parts, exhaust system parts and other fundamental structural components.
“Equally, we pride ourselves on the ability to leverage our mother company and in-house design department for assistance on body in white production, offering advice on drawings that can help to improve blueprints and/or process efficiencies. In the exhaust segment, we’re also capable of producing designs from scratch when provided with any required specifications.”
As our conversation continues, Velfl quickly points to the firm’s suppliers as crucial partners that consistently help to uphold these esteemed services and products.
The company cooperates with roughly 50 businesses to this end, each of which have an adept understanding of and respect for Futaba Czech’s emphasis on quality, quantity and on-time delivery.
“We have a saying that the chain itself is only as strong as its weakest element,” the GM continues. “Any delay can cause production to grind to a halt and lead to disruption for our customers, so ongoing supply chain development continues to be a key goal for us.
“We’re always on the lookout for new strategic partnerships with both new and existing suppliers, yet at the same time we are hesitant about diving blindly into agreements because of the standards that we look to uphold.
“It’s all about striking the right balance between innovation and consistency, and I believe our current supplier and partner base have allowed us to perfect this.”
The aforementioned equilibrium is a key mantra for the company, further evidenced by a focus on lean manufacturing and its one-way flow plant production concept.
Separating and segmenting each distinctive process, the organisation benefits from cost efficiencies, production efficiencies, and an abundance of insights into its overall manufacturing operations.
“The visualisation and control of our internal stock has become really important,” Velfl affirms. “Equally, our already capable production control department are able to better organise production planning to ensure little to no delays or discrepancies.
“Having launched in 2002, we were essentially a greenfield manufacturing plant – something that allowed us to achieve process excellence from the outset.”
This progressive mindset is also applied to the firm’s staff, the company heavily focussed on supplying industry-leading training and employment practices in an attempt to avoid the skills shortages that the industry has been struggling to cope with in recent years.
“The lack of engineers in this country is a relatively common pain point, so we run several internal training programmes and projects geared towards supporting the development of our people,” Velfl states. “We have a big focus on internal promotion, for example, seeing it as a way of identifying our talent and giving them the opportunity to grow.”
The enterprise is even able to train new engineers from scratch via these methods, providing some of its top performers from the production line with the chance to diversify and further their careers with tailored education programmes.
“It’s a concept that we’ve taken from our parent company,” adds Velfl, “offering employees from all walks of life with the chance to become middle or even top management. It’s an effective Japanese culture that we’ve adopted within our European operation.”
Be it training, production, innovation or differentiation, Futaba’s proven ability to excel over the past 15 years has facilitated its establishment as a key player in the Czech Republic’s thriving auto manufacturing market.
As such, having now firmly arrived, the company’s future ambitions remain both realistic and ambitious, aimed at achieving further consolidation and growth over the coming years.
Velfl positively concludes: “In terms of revenue we will grow, and in terms of expansions we’re considering the extension of our manufacturing and storage facilities. But the keyword for us right now is sustainability.
“Many other companies in the market are worried about stability, where drops, declines and contractions in the market have caused hardships in the past. We’re thankfully prepared for such eventualities, and we’re focussed on ensuring that we can continue to succeed and maintain our employee base should this happen.
“I can certainly say that we’re optimistic. We have many new projects being prepared, and are operating across a number of different segments, giving us flexibility and security moving forward.”