A Driving Force for Good
Slovenia’s Domel has been manufacturing electric motors for use in a variety of home, automotive and industrial applications for seven decades, the cooperative defined by its sustainable, responsible approach to business
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Callam Waller
“Looking at the current economic situation in Slovenia, as well as the domestic and foreign forecasts of economic trends for 2020, the situation before the coronavirus was exciting due to the technological advances in front of us.
“These are, first and foremost, aimed at the digital transformation of companies, internationalisation, and encouraging domestic and foreign investments. The most encouraging trend for us is electrification and e-mobility, where we see our core competencies as crucial for further development and growth of our business.”
Matjaz Cemazar is certainly optimistic when it comes to Domel’s future prospects.
Despite the uncertainties created by COVID-19, which has swept across the world, the CEO is at the helm of a company entering a progressive chapter of its development.
It is Slovenia’s leading manufacturer of motors, operational since 1946 and based in the small municipality of Železniki, a region just northwest of the capital city Ljubljana which the company has been a key community pillar of for more than 70 years.
“Domel grew out of the Niko metalworking cooperative, which was established by 16 local people and named after its driver and founder, Niko Žumer,” Cemazar says, recalling Domel’s heritage.
“Using machines acquired and converted from a craft workshop, the cooperative started the production of recording device mechanisms. The volume of work rapidly increased, and the number of employees grew – by the end of the first year there were already 59 cooperative members.”
Domel is still employee-owned, with more than 1,400 staff members and a revenue of €153 million recorded for 2018, the year Cemazar became CEO.
Indeed, he has been engrossed in the company’s innovative activities ever since he joined the firm’s renowned scholarship scheme in 1996, moving to the group full time as an electric motor designer after completing his master’s degree in Ljubljana.
Fast-forward to the present day, and Domel stands as a global manufacturer of electric motors and innovative partner for research and development of cutting-edge technology in the field, with production sites also in Serbia and China on top of its four in Slovenia.
And its product portfolio is vast. From cleaning technology, heat and ventilation systems, and industrial and laboratory applications to medicine, automotive, and e-mobility solutions, Domel’s motors serve a variety of use cases which can be divided into four key categories – consumer, industrial, automotive and medical.
With manufacturing units certified according to ISO 9001, ISO 13485, ISO 14001 and IATF 16949 standards, the company’s solutions are oriented towards special applications where advanced technologies are needed.
Cemazar begins by outlining the consumer market. “Many Domel products are used in household appliances,” he says. “The household industry places high demands on quality and cost of products, and we are fulfilling these demands successfully.
“The cornerstone of our consumer product portfolio is the vacuum cleaner motor (VCM), and in this field we are the biggest independent European manufacturer. Our VCMs cover a large spectrum of powers and air performances, and these products fulfil all the customer requirements for different end products.
“We are able to manufacture most compact and lightweight VCMs with high durability on the one hand, and on the other we concentrate on energy label motors, where low power and high efficiency come to the fore.”
VCMs also form an important part of Domel’s industrial portfolio – more rugged versions designed to withstand challenging conditions, wet and dry, with some models carrying a lifespan of up to 20,000 hours.
The company also produces a range of EC (electronically commutated) motors for gardening equipment and power tools, while its industrial portfolio of EC motors serve a wide range of applications in pumps and air compressors, able to provide energy savings thanks to their very durable qualities.
The same group of motors are also influential in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, used for plug-in fans, axial fans and single inlet centrifugal forward or backward curved fans, their energy-efficient qualities again being a defining characteristic.
“The main purposes of HVAC systems are to help maintain good indoor air quality through adequate filtered ventilation, and to provide thermal comfort, at the highest energy efficiency possible,” Cemazar explains.
“A comfortable indoor climate, whether in private or commercial buildings, is by no means a luxury. Rather, it has lasting positive effects on the entire human organism. In offices and at home, Domel motors in HVAC systems work very quietly and around the clock if necessary.
“HVAC systems are also among the largest energy consumers in buildings. If the operating costs can be reduced, profitability can be increased and HVAC becomes more environmentally friendly. Domel’s new EC motors guarantee high energy savings, reduce payback time and fulfil IE5 efficiency standards. Energy saving is our mission and responsibility to the environment.”
Cemazar goes on to describe how such energy saving principles are applied in the company’s activities geared towards the mobility and automotive segments.
Not only is Domel the cofounder of the Slovenian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform (SIHFC) and Research Centre for Hydrogen Technologies (RCVT), it also has products present in the growing e-mobility market.
For example, it has developed and industrialised a central drive for e-mountain bikes which is powerful enough to overcome the steepest mountain trails, reliable enough to survive extreme downhill conditions and efficient enough to ensure a long charge life.
Beyond electronic bicycles, Domel’s automotive division specialises in the development, design and construction of special drives aimed at the industry, its organisational structure allowing it to respond flexibly to individual customer requirements.
Domel can produce electric motors from customer specification to the final product inside one company. All core motor elements are produced in house: lamination, insulation, shafts, windings and assembly. Besides electric motors, Domel also offers motor components and BMC components.
Automotive and e-mobility
And we should not forget about tradition in automotive either, which dates back to 2003.
Indeed, Domel has for more than 10 years been in strategic partnership with leading Tier 1 automotive customers.
The automotive division is aimed at the markets of electric water pumps, electric oil pumps and electric air conditioning compressors. With integration of overmoulding with advanced materials into production processes, Domel is developing applications that can withstand different environmental conditions and, with this integration, the firm has become a trendsetter in the field of electric motors used for water pump and oil pump applications.
Its future strategy in the automotive segment is to upgrade product levels to electric drives and mechatronic systems.
“With the help of various simulation techniques, we can design the right drive for any application,” Cemazar says. “Domel’s DC and EC motors, as well as stepper motors, have a number of concepts built in that open the door to innovation in the automotive industry.
“Our motors are developed using state-of-the-art tools, offer a high utilisation rate and are adapted to each specific application. Given the high utilisation rate, they are an excellent solution for hybrid and electric vehicles.”
A community custodian
Underpinning all of Domel’s activities are a set of values which have helped it to excel over seven decades. These are: creativity and ambitiousness; responsibility and economy; respect and cooperation; care for customers and employees; and belonging.
They feed in to what Cemazar believes stands Domel apart as an organisation – its unwavering commitment to environmental and social responsibility in its operations, not least in the way it has served as a community stalwart in Železniki.
Following the closure of mining activities in the early 20th century, the establishment of the cooperative provided a lifeline to the local area when it set up in the 1940s, the company now its largest employer and key contributor to social security.
Indeed, the CEO himself is a typical example of the long and rewarding careers Domel can offer.
“Employees are motivated towards the successful performance and development of the company, and are loyal to it,” Cemazar says. “We have well-trained and competent workers who benefit from further training and acquisition of skills, and despite our relatively remote geographical location, we do not struggle to find talented people.
“The innovations that the company gains through the constant process of motivating employees generates new opportunities in the global market, and keeps us competitive and attractive for capital investment.”
Health and safety, harmonisation of family and work life, and equal opportunities regardless of gender and religion are all vital focusses for Domel, which also collaborates with education institutions and helps to fund technical education of local children.
Looking ahead to a sustainable future
This commitment to social responsibility is equally apparent in the firm’s approach to environmental stewardship.
“Consumers desire high-quality products and services that match their purpose and are appropriately priced, high quality and manufactured responsibly,” Cemazar continues. “We develop products that are innovative and highly energy efficient, and such products ease the burden on the environment through their low energy consumption.
“Further, our products are not hazardous either in use or after they are no longer in use, and our technological processes do not involve hazardous substances, materials or radiation that may threaten human health in the local and wider area.”
Crucial to the environmental credentials of Domel products are leading-edge components, especially when it comes to durability, efficiency and weight – key factors in a product’s level of sustainability.
This prompts the CEO to highlight the indispensable role played by the company’s supply chain network and group of dedicated suppliers, both local and international.
“Our products generally perform better and are lighter in mass than those of our competitors,” Cemazar says. “To achieve this, we rely on first rate suppliers who we have the greatest confidence in. Innovation through the supply chain is therefore very important, and our relationships are strategic in that we work together with partners from an early stage in terms of new ideas.
“We share in each other’s success, and some of our partnerships date back 30 or 40 years, just as we are a long-term, reliable partner to our own customers. In athletics terms, we are a long-distance runner, not a sprinter.”
This is not to suggest that Domel does not encourage a competitive procurement process. Indeed, the firm utilises multiple suppliers for most components and adopts stringent quality audits in its selection and quality control processes, often helping smaller suppliers to uplift their operations to certified levels.
In China, for instance, the group has managed a purchasing office since 2005, a setup which continually assesses, assists and develops supplier companies to the required level.
And it is the raising of standards which Cemazar points to as a key component of Domel’s mid-term strategy.
The CEO plans to heighten the value-added offering of the company and wider Slovenian market, as well as enhance internal processes, drive digitisation, grow technical competencies and further evolve the product portfolio.
This will lay the foundations of another successful chapter in Domel’s development, helping it to continue serving as a vital community partner for a great many more years to come.
Cemazar concludes: “Železniki benefitted from the cooperative when Niko Žumer and 15 other locals set the organisation up in 1946, and ever since it has provided livelihoods to people in the area.
“Domel has become synonymous with Železniki, and long may this relationship continue.”