Fri, 15/03/2019 - 07:05
Catalysing Industrial Innovation
A company established in the Czech Republic over 100 years ago, Wikov Industry today remains a drivetrain of change for Europe’s productive ambitions
Writer: Jonathan Dyble
Project Manager: Thomas Arnold
Manufacturing. A staple global industry and one that has become increasingly fundamental to the success of the European economy.
Take statistics from the International Monetary Fund, for example. According to these, continental manufacturing has enjoyed a prolonged period of expansion over the last two decades, now playing a crucial role in bolstering regional trade and supporting millions of jobs.
Meanwhile, PwC has predicted that the industrial manufacturing and automotive sector will remain one of the highest contributors to European GDP between now and 2022, second only to the consumer goods sector.
However, in an increasingly hesitant and tense economic and political climate, many major industry players are calling for governments to not only better-recognise this vast contribution, but also consider the merits of a manufacturer-first approach.
“In my opinion, more attention needs to be paid to our industry,” states Antonín Růžička, Managing Director of mechanical engineering specialist Wikov Industry. “Europe needs to ease the tax load, more readily implement manufacturing into educational systems, and negotiate fair conditions for international trade with North America, China and India in particular.
“By doing so, local businesses such as ourselves can then accelerate research and the development of hi-tech products and services, something that will ensure Europe becomes a long-term spearhead of global market competitiveness.”
A company that has been ever-present on the industrial manufacturing scene since the First World War, passed down from generation to generation, Wikov Industry to this day remains a leading innovator and key advocate of this outlook.
Starting out as a producer of now-vintage passenger cars, lightweight trucks, buses and agricultural machinery, the company has adapted, currently focussed on the development of gearboxes and precise mechanical components for industry use and for railway vehicles.
“Wikov was a famous company back then,” Růžička explains, “and it remains so today, with diversity typifying our strategy.
“Our portfolio offers a huge range of gearboxes to a wide variety of clients, spanning the automotive, turbo machinery, energy, cement, mineral processing, mining, offshore, chemical, construction and agricultural industries, to name a few.”
Powered by passion
This product flexibility and diversity stands Wikov Industry apart from many of its competitors, adapting its development strategy and innovations in line with the individual needs of its customers.
“Wikov always strives to offer more value to its clients,” affirms Růžička. “To this end, we currently offer planetary gearboxes with comparatively higher torque density, resulting in very compact and lightweight products.
“Moreover, we try to cover a large portfolio of customer needs where possible. For example, we work with railway car builders to provide them with specialised gearboxes for trams, subway and commuting trains, and shunting and mainline locomotives.”
This ethos is reflected in the company’s extensive investments, retaining that high-value, state-of-the-art machinery is crucial to the provision of high-accuracy, high-efficiency products.
“We’ve invested in load testing facilities which we considered to be extremely important,” Růžička adds. “Currently we have dedicated test rigs for high torque wind and industrial gearboxes, high-speed turbo machinery gearboxes and also for gearboxes applied in railway vehicles. Ultimately, testing shortens the time for product development and delivery, while decreasing any risks of expansive and exposed capital equipment.”
Capable of prototyping very specific products in a short space of time, Wikov Industry prides itself on being able to design, manufacture and test each of these within a competitive timeframe and price frame, services that are emphasised through the company’s flexibility in engineering.
“In essence, we are a straightforward managed medium-sized company with a passion for flexible, high-value products,” summarises Růžička.
Wikov’s investment strategy extends beyond just a product emphasis, however, equally recognising its role in helping to bolster national industry.
“There has always been a shortage of skilled staff in our industry,” the CEO reveals, “but we value our people.
“We consider engineering to be the backbone of the Czech economy and recognise the importance of investing in the next generation of industry professionals, not only by providing an attractive workplace environment, but equally through ensuring we work directly with young people.”
To this end, the firm has introduced an education programme for new employees, is investing directly in elementary schools, and has launched a new scholarships project, named Wikov New Generation, that supports students financially.
“Hands on training is an important aspect for students, so it’s something we look to provide directly in our manufacturing plants,” Růžička adds. “We ensure that young people are able to gain realistic experiences at the same time as completing their studies and gaining scholarships.
“For strategic reasons we invest in local communities in these ways, helping to bring us closer to our customers and strengthen our market position.”
This outlook further extends into the company’s wider CSR activities, ensuring it presents itself in a professional, respectable and accessible manner.
Růžička continues: “We do not limit ourselves to commercial sponsorship but also commit to a wider range of activities, supporting a variety of social and professional initiatives. We focus on culture because now, more than ever, it is necessary to engage in recreational activities and entertainment to achieve a better work-life balance.
“In addition, we engage in a variety of charitable activities.”
A vigilant approach
All things combined, Wikov is actively bolstering its position on all fronts, remaining proactive in the face of global pressures by emphasising improvements in efficiency and productivity.
To this end, innovations and investments will be defining for the business during 2019, as Růžička explains.
“I expect the company to begin developing a very complex modular system which will enable us to offer a large portfolio of customised industrial gearboxes in a very short time and for a very reasonable price,” he says. “We also aim to design a new super high-density planetary gearbox for ultra large size wind turbines.”
Driven by industry trends that are largely centred around the rise of new technologies and the growing market entry of new competitors, this strategy stands to keep Wikov at the forefront of the manufacturing industry, despite the uncertain climate.
Providing forecasts for the coming year, Růžička concludes: “Looking ahead, I expect railway vehicles shall have a good future, especially in city transportation and commuting trains, while I expect there will be growing standardisation, improved manufacturing efficiency and integrated electronic intelligent systems.
“Equally, I hope there will soon be greater opportunities in regard to both renewables and in heavy duty applications that have been neglected for a few years.
“However, these things aside, the overall situation may well be dictated by increasing protectionism and potential trade and business wars.”