Issue April / May 2007
Sapa is built for success
Sapa Aluminium Sp. z o.o., a Polish subsidiary of Swedish Sapa AB, which belongs to ORKLA ASA of Norway, specialises in producing value-added products based on aluminium.
The company dominates the European market in developing and supplying aluminium profiles and components, mainly for the construction and building industries, using a range of surface treatments and manufacturing methods.
The company is part of international engineering company the Sapa Group, which was founded in 1963, and each operating division within the group occupies a prominent, leading position in its sector. Profiles North and Central Europe together with Profiles South and West Europe, and also Profiles North America form one of the world’s leading suppliers within the market for extrusion and value-added manufacturing of aluminium profiles.
Sapa Aluminium Sp. z o.o., has expanded significantly since it was founded in 1993, with just one extrusion press and an anodising plant, to become the second largest manufacturer of aluminium extrusions in Poland. It manufactures anodised and powder coated aluminium extrusions, as well as machined aluminium components.
Managing director Peter Arendt says: “We started operations in Poland 14 years ago and have grown from a greenfield investment to become relatively big in Polish terms. We have two sites in Poland – the major site is in Trzcianka with three presses, two anodising lines and a manufacturing unit for components, and the powder-coating plant opened in Lodz in 1999. Today, we have around 700 employees and a turnover of 75 million euros.”
Sapa liaises closely with customers, lending its expertise to its clients’ development of solutions. “Our customers are largely in the building and construction sector,” Peter explains. “I think that over 50 per cent of our products are intended for applications in those industries, based on all kinds of aluminium profiles such as shower cabins, furniture, lamps and other objects used in interior design including decorations and furnishings. Owing to our successful growth strategy implemented over the last five years, we have also been able to expand into the automotive business, telecommunications and general engineering.”
In 2005, plans began for Sapa to add a third press to its Trzcianka plant at a cost of 4.7 million euros, creating 50 new jobs and doubling the annual capacity of the plant to 24,000 tons of aluminium extrusions. The development enables Sapa to press larger profiles of up to 280 mm in diameter and expand the anodising and fabrication capacities, therefore strengthening Sapa’s position in the Polish market. It has further plans to establish Sapa Components in Lodz to concentrate on component production for the automotive market.
R&D is integral to the continued success of the company and each division works together to strengthen the company’s operations. “R&D is very important in terms of introducing new methods and that’s an ongoing process,” says Peter. “We have an R&D unit in Sweden, which is available for all members of the Sapa Group, and we maintain close contact with every division in terms of introducing new products and providing support. We have to be at the forefront of the production and application of aluminium profiles.”
Later this year, Sapa will be merging with Alcoa, the world’s leading producer and manager of primary aluminium, fabricated aluminium and alumina facilities. Alcoa serves, among others, the aerospace, automotive, packaging, and commercial transportation industries, which will broaden the range of Sapa’s customers. Peter explains: “Both groups are very well matched, yet do not overlap, and when the new joint venture Sapa Alocoa is in operation it will be the world’s number one producer of aluminium extrusions in soft alloys. This will provide enormous possibilities to acquire more international customers, though we will continue to act locally as Polish customers are important to us. The increased size of the company will provide huge possibilities to synergise and increase technical possibilities.”
To ensure manufacturing efficiency, the Sapa Group employs an in-house program called Genesis Development, which focuses on continuous improvement throughout the business and is a modified version of the Toyota production system. Peter explains: “The system includes basic tools like 5S and Kaizen and encompasses all internal functions from administration to production so although we have different divisions, we have a benchmark within the group.”
Sapa’s main strength lies in its skilled and qualified workforce, which is at the heart of its success. “We are well known for good quality and as a reliable business partner,” comments Peter. “What we promise, we will deliver. Our strength is our motivated, ambitious staff that are engaged in responsibilities and committed to the company. You can buy machines and computers but still it is the people that do business. They attract new customers, negotiate contracts and offer our services and products so it is the people who are the driving force behind Sapa.”
Products: Aluminium extrusions and components
Sites: Trzcianka and Lodz, Poland