Our intention is clear: we want to be a big market player in the Balkan area. The Italian style, Lean Manufacturing Tools and the Serbian workforce are a recipe for constant growth.
AUNDE Serbia is a newly opened plant which operates under the AUNDE Group and is 100% owned by AUNDE Italia Group, member of the AUNDE Group. Four years ago, when the company announced its plans to build a new plant in Jagodina, it received strong support from the local and state government.
AUNDE is the largest supplier of textile and covers for FIAT cars. “In the beginning, the business climate to start a business with FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) was very good”, says Annino De Venezia, General Manager AUNDE SRB d.o.o.
Mr. De Venezia arrived to Serbia in 2015 with his wife. A year later, his son was born in Belgrade. “You can imagine that without a good environment, not only the business one, I could not be relaxed enough to do my job”, say De Venezia.
In the beginning, he was keenly aware that people had doubts about foreign investors. “We live in a small town where people meet each other every day at shops, or in town centre. About four years ago, AUNDE was just one of the foreign companies here, with about 200 workers working for FIAT”, says De Venezia. “People were not that enthusiastic. They thought that because AUNDE was a foreign investor, it came here to do business only for few years and then leave. Everybody thought that. After the second year of recording good business results, AUNDE became a big market stakeholder, having 800 workers. Jumping from 200 to 800 employees, in about three years, has impressed many other market stakeholders and competitors. A lot of workers started to value the fact that they had a stable job which was something that they had not experienced in the past”, Mr. De Venezia explains.
The Municipality of Jagodina has recognized the big effort made by the stakeholders of AUNDE and as a result, gave the company the Captain Miša Award. Last year, the Serbian branch of AUNDE won the Leonardi Prize of the CCIS (the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce). “That was another way to say thanks to AUNDE. We, from AUNDE Serbia, are very proud of these awards”, says De Venezia.
After an additional investment in capacity expansion, what is the production volume in your plant in Jagodina now and what are your future plans?
– In 2017, AUNDE expanded its manufacturing plant from 5,000 to 11,000 square meters. In 2015, AUNDE was producing 2,200 pieces (single covers) per day with 4 production lines. In September 2018, we produced 12.000 pieces per day with 15 lines.
Our intention is clear: we want to be a big market player in the Balkan area. Our company is able to reach the targets in terms of quality and productivity, which go hand in hand in our organization. I would say that the Italian style, TPS’ tools and Serbian workforce are three ingredients of a recipe for constant business growth.
Are you satisfied with the supply and quality of the workforce?
– AUNDE needed qualified technicians and blue collar workers. Although Jagodina has a tailoring and sewing school, the work experience here is insufficent due to the fact we use industrial machines very different from the machines used at the school. AUNDE has gratuitously loaned to the school a couple of sewing machines so that the students can be trained properly while some students work with us. AUNDE has opened a sewing school at the company’s premises where new workers undergo training and learn our methodologies.
Finding tailorig technicians was also difficult. It was easier to find engineers who had a proactive approach to learning. I have to say that high schools here have to meet investors’ needs. I cannot see that happening at the moment.
How much did the state and local government subsidies influence your decision to invest in Jagodina?
There were already two Italian companies in Jagodina when we arrived. The local and state government gave us the support we needed and that made our decision easier.
What would be your advice for Italian investors thinking about coming to Serbia? What are the benefits and challenges?
– I would advise Italian companies to come to Serbia. The new generations here know English language, and it is possible to find skilled technicians and blue collar workers who are very fast learners.
There is a also a very good link with the Western European countries. The customs administration works well, and the local and state government constantly support investors.