The Slovenia Times

"Since purchasing the first robot in 2007, we have raised the salaries by more than 100 %"



Today, the KLS Ljubno company has 260 employees, a 15-percent market share on the global scale and a 50-percent share at the European level. Which were the important milestones on this path to expansion?

I started my work in the metalworking industry in Ljubno back in 1972. The working conditions were extremely poor, which meant we worked in shacks and under a hayrack. The milestones were as follows: in the period between 1972 and 1979, we produced simple steel structures and trained employees for the processing and treatment of steel structures. In 1978, we started producing starter gear rings, our main product today, for the former Yugoslav markets. From 1979 to 1989, the company grew, and so did the number of employees. We began vastly diversifying our product range and made technological advancements in steel processing. We also produced machines. In the period from 1990 to 1992, our orders dropped by 90 % due to the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the markets in eastern countries. With 128 employees, KLS Ljubno was in tatters. As a result, the period from 1993 to 1996 was a struggle to survive. We sought new markets and clients in the west, and restructured the company in terms of ownership. In 1997, we shifted our focus to a narrow production and marketing specialization, namely to the production of starter gear rings for flywheels used in car engines. 2000 marked the beginning of an accelerated technological development, machines and the automation of production processes. We implemented targeted leadership to ensure a continuous progress. We commenced the robotisation process in 2007. In 2011, the StraĊĦek company became the majority owner, and then the sole owner of the KLS Ljubno company. In 2016, we began digitalizing all of our business and production processes.

In your production line, as many as 97 % of all production processes are automated and robotised. What was the transition to an automated and robotised production like from the point of view of investments, and how were the employees integrated in this automation and robotisation process?

Automation and robotisation are the keys to an increased production and, consequently, global competitiveness. As we began to specialise in in engine-starting products, among which starter gear rings represent the largest share, we mostly invested in modern machines and the automation of production processes. The first steps were difficult to take, so we started out by making small ones. We created little profit with our business at the time, which meant we had to get indebted to be able to purchase the machines and equipment required to increase our production. This is how we went about our business up until the crisis of 2008. Because we had invested in modern technology and production processes, we were well-prepared for new business opportunities after the crisis hit in 2008. We increased our production and sales, which also boosted the added value. The company debt was redeemed, so we were able to finance the development and investments with our own resources.

Employees contributed a great deal in this development. A vast amount of time and money was allocated to employee training. They sensed that such a progress-oriented business strategy was right for the company and were highly motivated. Since purchasing the first robot in 2007, we have raised the salaries by more than 100 %. A high degree of robotisation and digitalisation in our processes demands highly skilled workers with extensive knowledge. Our average salary surpasses the Slovenian average by 23 %.

The starter gear rings produced at KLS Ljubno are built into the engines of 28 car brands. Can you briefly present your global operations, tell us where your company is present and where else you would like to expand?

KLS Ljubno and our products are present on all the important markets. Our market share in Europe surpasses 50 %, and our global market share equals 15 %. We export 15 % of our sales to China. This year, we will increase our exports to North America. We intend to increase our global market share of starter gear rings in the future.

As the automotive industry is focusing on electric and hybrid motors, we intend to develop and increase the production of products for pure electric and hybrid vehicles, where we are planning to achieve a significant global market share.

What is your leadership philosophy like? Do you think that the leadership of businesses and people is changing with time?

My "leadership" is based on mutual respect towards everyone we cooperate with. This mutual respect represents our business culture, and our entire business policy is based on it. I lead by personal example, set high goals and demand a continuous progress. As people, global environments and values are changing, company leadership must adapt and change accordingly. In being a leader, a situation often arises when you have to test what works best in the given circumstances.


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