We spoke with Falko SCHMIDT, CEO of Winoa’s Europe Region to learn more about the company's plans for this exciting new venture:
What inspired the decision to open the Winoa Tech Center Central Europe in the Czech Republic?
WINOA operates its own Tech Centers world-wide since more than two decades to develop new products and to allow customers to test Winoa’s product portfolio in a “safe” environment without interfering with their daily operations. In our Europe Region, we are already running one Tech Center, collocated with our biggest plant in Le Cheylas, France. In order to reflect also the increased demand for services in engineering, application trials and digital tools of customers located more in the Central / Eastern European perimeter, we have decided to establish a second Tech Center in the Czech Republic, Prague area. This Tech Center will be an important pillar of our Growth Strategy.
What types of services and technologies will the technical center provide?
Despite covering all applications for our standad Steel product line-up, this tech center will focus on providing an environment to allow customers to explore the breakthrough technical characteristics of our W Abrasives Stelux™ stainless-steel product line. Further we will develop new products and service, together with our customers. A further enhancement compared to the existing tech centers will be the offer of "Blasting-as-a-service”. Specifically smaller, and in a second step medium size customers have the possibility to let Winoa take over their complete blasting process. Another aspect where our tech center plays an integral role in Winoa’s value chain. In later stages, we will further increase the scope to “Peening-as-a-service” to reflect the increasing demand and development regarding lightweight materials
How does the Tech Center contribute to Winoa's objective of delivering sustainable solutions?
The tech center plays a crucial role in supporting our mission of providing sustainable abrasives and solutions. By offering comprehensive testing and practical training, the center enables customers to transition towards more eco-responsible blasting solutions and abrasives, minimizing the environmental impact of their operations. Through risk-free trials, the center also helps customers confirm the tangible benefits of changing media, allowing them to optimize their processes for improved efficiency, reduce abrasive, energy and maintenance consumption and, ultimately costs.
What is the timeline for the center's construction and when do you anticipate it being fully operational?
The official inauguration of Winoa’s tech center in Prague will take place on June 1st, 2023. We are already booked for customer trials in quarter three and four this year with selected customers to trial and validate all processes. Full blown operation is planned for the first quarter 2024.
How does the Tech Center work with customers and distributors to help them optimize their shot blasting operations?
It all starts by understanding the individual blasting process of our customers. That’s why all our sales teams, as point of contact to our customers, are technically skilled. In most cases, we actively propose changes and optimization, not only regarding the used product, but also regarding the used blasting machines. Very often, this results in defining and executing a tech center campaign. During this campaign the use of new products, the definition of new products or even changed processes will be executed, without interfering or risking the normal operation of our customers.
What role do you see the technical center playing in the broader industry?
As mentioned before, the tech center allows customers to trial our either new products or their own engineered products and services in a safe environment. In a way, providing a framework as an outsourced field application development center for our customers. Extremely interesting in my view.
Can you tell us about some of the innovative solutions or products that will be developped at the Tech Center?
Of course, without being to specific, a main topic will be the development and try out of new products for lightweight constructions.
Does the future Tech Center will support local students and talent development in the region?
Definitely Yes. It is our goal to attract talents by the help of our tech center. Again, one of the reasons why we decided for the greater Prague area as location for our tech center. And, by the way, collocated with the tech center you will find the new home for our complete Czech organization, as we moved the Czech headquarter to the same site.
How does the Tech Center collaborate with other Winoa offices and teams around the world?
All Winoa tech centers worldwide are integrated in the overall Winoa organization and structure. This is specifically important to keep being flexible. We consciously decided not to have tech centers with stand-alone purposes. Location, however, is of course a factor, specifically for our Sales teams, which are the single points of contact for our customers and hence are at the helm when it comes to organizing a customer trial activity. That’s why we always try to find locations in the proximity of customer or industry clusters. A second topic worth to be mentioned is that tech centers are seen as hubs. And as such, the local tech center team is primarily focusing on machine maintenance and all topics to be covered to run the tech centers efficiently, in addition to their product expertise. Depending on the nature of the customer trial or other conditions, members of our WApplication team, a team of senior technical experts within Winoa, will be included and participate in the corresponding activities.
What are your plans for the future of the Tech Center, and how do you see it evolving in the years to come?
Despite further focusing on product optimization and product development, we will strongly focus on areas like providing “Blasting-as-a-service” and “Peening-as-a-service”.