Interview with Tomasz Zaboklicki
President of PESA Bydgoszcz SA
What does branding mean to you?
It is a process that - let me emphasize it immediately - never ends. Otherwise, it can lead to self-satisfaction and consequently - decline. The most significant, though not the only, pillars for branding include: quality, innovativeness and flexible response to the market needs. Perhaps number one and two are common to many companies, irrespective of the industry. We treat them as keys to being competitive. Likewise the third pillar, characteristic of PESA, distinguishing it from others: listening to the expectations of customers, meeting their individual needs, is a recipe making it possible for us to effectively compete even with the largest players of the world’s extra class.
Diesel multiple units produced by PESA are one of the first vehicles in the world meeting the
requirements of four crash scenarios. What does it mean?
For the employees of the company it is a proof that it is worth to invest in development, rely on innovation and in spite of only several years’ old rolling stock design and production tradition, quickly compete with powers known for decades. Whereas, for our contractors it is a specific argument in the battle for contracts - one of the market advantages of PESA. Four crash scenarios make it possible to meet the highest standards of safety. If we are ahead of others in this area, it means that safety as a priority is not just a marketing slogan in our company but it is a part of our everyday life.
PESA is famous for consistent launching of new products in the market. For instance, it is a Polish
pioneer in the production of intercity multiple units and double-decker carriages…
This is the effect of our flexible approach to market expectations, sometimes even making it possible to create and anticipate them. On the one hand, it provides a chance to win new contracts. On the other hand, however, it is a challenge sometimes very difficult, even painful and problematic but it is profitable on the whole as it stimulates development and extends our offer. Only in 2015, apart from long-distance IC trains and push-pull double-decker trains, we also produced other, completely new vehicles: the longest tram in Poland called Krakowiak, bi-directional Jazz tramways for Warsaw and Gdańsk or another generation of Twist family for Wrocław. This variety is costly. It is often related to the pressure of time but it is worth the effort.
Dart is distinguished by its dynamic design but also nearly all its elements have been designed anew: the bogie, the braking system, and electronics. How did you manage to achieve this?
PESA is based on Polish capital and Polish engineering thought. We have a large research and development department and good relations with the leading research institutes and universities in Poland and abroad. In addition, the role of our customers should be recognised since many design works and then subsequent stages of production and finally internal acceptance, testing and commissioning of vehicles - on our own dedicated site - take place with their participation. In this case we are talking about PKP IC, but also in case of other products we are in contact with the future users. We are delighted that the quality of design of PesaDART was recognised by an international group of experts from whom we received the prestigious IF DESIGN AWARD.
You have mentioned a development department. Competitors can be envy you a design office with more than 200 workers. Is it true that it is one of the largest such offices in Europe?
Initially, when PESA was an independent, private company with an ambition to produce rolling stock, we had less than twenty workers. After eight years, that is, in the halfway, there were already seventy of them. This year we have nearly three hundred employees. We did not make our team larger without any purpose - just to achieve a record-breaking number of designers employed. Simply, the scale of market challenges was increasing - tasks which we previously had not undertaken, new solutions etc. We plan to build a Research and Development Centre.
Thanks to the regular growth of PESA, the company, among other things, has become the world’s
largest producer of tramways…
It was also a process. From Elbląg - the first city that trusted us - to the largest at that time tramway tender in Europe as a result of which we were awarded a contract for 186 Swings for Warsaw. From the first low-floor tramways in Poland, through Swing, Jazz, Twist and Fokstrot family, to Krakowiak - the longest tramway in Poland. Hundreds of vehicles, perhaps millions of kilometres travelled in the largest cities of Poland and in Bulgaria, Russia, Romania and Hungary. We won the contract and in 2016 we will supply 10 Fokstrots to Kiev.
Speaking about Russia, how is it possible that Moscow, the capital city of the largest country in
the world, has no money to pay for tramways delivered by PESA? Is it an effect of sanctions?
Unfortunately, yes. The contract for the delivery of 120 tramways for Moscow is an example of how political international sanctions can disadvantage a Polish company. We won a prestigious contract without any government support - a Polish company delivers high-tech products, that is, Fokstrot tramways - to one of the largest metropolises in the world. Moscow opens the whole Russian market to us and Russian cities in the coming years will buy at least several hundred tramways from us since they need to prepare for the world football championships to be held in Russia in 2018. We have a contract, we signed an agreement in Euro and suddenly, due to sanctions, the exchange rate of rouble drops down. Our contract is no longer profitable for Moscow… We have delivered 60 tramways to the capital city of Russia. They are doing fine even in winter, people have a good opinion of them but the performance of the contract is suspended in connection with the impact of the sanctions on the exchange rate of rouble … We still hope that the situation will change and we will continue the deliveries.
It is a known fact that foreign investors offered to buy PESA…
Yes, we have received such offers – some of them quite recently. These offers convince us that we are going the right way: we have built a strong business based on Polish capital. More than 1800 small and medium-sized domestic companies - our partners and associates have been growing together with us. This part of the market and industry is attractive to foreign competition but we always repeat: PESA is not for sale. We are entrepreneurs and not investors who increase the goodwill to sell the company with profit. We are interested in further growth and strengthening of the position of PESA in the domestic and European market.
Business ethics is now a widely discussed issue. What do you understand by business ethics?
For us business ethics is mostly human honesty, observance of rules and limits of decency. We think about honesty in two dimensions - external and internal one. The external dimension is our attitude towards market competition; we do not accept and we will not accept any price fixing practices, informal market splitting or black PR practices against competitors. The internal dimension is the care for our people. But for our employees, their skills and involvement PESA would not have been successful; our people can be sure about their jobs and our priority at the end of the month is always their salary, taxes and contributions.
What are the challenges and plans of PESA in 2016? Will there be any surprises?
This year, and in particular the first six months, was a difficult time for PESA. There are less
orders since the commencement of projects involving EU funds is delayed again and we need to maintain the level of employment, draw conclusions from the past year, implement changes and prepare the
company for the performance of key contracts, mostly in the German market since in 2016 we start deliveries to Germany. Innovations are challenging, so we make subsequent investments in research and
development and work on new projects - in particular on the next generation of electric multiple units. We received a 24-million grant from the National Centre for Research and Development to design
energy-efficient comfortable metro. I do not want to go into details for the time being but let me assure you that PESA will surprise you many times…