"We talk more about surfaces no matter what happens. Personalised flexibility – to take that to the next step" - IAC Europe president Jonas Nilsson

"We talk more about surfaces no matter what happens. Personalised flexibility – to take that to the next step" - IAC Europe president Jonas Nilsson

International Automotive Components (IAC) says it did not receive financial incentives to locate its new tailored interiors site in Opole, Western Poland.

The supplier has ploughed more than US$20m into the factory around 90min from Wroclaw, which will cover an area of more than 27,000 m² (290,625 square feet) at its completion.

The facility went from groundbreaking to start of serial production in seven months and is positioned to accommodate further growth.

"There was some training support, but no financial incentives whatever," IAC president Europe and RSA, Jonas Nilsson told just-auto at the Opole plant. "It is the most significant investment ever in Opole – US$20m investment in this plant."

The factory will eventually employ around 550 staff, but IAC maintains it has not been plagued by the same recruitment issues bedevilling some other suppliers in the Visegrad 4 countries of Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic and which have seen wages driven higher.

One of the ways to address staffing issues may be the more widespread use of Industry 4.0 techniques to push efficiency and IAC is lauding the use of such technology, although concedes there may be some, perhaps in organised labour, who might have reservations.

"There are so many new technologies coming on board that take care of functions," added Nilsson. "I think and hope people see it [4.0] as more of a hope, not a threat. We have to embrace technology and get them trained. We have not heard any fear of doing something, quite the contrary, what it can bring to the table.

"Manufacturing 4.0 – that needs to start now. Automisation, digitalisation, that will come faster than anyone anticipated.

IAC Opole will serve as the company's Centre of Excellence for tailored interiors, exploring new synthetic materials with natural leather look and feel, while antiseptic features will be of importance, as the usage rate of vehicles increases with the trend of shared mobility.

"It is not only going to be screens, it is going to be temperature, antiseptic; we talk more about surfaces no matter what happens," added Nilsson. "Personalised flexibility – to take that to the next step and we have not started to understand how flexible it has to be."

IAC is looking to the premium end for its customer base, for example in China, with Nilsson noting growth in the sector, with around 9m top end cars in the next few years, requiring a mix of artificial leather and luxury textiles.

"The China focus will be more aligned with premium OEMs – it is a sign of the companies' trust in European performance and a success recipe for us going global," said Nilsson.

The move towards fully autonomous vehicles is expected to drive demand for handcrafted solutions and integrated electronic functions in interior components and IAC expects an increase in wrapped products globally by 38% from 6m to around 9m in the next three years.

Evidence of Central and Eastern Europe's attraction for companies such as IAC in Opole, can be gauged by next year's opening of the Jaguar Land Rover plant just across the border in Slovakia, where the UK automaker is constructing a 300,000m² factory in Nitra to build a range of aluminium JLR vehicles.

Since JLR confirmed its plans in Slovakia, more than 40,000 people have registered their interest in working at the new plant. When fully operational, the site will employ 2,800 staff and wide scale recruitment will start towards the end of 2017.

IAC's specialities include interior design encompassing door systems, instrument panels, consoles, cockpits and exterior components.

Headquartered in Luxembourg, IAC's 2016 sales were US$6bn. The Group operates more than 50 manufacturing facilities in 18 countries.

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