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YFAI Trencín to secure benchmark certification

By Simon Warburton | 20 October 2017

YFAI engineering director and site leader for the Technical Centre in Trencín, Ivan Kebisek

YFAI engineering director and site leader for the Technical Centre in Trencín, Ivan Kebisek

Yanfeng Automotive Interiors' (YFAI) says its Trencín Technical Centre in Slovakia is due to receive common European benchmark certification within weeks as it looks to capitalise on testing capabilities.

The site in Western Slovakia was upgraded earlier this year after benefiting from EUR802,000 (US$947,000) in Slovakian government grants, bringing total investment in the plant to more than US$5m.

YFAI's Trencín site is now one of the supplier's three Slovakian operations, with the others being an interiors manufacturing plant in Námestovo and a regional automotive business centre in Bratislava.

The laboratories in Trencín have been upgraded and equipped with testing chambers this year and now serve as the company's centre for analysing automotive interior components in Europe.

"We have started with real testing for our customers – almost all our equipment is fully utilised," YFAI engineering director and site leader for the Technical Centre, Ivan Kebisek told just-auto on the sidelines of this week's (17 October) Central and Eastern European Automotive Forum in Prague.

"We have extended [our range of] equipment and just recently started to use it. We already made some system audit approvals so we had authorisation to run tests in the facility. We have [also] been participating on a common European benchmark where there were almost 40 laboratories.

"We have been part of the exercise with very good results [and] will get some certificates in two weeks time. It is usual to have these certificates, it is not mandatory but we can use it as part of our competencies."

In parallel to that activity, YFAI has also been in contact with the Slovak National Agency in Standards, which will offer official accreditation.

"You can live without that, but if you have it, the customer simply has to accept the test result," added Kebisek.

A continuing challenge of operating in Central Europe, an area which comprises the Visegrad countries of Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, is access to labour, the scarcity of which is gradually driving up wages as all four countries search to man their burgeoning factories.

"Recruitment is one of the challenges," noted Kebisek. [The] labour market in Slovakia started to shrink. We were able to hire people but we need more and it is not fast. I am still confident we will be able to grow.

"Wages are increasing 7% in Slovakia, that is definitely the trend. I can confirm Czech Republic and Slovakia are not low cost countries. The advantage of Slovakia is we can offer very high productivity for reasonable cost."

Slovakia produces more than 1m vehicles per year and with the coming of Jaguar Land Rover, there will be a least another 180,000 so the demand for labour is clear in a relatively small geographical area.

During the past few years, YFAI has been strengthening its presence and technical capabilities in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), with the Trencín centre conducting durability and material tests for automotive interior components and products, including instrument panels, cockpits, door panels and floor consoles.

The engineering equipment includes new chambers and technical devices, for component performance testing in safety, durability, environmental effect, vibration, appearance, materials and emissions. Extreme conditions with temperatures ranging from -40°C to +120°C, climate variation cabinets, UV-light resistance and weathering tests, sun simulation and ageing tests, can be used for equipment parts evaluation.

The capabilities in Trencín also feature universal testing, 3D surface scanning, motorised scratch and odour verification. The primary departments at the Trencín Technical Centre are product development, benchmarking, engineering quality management (EQM), material data management, CAD-applications, product change management, SMTE and the use of 6 Sigma processes.

In addition to its Technical Centre in Trencín, YFAI operates a plant in Námestovo where door panels, floor consoles and other automotive interior components are manufactured and an Automotive Business Centre in Bratislava. This supports the company in finance, IT, purchasing, sales, human resources and programme management.

This is in addition to production sites in Pápa (Hungary), Žatec (Czech Republic) and the new plant currently being built in Planá nad Lužnicí, also in Czech Republic.