Is it possible in just 12 days for a Bulgarian plant to reorganize its production and switch from components for the automotive, electromechanical and cosmetic industries to the production of the highest class of safety goggles and helmets? The answer is: Yes, Arexim Engineering in Smolyan managed to do just that. But how?
Born out of deficiency
When a shortage of protective equipment against the coronavirus for Bulgarian medics emerged in March, during a meeting with scientists and business representatives, Minister of Economy Emil Karanikolov urged anyone to start producing them. Prof. Georgi Todorov, Head of the 3D Creativity and Rapid Prototyping Lab at Sofia Tech Park, saw that as a chance to put the acquired professionalism into practice and immediately formed a team to develop safety goggles and helmets. The imported ones were Chinese-made, but had many drawbacks. And before scientists started making prototypes, they discusses with medical professionals who are using foreign analogues what characteristics the new product should have. And in just two days everything was ready.
Being First on the Old Continent
Arexim Engineering has been operating for 20 years and these safety goggles are the first product of thier own. They are a “child” of the pandemic, but they will not become unnecessary after its end, as they could be widely used beyond medical establishments. There is no such manufacturer across Europe. The last ski goggles factory on the Old Continent was in Italy, but moved to Vietnam nine years ago. Now, however, with this product, the Smolyan company can enter new markets that were completely unavailable until now. The high quality safety goggles will be patented. The intellectual property is owned by a team that includes scientists from Sofia Tech Park, the Technical University of Sofia and two representatives of Arexim Engineering.
Speed is crucial
"Rapid prototyping technologies help create new products for the market in no time. They are tested before being put into mass production. This technology is also useful when it is necessary to make a single product or a product in small series, tailored to the specific requirements of the customer. In emergency situations, the subcontractors may be left without orders, then they either stop or seek new opportunities”, commented Prof. Georgi Todorov. If they have ideas for new products, rapid prototyping comes in handy because in extreme circumstances, the time from idea to market is crucial. Prof. Todorov's team is technologically and not product specialized. This gives the lab access to a wide range of businesses that have come to understand that, in times of such transformations, innovations and their rapid market launch are key to success.
Landmarks in the dark
Safety goggles are a product born out of the good synergy between the state, scientists and business. Just at the right moment when it was needed, everything was provided. In a crisis situation, most companies do not have the courage to deal with something completely new and let the flow carry them away. However, Arexim Engineering managed to look through the fog of the pandemic and is now a good example of a risk paying off. They have learned the lesson that the Bulgarian industry should strive for higher added value, which would bring it closer to the heart of the markets instead of standing at the bottom of the chain. Here is one of Prof. Todorov's conclusions: “The crisis opens short paths to large markets that are otherwise inaccessible. Innovative products with high added value will give Bulgarian companies an edge in the new competitive reality.”
There is a way
The pandemic locked many doors but opened new windows. The most entrepreneurial ones will find a way out of the situation, others will suffer the consequences. Now is the time for Bulgarian business to discover new territories through new niches in which to offer solutions. Once again the time of the most inventive, ready to jump into the unknown, has come.
Ако сте харесали статията, можете да се абонирате за страниците ни във Facebook и Twitter или да използвате нашия RSS фийд канал, за да не пропуснете нищо интересно от Economic.bg.
Повече четете в бр. 96 на сп. "Икономика"