The founders of Apple started their business in the garage, and SECO/WARWICK — in the stable. Both companies were created by enthusiasts and at the beginning nothing heralded the success.
The state-of-the-art solutions developed by SECO/WARWICK are used by the tycoons and forward-thinking companies in the following industries: automotive, aerospace, chemical, atomic power and by many other companies taking advantage of heat treatment systems. Its equipment is used to develop, inter alia control systems, heat exchangers, drives, landing systems in aeroplanes, turbines or blades of aircraft engines, coins, medals and tools. The company distributed 3.5 thousand pieces of its equipment in 70 countries on all continents. Its history proves that enthusiasm and determination of young people may lead to a remarkable success, but it also shows the importance of a stroke of luck.
It all started in the historic year of 1989, when two young men decided to start their own business – Trans-Vac. The company was supposed to deal with transformer construction.
They had redecorated the stable themselves and adapted it to industrial needs. But manufacturing of transformers did not fulfil their engineering ambitions. In the meantime, they had been also working on the construction of their first vacuum heat treatment furnace.
— The furnace was finished, but the piece still needed to be presented to the world. And back then it was not a simple task, especially due to the fact that the furnace was not small and it was difficult to transport — recalls Katarzyna Sawka, Marketing Director of SECO/WARWICK Group.
The best place was the Poznań International Fair, but it was impossible to transport the furnace from the stable. And, in the end, there was just an advertisement in the fair catalogue.
— If it was not for the coincidence and a stroke of luck, the furnace would probably still stand in the stable. The catalogue fell into hands of the sister of Janusz Kowalewski, employee at SECO/WARWICK USA, whose task was to find a business partner in Central Europe — says Katarzyna Sawka.
The businessman was also the founder of Elterma – a company which previously employed the founders of Trans-Vac. The Americans announced their visit in the stable.
— Luckily, the company also bought a nearby barrack, which served as a guest room. They rapidly found an English speaking assistant, brought a coffee machine from home and entered into negotiations in these austere conditions — says the Marketing Director of the current SECO/WARWICK.
Andrzej Zawistowski, Witold Klinowski and Janusz Gudaczewski impressed their guests with their determination. The furnace itself caused a stir too. This is how the joint-venture company of SECO/WARWICK and Trans-Vac was established in 1991. It adopted the name of the American company which is used to present day.
— However, it was not easy at all. This was the year when the Warsaw Stock Exchange was established, and the year when the first email was sent in Poland — recalls Katarzyna Sawka.
The communication was not easy but we succeeded. Back then, nobody would have assumed that several years later – in 2005 – the Polish would take over half of the shares of the Americans in the company and a new chapter in the company’s history would commence – a history that is still being written.
Many events had preceded the takeover of shares from the American partner. In 2002 the company purchased the intellectual property of the British Camlaw Ltd. A year later it acquired Elterma S.A., and in 2004 it established a Moscow service and sales office. Upon the takeover of the American company, SECO/WARWICK quickly embarked on expansion in China, where it entered into a joint venture with a Chinese Tianjin Kama Electric under the business name of SECO/WARWICK (Tianjin). Next the company took over half of the shares in Retech – a world-leading California-based company specialising in vacuum metallurgy.
— The company was growing world-wide. And its founders have always been visionary. That is why the company entered the German market, and last year – the French market. This year saw the establishment of a company dedicated to professional services — says Katarzyna Sawka.
Technology is continuously developing. In August Microsoft announced its Augmented Reality Tech based on the state-of-the-art independent smart glasses unit – HoloLens. It would seem that this technology had nothing to do with heavy industry, but it was introduced by the company under the name of SECO/LENS.
— This is the first application in Poland and one of the first applications in the world to be used in industry. As a result we will cut manufacturing and maintenance costs, streamline and facilitate diagnostic processes. Probably no-one could have foretold that smart glasses, which were previously associated with the world of computer games and 3D technology and not with metallurgy, would be shortly put into practice — smiles Katarzyna Sawka.
It changes the view of lay people on the furnaces, which were traditionally associated with heating and baking. The SECO/WARWICK’s furnaces are used to heat treatment of metals. There are as many technologies used to heat treatment, as there are metals.
— Thinking that heavy industry is dirty is a mistake. Everything can be done remotely. Modern solutions, are not about one button or one switch. That is why the word “furnace”, which denotes the profile of our activities, is unfortunate – it does not mirror the level of technological advancement, as well as the involvement of experts in automatic control engineering and robotics, designing engineers, programmers, experts in mechatronics, materials and heat treatment engineering. At present the “brain” of the furnace are rows of computers hidden within huge control cabinets, which may be operated with the use of a tablet or even a smartphone. If we add Microsoft smart glasses — HoloLens, to it, you can imagine the technological advancement of this solution. It is impressive not only to the customers, but also to ourselves — adds Katarzyna Sawka.
The customers of SECO/WARWICK are tycoons of automotive, aerospace, military, tool and energy industries. The main strength of the company is the fact that it is up-to-date with the state-of-the-art technologies.
— We have our own R&D department, which, among others, conducts unique research, performs full metallographic tests, develops acquired and purchased technology, and in collaboration with product departments, it creates solutions by implementing the state-of-the-art scientific and technological innovations. We use our own unique research results, we have our own metallographic laboratory which was launched in the middle of the year — says Katarzyna Sawka.
The company also cooperates with universities: Lodz University of Technology and Institute of Electronic Materials Technology in Warsaw. This collaboration resulted in the development of two different technologies leading to the same outcome — furnaces for the production of graphene, which may replace the silicon. Both academic centres have already benefited from this technology. — We spend a lot of money on the research, though nobody really associates research with heavy industry. Soon we will launch this technology officially — says the company’s representative.
At present the success of the company is shouldered not by only two enthusiasts, but by a thousand of them spread worldwide and with half of them located in Poland. Nearly 60 percent of the staff are engineers specialising in various fields: constructors, experts in automatic control engineering and robotics, metallurgy, materials science, machinery construction, electronic engineering and electrical engineering. Their expertise forms the foundation of remarkable solutions used by both huge concerns and... mints. Medals won at the Olympic Games in London were also made in the SECO/WARWICK furnaces.
The Polish market is rather small for the company. It is bound to conquer the world. Today 80 percent of the production constitutes exports to regions such as Russia, China, India, the U.S., France or Germany. The product offer, as well as particular products and even the marketing strategy are customised to various markets. Preparing an offer tailored to a particular market is an important skill too.
SECO/WARWICK is a brand with more than 25 years of experience, the symbol of innovation and reliability among customers in 70 countries. A local company with its registered office in Świebodzin, which is well-known to its customers and operates world-wide, but remains unfamiliar to a regular Polish person. It is a “hidden champion”. It delivers high-quality solutions in the field of metal heat treatment, which are tailored to the needs of key economy sectors, such as energy, machinery or automotive industries. The company’s name may not be as well-known as the names of companies offering its products to consumers, however, probably in our day-to-day activities we use goods and services manufactured thanks to the use of solutions developed by SECO/WARWICK.
Being one of few Polish companies with the status of a world-leading manufacturer, it fosters the “made in Poland” brand internationally. This all proves that businesses based in Poland are reliable suppliers of robust, technologically advanced solutions with a high-added value. They may successfully compete with enterprises from countries, which are traditionally associated with reliability and high-tech.
SECO/WARWICK stands out thank to its well-planned and consistent marketing strategy, enabling the creation of a cohesive, professional image of the company among existing and new customer in various markets. This business communicates well also outside its target group. It cooperates with scientists, its business partners include academic centres and research institutes from Poland, the U.S., Germany and China. It also cares about the dissemination of knowledge and shares its experience with the youth. The company’s management highlights, that the expertise of SECO/WARWICK’s employees is the most important driver for growth and company’s competitiveness, thus it focuses on the development of present and prospect employees by cooperating with technical and regular secondary schools.
Corporate Banking Director, HSBC Bank Polska S.A.