Interview with managing director Jakub Kejduš
„We feel optimistic about the possibilities that digitalization and automatization bring.“
(Interview for „Litovelské noviny“ newspaper, issue 7-8/2021)
When construction workers started digging at a new site in the Nasobůrky industrial area, everyone was asking, what is it that they are actually building there. One of the theories (that especially children wanted to be true) was that it will be a McDonald’s restaurant. Eventually, this theory proved to be wrong, as the building turned out to be the new home of Technotrade company. Can you tell us about what is it that you are doing?
Simply put – we make different kinds of machines move. In other words, we design systems solutions for machines that are manufactured by our customers. Those would most often be smaller or medium-sized companies that produce agricultural, forestry, construction or maintenance equipment. There are three main areas that we focus on – mobile hydraulics, control systems and machine electrification. That means that we can help the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) work out how the various parts of the machine should function, so that ultimately the machine operates as it is supposed to. Additionally, we can support them with developing software for full control of the machine and deliver it together with modern electronic control devices such as displays, joysticks or radio remote control. Finally, our third main area of focus is electric drives. Much like in case of the car industry, the off-highway equipment segment is experiencing a rapid increase of demand of e-drive solutions. All that said, we will probably disappoint the children from Litovel area – we do not have any burgers or fries at Technotrade.
You have mentioned that one of the areas you focus on is integrating electric drives into machines. Can you tell us a bit more about this topic?
As I pointed out, trends in the off-highway industry are often following the ones that are currently dominant in the automotive industry. One of the major trends, besides the use of electronics and intelligent software control, is replacing the internal combustion engines with electric drives. Generally speaking, we are confident that for manufacturers as well as operators, the electrically powered machines offer more benefits compared to the ones with diesel engine. With the high-capacity battery packs that are available today, it is no problem for the electric equipment to be working a full day. Moreover, thanks to its quiet operation, working hours of an electric machine can be extended if needed, since there is no issue with the noise limits. And of course, we cannot forget about the big advantage of emission-free operation which reduces burden on the environment. To name a few specific projects, we have recently helped to develop a fully electric version of a skid steer loader or electrically powered garden woodchipper. Another exciting challenge was delivering drive system for an electric pit bike designed for training of professional riders.
Modern technologies are becoming internal part of our lives and as I understand it, digitalization and machine modernization are quite important part of your business. What will all these trends bring to us? Is it fair to say that in a few years, there will be machines and cars going around us with no humans steering them? Is that our future?
You are right, modern technologies have become inherent part of our daily lives, both at work and at home. As an engineering company, we feel quite optimistic about the possibilities that digitalization and automatization bring. We see a significant potential in them and consider them opportunities that can help us to improve labor efficiency and productivity and eventually boost the whole economy. Together with one of our technology partners, we are currently working on several projects that involve autonomous equipment. Off-road autonomous vehicles represent one of the areas that we are very enthusiastic about. Autonomous equipment and vehicles do not need to be operated or driven by human – the car, lawn mower or agricultural equipment is moving and working entirely on its own. This is possible thanks to a sophisticated control system and a set of sensors, radars and cameras that are constantly scanning the surroundings. I am sure it will still take some time before these machines are fully introduced into regular operation. But to get back to your question: yes, I think its is very likely that in near future, we will get used to seeing driverless vehicles around us on a daily basis, be it on the road or in the field.
Why did you decide to move out of the city of Olomouc to an industrial zone next to a small town?
The reasons are quite simple – our former building in Olomouc was no longer suitable for us in terms of office and storage space, which is why we began to look for a piece of land that would fit our new office building and warehouse. Since we were not able to find any reasonable option directly in Olomouc, we decided to look further away. After searching for a couple of months, we finally decided that the lot in Nasobůrky industrial area is the best option. The main pros were good accessibility from Olomouc as well as strategic position just next to a motorway exit. Even though the lot was not originally a municipal land, we appreciated a very helpful approach of the city officials and other authorities, thanks to which we were able to finish the construction relatively quickly and with no major issues. It might come as a bit of surprise but moving to the Litovel area was actually welcomed by a lot of our colleagues. Even though we had been based in Olomouc for thirty years, many of our employees live near our new address, which means their commute is now shorter.
Can you describe your typical customer?
If we talk about designing systems for machines, the vast majority of our customers are OEMs. Typically, these would be Czech or Slovak companies that manufacture forestry, agricultural, construction or municipal equipment. However, we have also co-operated with companies from other European countries as our ambition is to expand internationally as well. Apart from engineering solutions, we offer professional hydraulic repair services and sell wide range of hydraulic spare parts. We act as a supplier for both service centers and individual farmers or forestry workers, who need to repair or replace a faulty component on their machine.
How many systems do you produce in a year? How long does it take to design a system solution for machine and how many people are involved?
In average, we finish between six and ten projects every year. The number differs from year to year and depends, among other factors, on the timing of long-term projects. Usually, we spend between six months and a year working on a specific project, but this time frame can vary. If we talk about developing a truly complex system, which includes hydraulics, control system and electric drive, there is usually a team of three to four mechanical engineers and software designers working on the project.
You are a family-owned company with thirty years of experience in the field. Nevertheless, is it still difficult for you to maintain your position within the market?
Even though we have been able to build quite a strong position on Czech and Slovak market, we are definitely not resting on our laurels. Trends and technologies in engineering industry are constantly evolving and it is crucial for companies like ours to stay on top of them or even influence their formation. For the past few years, we have considered the segments of autonomous equipment and electric or hybrid drive to be one of the key areas to focus on. That is also why we are very active with projects that involve either one (or both) of these innovative features. Besides, we are very grateful that we have been able to build a strong long-term relationship based on mutual trust with most of our customers. That allows us to plan in a longer time frame and make sure that we effectively work together and introduce innovative technology solutions that help the machines to stay ahead of their competitors.
How do you think is the Czech machinery industry perceived within the global market?
I believe that the Czech engineering tradition has been able to maintain a good reputation both in Europe and worldwide. There is a number of small and mid-sized manufacturers, who might not be that well-known by general public but produce some state-of-the-art machines and equipment. Every year, I see a couple of new machines being introduced to the market that can easily compete on European and often even global level in terms of functions and features, product quality, and technology used. Looking just at our portfolio, there are several outstanding Czech-made machines and equipment working in forestry, construction, or military segments. It is no surprise then that apart from European countries, our customers frequently export their products to North and South America, Middle East, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, or Australia.