by Bozhidara Geogieva

Only the best is good enough for the company that engineers, produces and exports aluminium profiles to all corners of the globe, from New York to Singapore, and is a long term partner to prestige automakers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi

George Mentzelopoulos.jpg

Quality, innovation and a dedication to offer the best to the demanding international markets are the core principles of ETEM Bulgaria. A Greek company established in 1971, the ETEM Group entered the Bulgarian market in 1999. Today, it is a major producer and employer of more than 500 people. ETEM engineers, manufactures and distributes aluminium profiles for facades, windows and doors; produces aluminium components for the international automobile industry; develops and produces profiles used in a range of other industries, from construction to bikes to furniture. The company's Sofia plant is equipped with state-of-the-art machinery. The company not only manufactures according to customer specifications but constantly invents and experiments in new technologies meeting the ever-changing requirements of the international markets. The company's products are distributed all over the European and world markets, making the story of ETEM Bulgaria a story of true success.

The CEO, George Mentzelopoulos, arrived in Bulgaria in 2008 and started working for ETEM in 2010. He also holds the position of Deputy Chairman of the Hellenic Business Council in Bulgaria, or HBCB, an organisation dedicated to the expansion of business between the two states and supporting Greek investments in Bulgaria.

Why did ETEM arrive to Bulgaria?

At the time the company wanted to expand outside the Greek Borders to the Balkans, and Bulgaria, as a neighbour country, close to the central European markets, was the obvious choice. It was a successful decision. We started the plant in Sofia from green field, and in a very short period we managed to establish a successful company, new certified aluminium systems, and a completely different approach that was new for the Bulgarian market at the time. In 1999, but also today, it was the business friendly economic environment that influenced ETEM's decision to settle here.

Is Bulgaria still a good place for production like yours?

Bulgaria is still a good place for investments, although in the past few years we experience a difficulty to find enough specialists for our growing needs. It is not only us. According to a 2016 National Statistics institute report, production companies  in Sofia, Plovdiv and a few other major cities experienced labour shortages of up to 25%. Last year, the unemployment rate in Sofia was under 3%, so the labour market right now is very difficult.

ETEM is always looking for well educated professionals, people with degrees from Bulgaria or abroad. Our production facilities are high-tech. We need qualified staff, able to operate the state-of-the art machinery we have in our plant.

ETEM is deeply interested in research in energy efficiency. What is the future of the field?

Innovation is part of our culture, of our mentality. New technologies and products are a way of life for ETEM. The global trend now is to reduce energy consumption as much as possible, to improve the energy efficiency of every building. That is why we develop and present extremely complex solutions to satisfy the highest requirements in terms of architectural systems with thermal break.
Currently ETEM is part of a 3.5 years research and innovation project – InDeWaG (Industrial Development of Water Flow Glazing). Universities, research institutes and industrial partners from Germany, Spain and Bulgaria join forces together to develop on industrial scale a new façade system for near Zero Energy Buildings (nZEB).

The project concentrates on industrial production of standardized FFG ("Fluid Flow Glazing") façade and partition walls used for heating and cooling. The unique approach of InDeWaG is in the same time to enable maximum use of daylight by a transparent glass façade while meeting the nZEB performance with decreased production costs. Within the project a FFG Demonstrator building will be built in Sofia in the beginning of 2018 and will be accessible for the wider public.

How do you guarantee the quality of your products?

All architectural systems that we develop are certified in Germany and other European countries. This is a significant investment for us, in the past 25 years we have spent millions of euros in the certification of all new types of products that we have introduced to the market. This makes ETEM different from most of the companies on the Bulgarian market. When you buy a window, a system from ETEM, or you decide to use ETEM for a building, everything that we deliver is fully certified. We also have the only certified painting facilities in Bulgaria.

All products we deliver, come from the plant, in Sofia, Bulgaria, produced by Bulgarian employees, with the use of the highest level of technology. Everything we offer to the market is certified, with guaranteed quality.

We just passed our annual ISO/TS16949 audit for the automotive production. Every year we are audited by Lloyds on the production, quality, safety, HR, finance, purchasing, IT, systems.

Quality is our main priority.

Who are ETEM's partners in the luxury vehicle industry?

We, a company based and producing in Bulgaria, are one of only five approved direct suppliers for BMW. We also work with Mercedes and Audi. And we have established these connections in competition with 700 other manufacturers. Our products are in cars that are already on the market, like the new BMW's series 5 and 7, in any new model of Land Rover, the Jaguar SUV, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, the new A4, Porsche Cayenne, VW Touareg. The parts used in these cars are all produced in the same facilities and by the same team that is responsible for your new windows.

How much of your produce is exported?

More than 80 percent. Our main markets, mainly because of the automobile segment, are Germany and the UK, but we export to all corners of the globe.
We have company affiliates in Romania, Serbia, and Greece. Our products are sold all over the world, we sell architectural systems in USA, Canada, Africa, Asia, Turkey and many other countries.
Technologies and systems produced in Bulgaria are spread all over the world, including some of the most demanding markets.

ETEM also created the facade of Bulgaria's first skyscraper, Capital Fort?

We are very proud that the developer gave us the opportunity to produce this kind of systems and to deliver an amazing product. The modular facade system was developed and tested by us, specifically for that building. Two years after completion, the performance of the facade is excellent. I am confident that in the near future ETEM will have the opportunity to deliver similar products to buildings under development in Bulgaria. We possess the know-how, we have the systems, we have the team and the technology. And everything we offer is produced in Bulgaria. It is important to encourage local production, when it is of the highest quality.

As a deputy of the Hellenic Business Council in Bulgaria, how do you see the position of this organisation?

It is very important. It is very helpful and useful for Greek companies entering the Bulgarian market. It helps them to start their business here, but also to help Bulgarian authorities understand the culture and the needs of Greek companies. The goal is not to move companies from Greece to Bulgaria, but to develop the business between the two countries, to create new opportunities and to expand existing ones. The HBCB helps Greek companies to expand their business here and helps to create the necessary environment to do more, and to attract more companies in the country. It is good for both countries.

For me, as the CEO of ETEM it is very important  to support the local economy, the country and the companies in it. I hope that consumers and developers understand that when the product is local and it is on a world standard, they have to support it. ETEM is offering exactly this. Tailor made products, of the highest quality and great solutions which are already certified.


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