THE COMPANY
FERRO-PREIS
Classic Foundry Turned into Modern Component Supplier

In the last year, the Čakovec-based company operating within the Austrian Preis Group has been transformed into a manufacturer of components with higher added value for the European industry. It already possesses the world’s most environmentally friendly and currently most efficient smelting technology

Author: ALEKSANDRA BRZIĆ
aleksandra.brzic@lider.media

Original File in Croatian

While returning to Zagreb from Čakovec early that afternoon, I had the urge to eagerly exclaim: “People, they’ve been lying to us that there’s no industry in Croatia! There sure is, and then some – there’s heavy industry here!” to anyone I encountered on the way. I visited the Ferro-Preis factory, the former Čakovec Foundry, soaking up images of furnaces, smelters, hot cast iron, workers in silver protective suits and visors servicing machines as if I had stumbled onto the set of the movie “Armageddon”. Smoke was rising into the air, it was unbearably hot, drops of iron melt were flying around, it was loud, cranes were carrying glowing boilers hung on large iron chains that ended in even bigger hooks. I was so excited I was unable to focus on the production process; I was looking around in wonder as if I had fallen into some parallel universe of some reality that I did not know existed until that moment, at least not in Croatia.
I feel a certain admiration for production, when the ideas of creative individuals, just like Plato described, descend from the world of ideas into the real world, when they are given form, value and meaning. I remember everything, stepping into the facility, the helmet and protective suit, which didn’t bother me at first, but towards the end of the tour it got hot and I could hardly wait to get out in the open air and take off my protective clothes, albeit it was hot even outdoors, even though it was mid-September. And then I remember the fact that twenty percent of foundry employees are women, whom I also saw with my own eyes, and I think about what it’s like for them to be in full combat gear and work for eight hours, not to mention the workers who are in the immediate vicinity of furnaces where iron melts at 1500 degrees Celsius! And my job, which everyone in the world considers to be stressful and tiring, seems like a fairy tale I want to stay in forever.

A Diverse Product Range
Ferro-Preis General Manager Marijan Nöthig and his closest associates took us on a tour of the facilities, during which Lider’s photojournalist and I were constantly taking photos, him with his professional equipment, for the needs of the press, and me with my mobile phone, to have something to remember this by. So, I had to call Nöthig once again after leaving to hear about the production process for a second time. It all starts with the smelting of iron, raw materials used are pig iron, i.e. iron ore, and scrap industrial iron, most often from shipyards. After smelting it for 45 minutes in two furnaces, each with a capacity of four tons, the melt is poured into pots that are transported along production lines. One produces pipes, the other smaller castings up to 15 kilograms, the third castings up to 150 kilograms, and the last one makes small batches of products weighing up to two tons. The castings are poured into sand moulds, after which they are sent for grinding, where machines apply the final touches. Afterwards, they are sent to subcontractors for further processing and painting, i.e. surface protection.


It all started in the 1960’s, in the facilities of what was then the Čakovec Foundry, which operated as part of the Varaždin Foundry. Since 1991, at the beginning of the Croatian state transition, the company has been wholly owned by the Austrian Jägersberger family and thus a part of the Preis Group based in Pernitz, Austria, and has been continuously growing and developing ever since.

Relationship with the Owner
One third of the production program of Ferro-Preis relates to the production of cast pipes and their fittings, which they sell under their own brand throughout Europe, from Portugal to Siberia and from Iceland to the Middle East and North Africa.

MARIJAN NÖTHIG:

Annual production capacities vary, but mostly amount to 15 thousand tons in terms of smelting, whereas the production of castings of grey and modular cast iron is 10 thousand tons, and the production of pipes three thousand tons per year. When it comes to the segment of iron pipes and drainage fittings, they are one of only three manufacturers of such systems in the whole of Europe.
Ferro-Preis exports more than 90 percent of its production, which percentage varies depending on the year and the contracted projects.

Problem-Solving Culture
Their 2019 revenue amounted to 125 million kuna and was record-breaking. In 2020, they expect a revenue of more than 120 million, which is at the level of 2018 and which, given all the circumstances and the situation with the pandemic, they consider to be an excellent result. Profits in recent years have ranged from three to six and a half million kuna and are being continuously reinvested. Production takes place in two shifts, and on Saturdays if needed. Ferro-Preis has about two hundred employees, of which more than 170 work in production and departments directly related to production.

New Investment Cycle
In recent years, they have been working on the transformation of the old classic foundry into a modern supplier of higher value-added components for the European industry, which operates according to the principles of Industry 4.0.

“Lider”, 25 September 2020