In the summer there was some shooting here. We had to start from scratch, says the Vojtech Vagner |

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In the summer there was some shooting here. We had to start from scratch, says the Vojtech Vagner

In the summer there was some shooting here. We had to start from scratch, says the Vojtech Vagner

The new director of the Louny wagon works Vojtěch Vagner tells us that there is a hope to have a healthy company with a billion turnover within a year. Even at the beginning of the holiday, however, the prospects looked pale: hundreds of people were left unpaid, and the police had to disperse the feuding parties with warning shots as they fought against each other with a machete in hand. However, this was still under the former tenant, the Legios Loco.

Then, however, the traditional Czech wagon works was rented from the liquidator by a group belonging to the holding of the arms manufacturer Jaroslav Strnad, now belonging to his son Michal – the CSG. The company led by DAKO-CZ and the new boss managed to resume production and give people the pay.

Although you started as a new boss a few weeks ago, your personal history related to the company for quite some time...

I worked here for four years in the past. I started as a buyer, and over the time grew to the position of a procurement and logistics manager. By the way, the first thing I dealt with was to buy toilet paper. And then office supplies, like A4-size paper. Then I assumed the position of a head of the sales department, but when I realized what difficulties the company was running into, I left.

What made you take the offer to come back and take over the factory in a situation that was definitely not roseate?

The fact that I really like the factory. For me it's a matter of the heart. Perhaps it is not entirely right to take it so personally, but I wanted the people who have been working here for years to keep their jobs. These are not employees who come through labour agencies or spend a couple of months here and then go on somewhere where they are offered five hundred crowns more. Whole generations and whole families work here. So, when I got the offer, I didn't hesitate and took it.

What have you achieved in those few weeks in office? At the reception desk, I noticed a poster saying that since the 2nd of September the canteen has been running again.

See, to provide for that was almost the most important thing to do.

Perhaps in addition to the pay the employees receive again, right?

Yes, it is true. The situation here was poor indeed. The important thing is that we managed to stabilize the factory and calm the employees. Of course, people were very scared of what was happening here, whether it was night shooting or the fact that there was a fight with machetes. It was a shock to them. Then they stood in front of the closed premises and could not enter.

Also, attempts were made by the former tenant to enter the premises and barricade themselves in the building. No wonder everyone perceived it very badly. People were afraid and said: So, I will come to work tomorrow and there will be someone with an axe, just for a change, and come after me? And I don't blame them, the fears were fully justified. My main objective was to win back as many of the former employees as possible and give them jobs. And that I managed. As I say, these people have been working here for thirty years, for example, and they want to stay for another ten years before they retire.

Moreover, everyone knows each other because Louny is a small town. So, getting them jobs was the very first goal. And fortunately, it worked out well very quickly. We launched our recruitment campaign in early July. I do not even understand how it happened that in such a short time we took over almost 90 percent of employees of the former company, as it was very difficult for recruiters in such a chaotic situation.

As far as I know, they didn't even hand over any documentation to you, so it wasn't clear how many people and in what positions they worked in, was it?

Exactly. We signed the lease of the company in the second week of July and for the next two weeks we were frantically trying to get at least some of the staff documentation. I understand that the former tenant did not want to give us things needed for production or accounting. And we didn't really want that. But not having any of the staff documents is bad.

We just did not receive anything, and we had to start from scratch, for example by telling people: Come, we will be happy to take you, but you have to bring your original contract, your salary assessment or at least the payslip, let us know that you were really employed here, and we will gladly give you a job. In the first fourteen days, I felt sorry for the HR people, they worked twelve-hour shifts.

Now then, do the employees receive the remuneration regularly?

Yes, actually for the first time, as we paid out only an advance during the holiday season due to the lacking HR documentation, as I mentioned earlier. Nonetheless, I believe the following fact contributed significantly to the trust of the people that the wagon works would rise from ashes and that they would receive their pay regularly, and the reason is the following: we are connected with Tatravagonka Poprad, which is together with the CSG the owner of DAKO-CZ, and we are an affiliate site of DAKO-CZ.

In short, there is a strong financial group behind our back, that is why people were not afraid they would lose money and came to work here again. They believed we would build on the history and tradition of a good business.

So, you can't even tell how many people worked here then? Compared to the situation you have today?

Today there are about 420 people, which is, and I am only guessing, about ninety percent of those who worked here before. Of course, I do not include agency employees; there were about two hundred of them working here previously, again an estimate. We plan to employ approximately 150 of them by the end of the year.

As for the orders, how did the handover of production go? Did you take over anything from the previous company? I assume you have your own production program, including its guarantor…

We couldn't take over the work in progress because those things were processed according to the Legios Loco certification. We didn't even have a legal right to do it. We were very careful to do anything about things that belonged to another company.

Everything that was here, and the liquidator withheld as she had the lien, i.e. the right to retain possession, we took to warehouses, whether they were items related to production or inventory, and we provided for having our own orders.

Was it easy?

Thanks to our partner wagon works in Slovakia. They had contracted many orders and did not have the capacity to produce. Consequently, around the tenth of August, we began repairing freight cars for the Czech customer, the ČD Cargo. Now we are about to hand over the fortieth car. In other words, the repairs are running; as for the production of new railway cars, we started only in early September. And we will be at a hundred percent utilization of production capacities in about a month.

How many cars does it mean?

About 40 finished cars and about a hundred in progress. Production must rise gradually, it cannot be in full swing overnight. We did not take over a functioning factory, but we started from scratch.

Without a single screw or a nut?

Exactly so. We had to buy all materials again, so this year we will naturally finish in the red. This is also due to the fact that you first have to have the parts: the preparation process takes a month and a half. To manufacture a car takes the same time and invoicing takes another month. So, for four and a half months you have only generated a negative result. However, I am not afraid of the future. We already have three times more demand than we can satisfy next year.

It seems logical since you are one of only three similar businesses in Europe, right?

It is true. Therefore, we feel the demand from the market already, and we have barely started. Look, Tatravagonka Poprad is the largest in Europe in this type of business, and yet it is not able to satisfy all customers. That means we definitely plan to expand our production capacity so that our two companies can meet the demand.

Do you have any plans to expand your production portfolio?

Certainly not. We will focus only on what we already know and can do.

What will be the financial situation of your company next year? What's your plan?

Of course, only positive… But seriously. Our plan is to get into the black next year, and it is realistic. I sing point at the turn of August and September exactly.

Next year, we should finish in the black by a few millions, not as it is now, that is a few millions in the red. In any case, our goal is to have a billion turnover every year, which means a profitability of about a hundred million a year, as the margin in this business is about 10 percent.

And do you plan to make some other investments next year in addition to increasing your production capacity?

When I took the job, I spoke in person to at least a hundred people. And I told everyone what we wanted to achieve and asked everyone what they needed and wanted to change or improve. I remember all of that to such an extent that if my wife wakes me up at night, I still can tell her all about it. Obviously, as long as we are only tenants of the premises, not the owners, making investments can be a bit of a problem. Nevertheless, I expected that workers would be unhappy with the cranes and other machines and would ask for robotic or automated lines and new technologies to make their work easier. But no. All of them were saying: new roads.

And when you think about it, you will understand. The factory area is huge, the rough roads made of concrete blocks are really bad, and the volume of internal transport is high. So, we will have to invest in roads, but there is an issue: it is quite difficult to calculate the return of such an investment...

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