A strong team
Shelves, containers and frames — Retailworks manufactures everything that retail shops need to display their goods. This Romanian company views its tasks in a very pragmatic way — and always has the right team at hand.
A table, a rough sketch spread out on top, a note with the customer’s requirements, and a few select employees gathered around. This is how a new product is often created at Retailworks. The company, near the Romanian town of Cluj, attaches great importance to ensuring that the people who work on a solution are exactly those who are the most familiar with the material — regardless of their positions in the company. This tradition stems from the company’s initial phase.
Strength through trial and error
At the outset, in 2006, a four-man team launched production with a TruPunch 1000 and a simple press brake. The goal: producing high-quality products used as the interior fittings for retail shops: shelves, brackets, holders. On board at that time was Tudor Muresan, now the manufacturing manager at Retailworks. “In the first few weeks and months we did a lot by trial-and-error. We received an order and then we’d puzzle over the thing until we figured out a way to make it to specs. That was when we learned that good ideas often crop up in teams.” At the beginning the parts were relatively simple and everybody went home at the end of the shift. But based on its excellent products, Retailworks soon received more and more orders and those jobs became ever more demanding. To satisfy these new assignments, the company hired new employees and invested in new machines — first a TruBend 5050, then a TruBend 7036, and finally a TruLaser 1030 and a TruBend 5130. “Since the TruPunch rendered such good service when we started, we built everything around it and stayed loyal to the TRUMPF brand,” Tudor Muresan explains. “Especially the fast and highly productive TruBend 7036 and the laser helped us to make production more efficient and flexible.”
Now at 5,000 products
Today 40 people are on the staff at Retailworks — 30 in manufacturing and assembly, the rest in administration and engineering. In addition to shelves, the company has long since produced more complex parts — for the presentation of bicycles, balls or hats, for instance. “Our specialty is the equipment stores use to present their goods and, today, we manufacture far more finished assemblies than in the past.”
Retailworks has developed more than 5,000 products like this in past years. Here, the company is not so much interested in the size of the batch or the customer. It simply accepts all the orders that come its way. In this way Retailworks is running three shifts today and, since the beginning of 2014, does so in a new leased hall that is three times as large as the old facility.
Adding value in its own plant
But that was hardly enough. “We sought to continuously develop our own company,” says Muresan. “That is why, by the end of the year, we will be building our own plant, perfectly aligned with our needs.” A powder coating system is to be installed there, making it possible for Retailworks to cover a larger share of the value addition chain in its own house.
“Only if we have a process right here in the shop can we monitor the costs and the quality completely,” Muresan explains. But even if the company continues to grow, Muresan and its team intend to stay on a pragmatic road, illustrated by the example with the drawing on the table. “The more the team members are involved, the better they feel on the job,” Muresan notes. To make sure that assignments continue to be exciting even for long-time employees, every operator at Retailworks is trained on at least two different machines. Not only does that make for variety in the work. It also helps the company to better compensate for absences due to illness and vacations. The coherence in the team also makes for a good operating climate. “New associates are usually the neighbors or members of local community. And so I can say that ‘We are one big family’ with every justification.”
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This article was first published in Summer 2015.