Today’s opening of the Yaskawa robot plant in Kočevje was attended by the Prime Minister, Marjan Šarec, and economic development minister Zdravko Počivalšek, along with numerous Yaskawa executives.
Addressing those present, Šarec expressed joy that such a high-technology facility had been opened right there in Kočevje, which had for years been regarded as an undeveloped, backward area that even lacked promise.
For implementing and securing the Yaskawa investment in Kočevje he praised first and foremost the Kočevje municipality and its mayor, Vladimir Prebilič, and in second place the previous government and his predecessor Miro Cerar and Minister Počivalšek, both of whom in his words persevered with the project.
He takes the view that Slovenia and Japan have long-standing good relations, and these relations will continue to strengthen. “Cooperation gives rise to the best ideas,” he underlined. He went on to say that he is seeking similar investments in the future, and also that the country should be able to attract them more rapidly than in the Yaskawa case.
He summed up by saying that in the future, Slovenia and world can be led only by high added value, as is the example of today’s opening of the Kočevje plant.
In his address, Počivalšek first expressed joy that the plant had succeeded in being built in two years and noted that high technology and development had been brought even to more remote Slovenian locations. The example of the construction of the Yaskawa facility is in his opinion proof that Slovenians can work to implement certain things together and even quickly.
The CEO of the newly established Kočevje company Yaskawa Europe Robotics, Hubert Kosler, said at the press conference on the opening of the plant that the new facility would supplement the production capacities in Japan and China and would cover approximately four fifths of European demand for Motoman robots.
The new plant will have an annual production capacity of up to 10,000 robots. It currently employs 50 people, and by start of next year there should be 90 to 100 employees. By 2023 it should be employing around 150 or more, plus around a tenth of that number in development, in other words around 200 people. The facility will produce seven types of robots, added Kosler.
The President and CEO of Yaskawa Europe, Bruno Schnekenburger, said that with the new production of industrial robots Yaskawa is responding to increased demand for them in Europe and in markets of the Middle East, Africa and Russia, and their goal is to localise supply chains and shorten supply times.
This will enable them to respond more rapidly to the needs of the regional market and customers. In Kočevje they are banking on the renewed railway link to Ljubljana, which will afford them a better connection with the Port of Koper, added Schnekenburger.
According to unofficial information from STA, freight shipments will start running along the refurbished Kočevje line in the coming days.
Meanwhile the Regional Manager of Yaskawa Europe, Manfred Stern, noted that Yaskawa’s investment in Slovenia, as well as recently in Germany, France and Sweden, represents a strategic element of the Japanese group’s European initiative set out in the group’s global corporate goals.
Yaskawa selected Kočevje as the first location in Europe to produce industrial robots, and thereby the first such Yaskawa facility outside Asia.
On laying the facility’s cornerstone, Yaskawa executives said that in addition to the production plant, which will manufacture industrial robots, they would also open a research and development centre. In this way they would strengthen and enhance cooperation with local faculties and institutes, with Yaskawa collaborating with the faculties of mechanical and electrical engineering in Ljubljana and also with the Jožef Stefan Institute.
In 1994 Yaskawa Electric took over the Slovenian company Motoman Robotec, which was operating in Germany, and in 1996 in Ribnica they established Yaskawa Ristro, a company manufacturing robotic cells. At the same time Ribnica is home to Yaskawa Slovenija, which manages sales in Slovenia and in the markets of the former Yugoslavia. For the new robot plant in Kočevje, as mentioned earlier, they set up the company Yaskawa Europe Robotics, razvoj in proizvodnja robotov.
The new facility measures 120 by 92 metres, and has a little under 10,000 square metres of usable space.
In May last year, Stern signed a letter of intent with the Slovenian economic development minister and the municipality of Kočevje to set up plants for the production of electric motors and electronic components. These plants should employ up to 250 people, meaning that in total Yaskawa should bring up to 500 jobs to Kočevje.
The investment should amount to EUR 20 to 30 million. Stern said that land for the additional plants should be secured by around April this year. In total Yaskawa will need around seven hectares of additional land in the coming years, and production should begin at the latest in two years. Yaskawa already operates this kind of facility in Scotland, while the Kočevje plants will further boost capacity in Europe.
Production in Slovenia should meet around 75% of the market needs of corporations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, while the country will serve as a central distribution point for the robots that continue to be manufactured in and exported from Japan.
They intend to construct the new facility next to the Kočevje plant opened today.