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GIDA TEKNOLOJİSİ (Food Technology) – November 2009

SAFKAR marches toward new objectives
The automotive industry is restructuring throughout the world in a process that’s said to be securing the future of manufacturers in the emerging markets along with those in the global market. Suppliers providing basic industrial systems to the automotive industry gain greater importance as their economic magnitudes and organizations grow. Some of the original parts manufacturers lead their suppliers in turn to growth as they employ advanced techniques in creating new products. Quality assurance systems and just-in-time production methods are introduced into production processes. R&D departments and test centers are established. With its refrigeration and climatizing systems that provide comfort to passengers and durability to cargo by combining electrical and mechanical systems, SAFKAR presents a good example to the industrial lifestyle of companies. Aspiring to become one of the leading brands in extended Europe and the Middle East for mobile climate control solutions, SAFKAR created its dedicated complex of technology, production, and facilities over a twenty-year period. Restructuring for its new goals upon becoming part of the Abaş Group of companies in 2009, SAFKAR set to work under its new general manager Doruk Aydın whose plans include further strengthening the chain of supply, expanding the service network on a global scale, and ensuring that SAFKAR actively stands by its customers as a partner in the development of projects and technology with its competent R&D team.
A leading brand in air-conditioners and transport refrigerators for commercial vehicles and in solutions for rail systems, SAFKAR aspires to regional leadership. Restructuring in the aftermath of its acquisition by the Abaş Group this year, SAFKAR became one of the 18 companies nation-wide that were picked for an appraisal of their potential to serve as an R&D center – and the only one from the Izmir area to qualify for this certificate. We talked about SAFKAR’s story with General Manager Doruk Aydın.
Dazzling the industry with its frigorific systems, commercial vehicle systems, climatizing solutions for rail systems, and special applications for ambulances, military vehicles, and construction machinery, SAFKAR challenges European and American manufacturers with its annual production capacity of 15,000 devices. Launching a growth effort upon joining the Abaş Group, SAFKAR inspires confidence in its customers with its rapidly expanding distribution and service network in Europe and the Middle East not to mention its R&D center manned by 60 engineers and technicians.
Could you tell us about SAFKAR in its restructuring process in 2009?
SAFKAR is a success story that would make Turkey proud. It’s a brand that has proven itself on a European scale in twenty years with its R&D center and its dealer organization in an industry populated by very few manufacturers. We manufacture in three segments in our industry. The first is air-conditioning systems that are used for greater comfort in passenger transportation. Our second segment, the frigorific, is an area where we work more closely with the end users and supply products directly to individuals and fleets. This is a segment that caters to the cold chain requirements of the retail chains, one where the object of the cooling is not passengers but foodstuffs that are susceptible to higher temperatures during delivery. We have a deep portfolio of products in this segment, too. Our third segment is rail system transportation where we produce solutions for trains and light railway systems. We rely on our R&D strength and project development capability in doing these. In general, each segment is dominated by a certain manufacturer. SAFKAR, on the other hand, has proven itself with its product portfolio, quality of service, and competitive power in all of these segments because we have an R&D and test center approved by the Technology Development Foundation of Turkey (TTGV) and the Scientific & Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) that’s manned by 60 engineers and technicians. Our competitive power and R&D assets enable us to expand our market share in different segments.

SAFKAR picked up considerable momentum upon the arrival of the Abaş Group. Would you tell us how this happened?
SAFKAR moves on toward its goal of attaining a better and more effective position on the market as a company of the Abaş Group and I’m at SAFKAR as a part of this move. We set out with great enthusiasm for the purpose of getting a stronger position mainly on the European market utilizing SAFKAR’s existing potential. SAFKAR has an established product range and an accumulation of primarily thermodynamic know-how amassed over the years. It has an infrastructure allowing the manufacture of a variety of products and a trusted chain of supply. With the spread of the cold chain, air-conditioning and climatizing are becoming a must rather than a necessity. With new regulations in place, our customers in the private sector are insisting on box manufacturers, bus companies, and minibus operators to provide this equipment. This is a growing trend. This is not an easy task because your job is not over when you finish building the product. It’s essential that you stand behind your product and maintain a strong service network. We’d like to rapidly expand our dealer networks in Europe and the Middle East. We’ll have established a spare parts and business development center in Germany by the end of this year. Besides our R&D strength, we want to build a viable corporate culture that satisfies the expectations of our customers in terms of both culture and vision. As long as we can do this, SAFKAR’s success will be permanent and we’ll keep growing in an expanding market. We’d like to grow in markets like Greece, Malaysia, Bulgaria, and Iran in addition to Turkey in the field of rail systems. We’re going to continue growing in the years to come both geographically and in terms of expertise and new customers.

You’re not confining yourselves to Turkey but setting regional goals. Where does SAFKAR stand in Turkey?
Yes, we at SAFKAR are not confining ourselves to Turkey. We’re looking at the broader picture of the regional market. We’re one of the major manufacturers in Europe and the Middle East; therefore, our markets are Europe and the Middle East. We just delivered our 1,000th transport refrigerator to Iran. I can say we dominate the Turkish market with a 70-percent share and will continue to do so. We’ll be adding new devices to our product range in the near future. Today, SAFKAR is the undisputed choice especially in cold chain applications and in the market chains thanks to our range of products that have been performing at the highest level for years. We work logistically and directly with innumerable brands –Ülker, Pınar, Sütaş, Migros, BİM, CP Piliç, Eti, İkbal, Yorsan, Eker, Aytaç, Namet, Turkish Airlines, and Netlog to name a few. I must also point out that we don’t stop at developing a product; we keep working hard on research and development to take its performance and features one notch higher. We now have an ongoing R&D effort, for instance, on the use of Datalog in frigorific products. When it comes to after-sales, our teams listen to customers’ problems on site and work out solutions on site. We view the knowledge thus gained as an opportunity to improve our products.

We know you also have large export volume and a strong after-sales network. What do you have to say about those?
Regarding dealership infrastructure, we’re poised to do quite well in Eastern Europe and the Middle East but we also have shipments going as far as Malaysia. As of today, our direct exports account for 10 to 15 percent of our production. A significant portion of the products we service in Turkey is actually a part of our international traffic. We aim to expand our after-sales organization rapidly and leave a footprint at greater distances. We enjoy some serious competitive advantages in Europe. We have 96 service centers in total and 60 of them are in Turkey. Our goal is to become as effective in Germany, Italy, and France as we are here in Turkey. That is the key to success. Standing confidently behind your product after you sell it both makes for a more easygoing sales process and paves the way to an enduring association with your customer.

You work with big-name brands in the food industry. What is it that makes you a supplier of choice for them?
The existence of a company like SAFKAR is Turkey’s good fortune. Giving our customers the chance to develop projects is another advantage of ours. We boast an R&D capability that’s fast and flexible enough to modify products depending on the specific requirements of use. We don’t stay put; we work shoulder to shoulder with our customers in order to produce alternative solutions. Regarding the cold chain, we provide – and will continue to provide – all kinds of support to build an awareness in our customers and our customers’ customers. We train our dealers and service centers in Turkey and abroad in detail on the industry, our products, and key checkpoints. Another important distinction of ours is that we do not deny after-sales support to our customers’ customers because transport refrigerators are a major cost item and an absolute requirement as far as the food that’s being hauled is concerned. It’s money on the line and it’s more crucial than passenger comfort. You cannot take any chances on those products. So, what leads people to prefer SAFKAR? Peace of mind.

What makes you different from your competitors?
There are manufacturers of European and USA origin that have historically dominated the market in Turkey and Europe. We stand out as an ideal solution when the reliability of our products, their performance, the confidence we inspire, and the support we provide our customers after sales are combined with our competitive power. Our greatest advantage is that we both keep track of technology and create it. We are a progressive company in that sense. Even though there may be other manufacturers in the same segment as ours, our ability to differentiate rapidly affords us the status of a market leader and a major manufacturer on a European scale.

What about your expectations of the coming year and your investment plans?
We will devote the year 2009 to restructuring and completing our organizational preparations. One of our priorities is to carry our R&D capability farther. The second is to achieve a more effective spread across the market. This will come about through our dealer organizations and the importance we attach to after-sales. The third is to make our chain of supply stronger still. We’re planning to complete our distribution center that’s under construction in Germany by the end of the year because we want to be more active in that area in after-sales. As for 2010 and beyond, our plans are to raise SAFKAR to the magnitude it deserves by bringing out more effectively the strengths that give us an edge in every segment we operate in.