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Article in Industry Europe

09.09.2016

UNIVERSAL SUCCESS

ZMM Bulgaria is one of the largest manufacturers of universal and CNC lathes in Europe and is part of the IHB group, one of Europe’s big industrial conglomerates. Philip Yorke spoke to Emilian Abadjiev, the company’s CEO and executive director of IHB, about its continuous investment in new technology and the growing export markets for its state-of-the-art lathes.

ZMM Bulgaria was founded in 2001 as a subsidiary of Industrial Holding Bulgaria, which is one of the largest industrial groups in Bulgaria. ZMM Bulgaria was established to preserve and build upon development and manufacture of universal and CNC lathes. Since its formation, the company has successfully strengthened its international position and is at the forefront of machine lathe technology. To date ZMM Bulgaria has manufactured more than 115,000 lathes and over 500,000 electric motors, in addition to more than 210 hydro generators. The ZMM Bulgaria group of engineering companies includes ZMM Sliven AD, which was founded in 1971 and produces all the machines featured in the company’s extensive product portfolio. IHB Metal Castings is the company owned foundry which is casting the beds for the lathes, gearboxes and other components. It works as well for third party customers in Bulgaria, Italy, Germany and other European countries.

ZMM Nova Zagora AD is a sister company that was founded in 1970 and specialises in the design and manufacture of assemblies and parts for metal cutting and general machinery products (gears, shafts and others). The other key company in the group is IHB AD Electric, which was founded in 1950 and designs, manufactures and installs all types of electrical equipment, including high-voltage motors and vertical hydro generators.

Diverse range ZMM Bulgaria’s company’s dedication to innovation, product development and investment in new technology are all oriented to providing its customers with the optimal performance and robust reliability for which the company has become famous. As a major European player ZMM sells its products in more than 80 countries worldwide and its machines are customised to meet the requirements and standards that exist in its diverse global markets. As a result, the company’s product portfolio includes a wide range of universal lathes, oil country lathes and CNC lathes with diameters of treatment of up to 1410 mm and distance between the centres of up to 10 metres (this means that the machine is longer than 13 metres). These lathes offer the optimal combination of quality, reliability and value-for-money. The technical advantages of ZMM’s universal lathes are well-known and all include a heavy, monolithic, highly ribbed and rigid bed casting made of strong grey cast iron which reduces vibrations during use. It also offers wide, double prismatic, induction hardened and precisely ground guide-ways, with a built-in gap bridge which can be removed for processing during the handling of large work pieces.

Abadjiev said, “We operate four key plants with our main Sliven plant delivering our final lathe products. This modern plant was created in 1971 as a facility to supply mainly the Russian market, however after the break-up of the Soviet Union many machine manufacturers went out of business and so we became the only company that continued to produce lathes at that time. “Today we make a vast range of lathes with over 50 models to choose from. These include universal and manual lathes with variable speed controls, as well as high-tech CNC lathes, of which we produce four major types. We currently manufacture more than 600 lathes a year. We also customise our lathes to meet the many diverse specifications of our customers; in fact virtually all of our lathes are customised to suit our individual client’s needs.” He added, “Exports now represent over 95 per cent of our sales and in the past our key markets were Russia and the USA. However, following the collapse of the oil prices our main markets today are western and eastern Europe, the Balkans, North Africa, Egypt, South Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. What differentiates us from our competitors is a combination of flexibility, advanced technology, customer orientation and robust, reliable machines that stand the test of time. This is evident as we are still providing spare parts for lathes that we manufactured in the 1970s. “We also continue to invest heavily in new plant and technology and recently invested €1.2 million in new equipment and plant facilities includ

ing new spindle grinding machines and gear grinding machines, as well the latest cutting machines and machining centres. So we are constantly improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of our products. We do not sell to end users but to distributors who are able to provide installation, as well as quality customer service and maintenance, and are all trained to a very high standard by our own engineers.”

Extensive partner network ZMM Bulgaria has an enviable and extensive partner network which has been formed over many years. The company’s partners are global brands that enhance both the company’s products and its reputation. These include SKF, which is a leading global technology provider whose main strength lies in the continuous development of new technologies for manufacturing industries. Another is the Schaeffler Group, which is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of rolling and plain bearings and linear systems engineering, particularly for the aerospace industry. The Japanese NSK is the third supplier of bearings for lathes. The electronic commands are bought according the needs of the customer from the three leading companies of the world – Siemens, Fagor and Fanuc. The digital read outs (DROs) are supplied by Newall (subsidiary of SENSATA) or again Fagor. The world leader in the manufacture of advanced technological tools is Bison, which is a Polish company that has been a global leader in its field for many years. Other key partners include Mazak, which is a leading global manufacturer of CNC machine tools and yet another is Elprom Harmanli, a Bulgarian company that produces high quality asynchronous electric motors. One of ZMM’s own companies, IHB Metal Castings (known as Leyarmach up to March 2016), also supplies metal castings from its modern foundry in Bulgaria to ZMM.

Constant aspiration for innovation Led by the understanding that the guarantee of quality and innovation requires constant investment, ZMM Bulgaria Holding is step by step renewing its factory equipment. Two years ago the biggest machining centre on the Balkans was acquired from Mazak. The same year, ZMM bought a new gear grinding machine from the Czech company Holmonta. As of January 2015 ZMM Nova Zagora has been operating a powerful gear grinding machine from Kapp Niles. The Foundry IHB Metal castings exchanged its furnace five years ago and in 2015 introduced new mixers from Omega, the British leader in this area. This years new 5-axis machining centres were acquired from DMG Mori, as well as new bending machines from the Turkish Durma. And the process is still ongoing. Concerning the re-equipment, ZMM Sliven also relies on its own capacity. It developed and built a spindle boring machine, which will shorten the boring time of a 909mm-deep spindle with a 72mm diameter by almost eight times!

Marketing – getting closer to the customer ZMM Bulgaria holding puts a lot of focus on customer communication – whether this is direct contact or using a wide variety of marketing tools. The company is present at the worldwide platform Direct Industry since

a year and its machine catalogue is constantly renewed to make it more customer friendly. Its presence at international trade fairs is a constant practice: This is done mainly through its respective partners, but in some countries the holding presents its products directly. To mention just a few of the recent trade fairs: September 2014 in Chicago at the stand of Summit corporation;, February 2015 – Huston; April 2015 – Lyon; September 2015 – EMO – Milano; October 2015 – Hanoi / Vietnam; and in 2016 – Dusseldorf, Utrecht, Budapest, Birmingham and Bilbao. In September ZMM’s German partner Blumenbecker will present three of its machines, including a CNC machine, at the most important European event, AMB, in Stuttgar. In October, together with its Italian partner Rimex, it will participate in BIMU Milano. Later that same month ZMM’s machines will be shown by partners JAFO at the Eurotool Kraków. At almost the same time partners Adil Makina and Aran Makina will also bring ZMM machines to the Maktek 2016 exhibition in Istanbul. A company spokesperson tells us: “And of course we pay a lot of attention to our web page. It is constantly renewed, and there you can find a full electronic catalogue of the production with the opportunity to download the photo and the specification of each machine separately. In the downloads section you can see a short three-minute film about the full process of production – from the CAD of the machines to the casting of the bed and the other details as well as the production of the gearboxes and the other components up to the packaging and the dispatch of the machines.”               

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