Plate-making robots in the city of the Great Union

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27 years ago, in a garage in Alba Iulia, the IPEC company was born, which came to make over 40 million plates per year. The initial investments totalled only 100 German marks.

Everything began in 1991, when Elena Covaciu and her two sons, Cristian and Cosmin, decided that it was time to do what they knew best on their own: ceramics. The first years of entrepreneurship were defined by the need to survive. “We started production with a kiln I had made myself, in a garage,” says Cristian Covaciu, the general director of IPEC.

“We took out our first loan, for 1 million lei, at the time when a Dacia would sell for 75,000 lei, at a 20 percent interest rate, which in three months turned into 125 percent,” he recalls. Although the initial sum the family invested in the business was insignificant, in 2017 the business had reached annual revenues of RON 100 million. 1996 brought the first major change in their sales approach, as the company started a business relationship with Swedish group IKEA, and started to produce more and more for them every year. That was the point when, from a small family business, the company started to turn into factory geared towards mass production, with modern machinery and sales on foreign markets.

The largest manufacturer in Europe

The Covaciu family business is one of the largest players in the world for superior porcelain household products. IPEC, the company led by Cristian Covaciu, has one of the most advanced production technologies in the field. In order to reach this level, the Covaciu family invested a lot in technology, as it was one of the first units in the world to bring robots to their manufacturing process. “We’ve had a constant growth in our turnover. We’ve doubled our business once every three years or so. We’re the largest manufacturer in Europe and we cover more than 1 percent of the global plate production,” says Cristian Covaciu.

That’s how IPEC came to be much more renowned abroad than it is in Romania. That is because only a small part of the production stays on the Romanian market, and about 99 percent goes towards exports. “My biggest satisfaction is turning on the TV and seeing a Hollywood movie where everyone’s eating off of IPEC plates,” the company’s manager says. Most of the company’s clients are in Europe, especially in Germany, but also in the US or even China and Japan.

IPEC has reached this level thanks to their constant investments in technology. Currently, the company has over 50 mills, two spray dryers for producing atomized powder, 20 isostatic presses, 10 kilns, 30 glazing machines and over 200 industrial robots.​But beyond any modern technology, the entrepreneur says that his company’s most important resource is its qualified workforce. “We can buy machinery at any time, but these people cannot be replaced,” he states.

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