homepage_name! > Editions > Number 130 > Interview - Ivan Radojcic KANJIZA

Ivan Radojčić, General Manager Square Affair Keramika Kanjiža

40 Years of Impeccable Quality

For four decades, the factory and the brand have been focusing above all on the impeccable quality that made us well-known both in the domestic market and in the region. The complete digitization of the decorating process allows us to offer customized tiles to the market, and automation contributes to a higher quality service provided to our direct customers in the form of efficiency and faster delivery of their desired products, which means our end customers can get the tiles they want in a very short timeframe. We have introduced tile rectification, which means that we grind beveled tile edges giving our end customers a maximum of aesthetic satisfaction with our decors, allowing the Company to take part in major construction projects, especially in the business premises and shopping mall segments.

Q: Keramika Kanjiža was founded in 1980, and has been a synonym for quality for exactly 40 years. Very few companies can boast such a long and successful tradition. A successful business year is behind you. What business results did you achieve in 2019?

A: In 2019, the Company had a lot of success with Square Affair brand awareness, both in the domestic market and regionally. In addition to the existing markets, we were able to expand into the markets of Austria and Sweden, which means that the high quality of Square Affair tiles makes them highly sought after in markets where price is not the only decision-making criterion when buying tiles. We are particularly proud of the fact that Square Affair tiles can be found in European Union countries side-by-side with the world's most renowned manufacturers and for us this is the greatest recognition of success and a confirmation of quality. During the last year, we employed younger managers and technologists in the production plant, successfully implemented new machines and technology, introduced an internship project, took part in the Our Village project and continued to help the local community through numerous donations. For us, it was a very successful year, one that we can be proud of, but we are looking at it only as a ladder and a step further toward our plans and goals.

Q: Your company was the first on the market to digitalize and streamline the manufacturing process, introduce innovations. Can you explain what exactly that means?

A: The modernization and digitization process in our production plant took two years and included several different segments. Keramika Kanjiža production plant has been completely automated – starting from the press, through the glazing line, decor printing, the line sorter with optical-laser quality control, to the packer that arranges the tiles according to a predefined scheme to maximize the space on the pallet. Apart from all this, we use robotic forklifts to carry the product through the factory, and the goal of this plant modernization is to minimize the share of human error in the manufacturing process. This is very important for us because the factory and the brand have been focusing for four decades above all on the impeccable quality that made us well-known both in the domestic market and in the region. The complete digitization of the decorating process allows us to offer customized tiles to the market, and automation contributes to a higher quality service provided to our direct customers in the form of efficiency and faster delivery of their desired products, which means our end customers can get the tiles they want in a very short timeframe. We have introduced tile rectification, which means that we grind beveled tile edges giving our end customers a maximum of aesthetic satisfaction with our decors, allowing the Company to take part in major construction projects, especially in the business premises and shopping mall segments.

Q: How big is the effect of modernization and digitization on product quality? How does this make you stand out in the market?

A: Everything that we did at Keramika Kanjiža production plant makes a huge difference. Optimization and digitization reduce costs, directly resulting in a reduced number of errors in both the production process and the final product, improving quality and offering our customers a completely safe and high-quality tile that has passed all levels of control – from raw material to the final product. All the parameters that are set out make it possible to identify a potential problem at any time and eliminate it easily.

All of this allows us to offer a domestic product that meets all the highest standards of the European Union and keeps up with worldwide trends in terms of aesthetics but most importantly, offers impeccable quality to our customers. If a space is being redecorated or expanded and a customer needs a certain amount of the same type of tile they had purchased before, they can find such tiles in our customer showrooms. All tiles are clearly labeled according to their color and class, and based on these parameters, customers can get the identical tiles that they already have in their home or business space.

Q: To what extent did digitizing the production process 100% increase your annual production capacity? What is your main focus on the domestic market and when it comes to conquering international markets?

A: To us, automation and digitization are above all the maximum use of our current production capacities at the Keramika Kanjiža production plant. Serbian manufacturers have been recognized on the market so far for their traditional, so-called “small” formats. The top consumer segment expects much more than that, which is why we created the new Square Affair brand and automated and modernized our factory. The goal is for us to be recognized in the premium product segment as a serious “player”, which has already been achieved by the brand in the EU markets. Thanks to our fully equipped plant, the Square Affair brand can compete with all of the world's largest ceramic tile manufacturers. In percentages, our raw materials are 90% identical to the raw materials used by the largest Italian and Spanish tile manufacturers. Even the machines that we use are identical to those in their plants, which means that Square Affair is a world-class quality domestic product and brand.

One of our main goals on the domestic market is to deal with the onslaught of poor quality tiles and not to take part in price dumping. This is a battle that we plan to fight long-term, and it involves above all, the constant education of our direct customers and end consumers and the media. This is why communication is very important, and we will use all our available channels to continue the fight and keep our 20% share of the domestic market.

As for the international markets, our goal is to increase the demand for Square Affair tiles, as well as to keep supplying our direct customers with premium quality tiles made using the latest technology. Also, the plan is to open new markets, especially in the European Union countries where the quality of our products has already been recognized and the demand is increasing month by month.

Q: What is your view of the position of the domestic products compared to the imported ones, what are the problems with imported tiles, and what is the current position of domestic manufacturers?

A: Ceramic tiles are like wine – those who do not know about quality will buy the most expensive ones. They expect that price automatically means quality. Our strategic goal is to reposition ourselves where we belong – in the affluent product segment. We are currently priced in the category of lower quality products such as Chinese, Bulgarian, Turkish and Polish tiles, but the raw materials that we use, as well as the decors that we buy from the world's best studios, definitely place our product in a higher price range. It is therefore our goal to obtain the status we deserve. This means that we are raising awareness about the fact that, even if Square Affair is a domestic product, the tiles are the same quality as the most expensive imported Italian ones.

That is exactly why we will not respond to the dumping prices of imported tiles of questionable quality and class, we stand firmly behind our brand and quality, and we are sure that Square Affair products will be recognized in the domestic market as is already the case in European Union countries.

Q: What does your product portfolio look like at this moment and what makes your products unique compared to the competition? What innovations do you offer to make you stand out from the rest?

A: For this season, Square Affair offers its consumers ceramic tiles and sandstone porcelain quality tiles of various dimensions and intended use, including wall, floor and facade tiles. The offer has also been extended by our rectified tiles that are increasingly sought after, as well as by attractive dimensions, including 20x80 with perfect reproduction of natural materials, and 60x60 that is one of the most sought after dimensions for large projects. Apart from all this, in 2020 we are planning to introduce large formats of up to 120x60.

What we are very proud of are the reproductions of natural and building materials, especially wood, which has become our signature design and has been copied many times even by Spanish factories.

Q: What are the business plans of your company in the coming period? What are your long-term, primary, and strategic goals and expectations?

A: Our primary goal for the coming period is to completely reposition the Square Affair brand into the higher product segment, primarily in the domestic market. Also, one of our main goals is to successfully master the large format tiles I mentioned earlier, the ones that go up to 120x60, and we will devote a large portion of our resources to achieving that goal.

When it comes to strategic and long-term plans, we are certainly talking about expanding our production capacities, which will take careful analyses and design, as well as the highest quality Italian equipment in order to maintain the quality of Square Affair products.

We have an exciting period ahead of us, which will require the full commitment and dedication of our entire team, and I think that, as before, we will be successful in responding to this challenge.

Q: Square Affair Keramika Kanjiža can also take pride in being highly socially responsible and caring for environmental protection, as well as organizing charities, giving donations and encouraging the use and development of energy efficiency. Tell us more about that.

A: Corporate responsibility and energy efficiency are an important part of our business. We invested in this as well as humanitarian campaigns and donations in the past few years, and all of this will remain the focus of Square Affair. We took part in Delta Foundation’s Our Village project, as our most recently implemented activity. We donated tiles for the reconstruction of local communities and schools in the villages undergoing renovation, as part of the project. Our plan for 2020 is to continue the renovation of healthcare institutions across Serbia, and for us as a company, this will remain the plan for the following year.

This is an equally important element for Keramika Kanjiža’s business as production planning, sales and similar activities. Therefore, we will not change our good practice and will continue to care for the environment and the society in which we do business, just as we did in the previous years.

Q: What are the interesting projects in line for the upcoming period?

A: In the upcoming period, we will continue with our internship project, prepare new series and tile decors for the upcoming season, continue the tradition of production plant tours for journalists, but we will also be preparing a celebration for the 40th anniversary of our business. The plan is to continue modernizing and optimizing the production plant, which will further improve the production and also increase our production capacities.

Q: Square Affair Keramika Kanjiža has launched its cooperation with vocational faculties and colleges working together on the ceramic tiles production internship project. Tell us more about that project.

A: The ceramics industry in Serbia is fighting for survival, and facing various problems. One of the bigger ones that we have detected that will emerge in the years to come is the lack of experts in this field, as well as the lack of educational profiles in vocational schools, primarily manufacturing technologists. This is very concerning since Serbia has a good and high-quality domestic ceramics industry, which needs to be developed and modernized in the years to come. This is the reason why we decided to develop certain educational profiles, support dual education and offer internship above all to allow them to develop and learn all that is necessary. We have implemented this project so far together with the Faculty of Technology in Novi Sad and the Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy in Belgrade. The internship project for students of faculties of technology will be continued in the upcoming period.

Q: If you could, would you change anything in your career, up until now?

A: There are ups and downs in any career. We are what we are today thanks to our different sets of experiences in life, and so the downs make an integral part of every career. Every time we fall, we are forced to get up and keep going, one experience richer. So, I wouldn't change anything, every part of my career is invaluable to me and when I look back I enjoy each one of its periods.


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