INTERVIEW Tomasz Kaszubowski, CEO AS-PL: “We strive to maintain the status of an independent and dynamically developing European company”
“Despite the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, we managed to achieve more than a 7% increase in the company’s revenue in 2020 compared to the previous year. These results show that the company is prepared for extraordinary situations, which we are trying to turn into new opportunities,” Tomasz Kaszubowski, CEO AS-PL, told Automotive Today.
“AS-PL is going to continue to strive to maintain the status of an independent and dynamically developing European company. We have to compete with financial giants, but we are already used to it. I believe that our industry – Aftermarket / Rotating Electric – requires qualified and experienced staff, and at the same time, I am convinced that the specialized business area in which AS-PL operates is our advantage over other organizations that have been trying to broaden their offer.
The Automotive industry which we are a part of, is currently in a state of deep crisis, primarily due to the problems experienced by car manufacturers. Unfortunately, insurance companies treat us (companies of the Aftermarket / Rotating Electric sectors) as one industry which is prone to a high degree of risk. This makes it crucial to reduce the risks when establishing new business relationships.”
“AS-PL Sp. z o.o. is a European company which operates in the field of supplying parts and electrical components for vehicles. The company was established in 1992 in Gdańsk under the name Auto-Starter. Currently, the company employs over 290 qualified professionals and cooperates with aftermarket distributors and wholesalers of spare parts and accessories for vehicles all over the world.”
How would you describe the year 2020 for AS-PL?
One of the company’s main objectives during the subsequent lockdowns was to preserve all jobs, as employees are the crucial resource of our organization. AS-PL is a group of nearly 300 skilled employees and the maintenance of all the jobs during the pandemic poses a great challenge for a large organization. In this difficult year, however, none of our employees were dismissed, which I consider being one of the essential goals that we met in the past 2020.
Despite the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, we managed to achieve more than a 7% increase in the company’s revenue in 2020 compared to the previous year. These results show that the company is prepared for extraordinary situations, which we are trying to turn into new opportunities.
Another important element was the digitization of processes, which has been our priority for many years, and that’s why the transition to remote working was not a challenge for us. We are pleased that similar processes have also been accelerated by our contractors, which has greatly facilitated and promoted cooperation.
What are the biggest current challenges for AS-PL as a supplier of parts and electrical components for vehicles?
From our point of view, we can talk about four main challenges.
Firstly, the progressive consolidation in the market, numerous purchases and mergers are becoming more dynamic. AS-PL is going to continue to strive to maintain the status of an independent and dynamically developing European company. We have to compete with financial giants, but we are already used to it. I believe that our industry – Aftermarket / Rotating Electric – requires qualified and experienced staff, and at the same time, I am convinced that the specialized business area in which AS-PL operates is our advantage over other organizations that have been trying to broaden their offer.
Another one is the introduction of even more stringent emission standards, which imply a slow transition away from combustion engines. We do not expect combustion engines to be replaced by alternative systems as soon as governments are planning, but as a company which is primarily involved in electrical fittings for these types of units, we need to work on the development of an alternative branch of products. We will continue to strive to professionalize our company into a niche and we are positive that we will find a slot in the market for ourselves, and that we will adjust our portfolio of products to modern drives – whether they are hybrid, electric, or perhaps hydrogen drives.
Due to turbulence in the insurance markets, customer acquisition and the process of gaining new markets will be more difficult than it has ever been before. The Automotive industry which we are a part of, is currently in a state of deep crisis, primarily due to the problems experienced by car manufacturers. Unfortunately, insurance companies treat us (companies of the Aftermarket / Rotating Electric sectors) as one industry which is prone to a high degree of risk. This makes it crucial to reduce the risks when establishing new business relationships.
Timely execution of orders will also constitute a major challenge. Multiple manufacturers and suppliers of components for production are struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic.
What are your priorities for 2021?
First of all, we are going to gain a bigger share of foreign markets and we are going to develop cooperation with key contractors. We are also planning this year to continue the process of implementing automation throughout our logistics centers. We are very pleased with the premiere of our Italian branch. Italian customers have quickly become convinced of the quality of our products and the management of our logistics. Therefore, having operated for a year, we are in the process of doubling our local storage and office spaces. We are hoping for further progress in the future.
We will continue to expand our range of green remanufactured products throughout 2021.
We are also developing a growth plan for our headquarters in Gdansk. The new project will enable us to develop further concepts related to business growth and increase employment throughout our company branches.
Which are your current concerns as a CEO? Which are the hopes for 2021?
The pandemic and further economic slowdown certainly constitute a concern. Additional issues are supply chain disruptions and the mess caused after Brexit.
We hope that an efficient process of vaccinating people and the full opening up of the global economy will alleviate these concerns.
What kind of innovative measures and inclusive leadership initiatives have been applied within your organization this year, to better cope with the current context and bring the business forward in 2021?
2020 turned out to be a very difficult year in terms of management and structuring of the company. Even before the pandemic began in Europe, we were looking for solutions that could allow AS-PL to operate in the event of a collapse of a supply chain. We had already seen what was happening in Asia in January and we realized that the pandemic would reach us as well. Thanks to the quick response and the required analyses, we were able to organize our work so that it was as safe as possible for people and organizations.
We primarily focused on increasing flexibility, speed of operation, and the improvement of the quality of our services and products. We have always trusted the managers of individual departments at AS-PL and the management board only indicates directions and supports the management team. The distributed management and high level of the decision-making process of our managers is a perfect combination at this point, when the speed of decision-making and the process of adapting to dynamic changes has a crucial impact on our development. We hope that this flexibility will enable us to meet the expectations of our contractors and end customers.
What were your most successful products (projects) in 2020?
One of the most significant achievements is to double the production volume of remanufactured parts. Currently, our assembly capabilities of remanufactured products are about 12 thousand pcs. per month, which is over 15% more of monthly sales of alternators and starters. This allows us to restore ecologically used alternators and starters, while offering goods at competitive prices that meet the highest installation requirements and technical parameters, and simultaneously not deviating in quality from OE products.
We have been also able to establish business cooperation with contractors from 20 new countries. In total, we export goods to 100 countries around the world.
In spite of the pandemic, we have also observed an increase in sales revenue compared to 2019.
The company will celebrate its 29th year of operation in February. What are your most important projects and product launches for 2021?
Every anniversary is of great importance to us. During this time, we naturally look back with nostalgia and we feel pride of what we have achieved so far, but the main objective is to look into the future and plan for the further dynamic development of our company. One of the larger projects planned for the near future will be the expansion of the company’s production, storage, and office space. We currently have 14,000 sqm of storage space, which we plan to expand by another 10,000 sqm which is already in the process of design.
Additionally, after the successful premiere of the warehouse in Italy, we are planning to open another branch outside of Poland. We are considering several countries. Thanks to the excellent cooperation with AS AUTOSTARTER PARTS SRL being the main distributor of our products in Romania, we do not currently plan to launch any new branch in this market. We began our cooperation with AS AUTOSTARTER PARTS SRL in 2010 and ever since, together we have been creating a distribution network of our brand in Romania as well as in the neighbouring countries. Excellent relations throughout our companies enable us to boast a dynamic and continuous increase in turnover for many years.