26 Oct A hotbed of niche industrial champions
The Czech Republic has a rich history in industry that dates back to when the country served as the industrial center for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the 150-plus years that have passed, there are numerous unique stories of industrial enterprises whose products have found success in both domestic and foreign markets. At the heart of this success is a labor force that has proved to be highly skilled, hard-working and willing to embrace innovation. And it is these workers who have provided the platform for Czech companies to excel on the global stage across a variety of industries.
One such company is Draslovka, which was founded in 1906 and initially focused on research, development and production of hydrogen cyanide. This expertise has been passed down from generation to generation and the Czech firm can now lay claim to having the widest global reach of any global sodium cyanide (NaCN) supplier. Providing most of the world’s gold mining operations with NaCN for their leaching needs, the company is now expanding into other strategic and critical metals and has made several acquisitions to expand its global footprint within the sector.
Now firmly established as an international company with sales teams in 80 countries, Draslovka’s headquarters are still in Prague and it is still owned by four families from the Czech Republic. Another Czech company that has enjoyed success on the global stage is Zetor Tractors, which first began production back in 1946. Since that moment more than 1.3 million tractors have been sold and shipped to 136 countries around the world.
One of the Czech Republic’s greatest exports, the company continues to thrive to this day and is now looking towards the future as it begins to explore the possibility of manufacturing electric tractors.
“We decided to start developing electric tractors and have started with the smaller models, like the ones that are used to clean streets or cut grass. These are known as utility tractors and have a maximum horsepower of 60,” explains Róbert Harman, Managing Director of Zetor Tractors. “The technology is not quite there yet when it comes to using electricity for bigger tractors as no battery can provide enough power for 12 hours, which is what farmers need. But we are producing tractors that meet the most stringent emissions standards as sustainability is an important issue for us.”
Zetor Tractors, like many other companies in the Czech Republic, has repeatedly shown its abaility to move with the times and embrace innovation. As well as exploring the possibility of electric-powered vehicles, it is also had to alter its offering to accommodate the digitalization of the agricultural machinery industry. “This is extremely important as the IT sector is now penetrating the agriculture sector,” adds Harman.
Similarly, LINET Group, a leading manufacturer of hospital and nursing beds, has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to pivot and explore new avenues. Having initially focused on care beds, the Czech company now provides products such as stretchers, chairs, mattresses, furniture and smart care systems to more than 100 countries around the globe. Recognized as the number one advanced care bed manufacturer in the world, many of the company’s products are still manufactured at the facility in Želevčice, a small village in the north west of the Czech Republic, where LINET Group first came into existence.
“We are a European company that specializes in healthcare and equipment in patient and ICU rooms. The company is still relatively young as we were only established in 2010 but you can find our products in counties around the world,” states Tomáš Kolář, Managing Director, LINET Group. “We produce, develop and market all of our products and we still have three facilities for production in the Czech Republic, as well as one in Germany which concentrates on products for nursing homes.”
Using the expertise of nurses to help develop new products, LINET Group has also been able to capitalize on the Czech Republic’s booming tech sector to create technologically advanced systems such as SafetyPort, which uses sensors in LINET beds to collect and visualize patient and bed data.
“Digital and IoT technologies are here at home in the Czech Republic and we run many of them,” adds Kolář. “This has been critically important to us for many years.”