SLOVMAG, a.s. Lubeník is located in Slovakia. The company is a producer of shaped and unshaped basic refractory products with an own magnesite mine. The corporation is a member of Magnezit Group.
Especially for the Manufacturing Journal an exclusive interview was given by Ing. Milan Kvetko, Commercial Director of SLOVMAG, a.s. Lubeník.
Could you briefly describe the history of the company and most important moments of its development?
The magnesite deposit was discovered in our region in 1897. Nevertheless, the Lubeník plant history started in 1956, when the first firing kilns have been commissioned. In the following years the plant expansion took place in several stages. Until 1994 the plant in Lubeník was a part of Slovak magnesite plants (Slovenské magnezitové závody). In 1994 the plant became independent and the joint-stock company SLOVMAG, a.s. Lubeník, was established. Since 2008 is a member of Magnezit Group, Russia.
Can you tell us more about your products?
Our product range covers various grades of shaped products, e.g. burned magnesia, magnesia-spinel and magnesia-chromite bricks, unburned magnesia-carbon bricks which can be produced using two different carbon binders and two different technologies. We are ready to produce bricks of approximately 2000 various shapes and of more than 500 quality grades. The unshaped products made of dead burned magnesia and various additives include ramming and gunning mixes, mortars and filling mixes. A caustic calcined magnesia is a specific product used in agriculture. Our products are used as the working linings of high-temperature equipment’s in steel and non-ferrous industry, in cement and lime industry, as well as in agriculture as a feed additives and fertilizers.
What are the exclusive elements that make your company unique from the point of view of production?
As the iron-rich magnesite deposit user, we produce our own dead burned magnesia which is the basic material for traditional shaped and unshaped refractory production. Besides, the high-quality products are made of dead burned and fused high-purity magnesia which is purchased.
What were the new services and technological innovations introduced by your Research & Development department in the last period?
Our efforts to expand markets are focused to a lime industry, with our alumina –free product. The aim is to solve the problem with undesirable refractory lining wear due to the reaction between a lime and magnesia-spinel bricks at a high temperature. To solve this problem, we have developed a product without content of alumina. Also, a big attention is paid to the products used in non-ferrous industry, especially in a copper industry. Carbon bonded bricks are always in the centre of attention as a very important product in the market.
Worldwide industry boldly focuses on robotics and automation of production processes. Does the SLOVMAG is also part of a trend of 4.0 Industry and invests in the latest technology?
We are adapting to new trends that lead to the automation of production, reducing the ratio of manual work in production processes and reducing the burden on the environment. For several years now, we have been significantly addressing the renewal and modernization of our production facilities. We need to mention a few new automatic press machines installation including manipulators, a huge project to modernize the plant for fully automated mixes preparation. Next year, we plan to purchase a machining center which will ensure automation and efficiency of work with pressing molds.
Where are your main markets?
We are delivering our products to countries all around the world, mainly to the European Union, Eastern Europe including Russia and former CIS countries but also to Turkey, the USA, the Balkan countries and countries in Middle East.
Who are your most important customers right now?
We co-operate with transnational groups of all the industries involved in our portfolio.
Please tell us what made your company so successful and gained the trust of its customers?
More than 60-years of tradition of shaped and unshaped refractories production, together with a lot of experience help us to provide our customers with the most suitable solutions of refractory linings while considering the cost effectiveness. We are flexible in meeting specific customer´s requirements and we offer technical service and supervision. A great emphasis is placed on the new products development that helps to prolong the service life of refractory linings.
Have any significant investments been made last years?
A large investment was realized into the carbon bonded bricks production. Since 1994 SLOVMAG, a.s. Lubeník produces resin bonded bricks and this production was expanded and supplemented by synthetic pitch (Carbores®) bonded bricks in 2013. This investment included the original production line reconstruction and a new tempering kiln commissioning. Besides the investments mentioned above, we focus on the renewal and modernization of our old production facilities and buildings, laboratories, etc.
The quality of offered products is your priority. You know perfectly well that there is no place for compromises in your industry, which is why you cooperate only with the best suppliers and subcontractors.
As we need to have a perfect output, we need a perfect input. Our contractors and sub-contractors of materials, goods and services are verified before signing the contract.
Please tell us about your company’s quality control system and tell us what certificates your company owns.
We consider customer satisfaction as the most important condition for a long-term success of our company. This is why we do our best to manufacture high quality products and to support them with high level technical solutions and service. Our quality control system consists of three steps: input, inter-operational and output control. Our Quality management system was first verified in 1994 by Lloyd´s Register Quality Assurance. SLOVMAG, a.s. Lubeník received the certificate of compliance with ISO 9001:2000 standard and the right to use the certification logo. A re-certification audit prolonged the certificate’s validity until 30 June 2021. In 2003 an audit of Environmental management system resulted in granting our company the certificate ISO 14001:2004. This certificate confirms that our plant’s activities are in compliance with European environmental standards. A re-certification audit prolonged the certificate’s validity until 30 June 2021. In connection with caustic calcined magnesia FAMI QS system was successfully certificated in 2012 by Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance company. A re-certification audit prolonged the certificate´s validity until 28 November 2022.
Are there any eco-friendly solutions you have implemented in your company?
This year, we put into the trial operation an automatic measuring system (AMS) for a kiln emissions monitoring. The new modern dedusting equipment has been installed in the most polluted working places.
What are the current market trends affecting your company?
There has been a significant weakening of demand for refractory materials in the steel industry. We managed to replace this decline in demand with higher sales in non-ferrous metallurgy, cement and lime industry.
World currently struggling with the consequences of a pandemic coronavirus. How do you evaluate the future of the industry in which the company operates, what are the company’s plans in connection with this?
The coronavirus crisis is changing the course and development of world and national economies and has an impact on all aspects of life. Of course, we also felt the consequences of the changes brought by the current situation. But we are optimists. So far, we have not had to take any drastic measures. We have not eliminated any jobs and we are continuously modifying the number of employees with the current development of orders. The refractory sector has a lasting perspective, as it is an integral part of the production of a full range of products for all sectors of industry, construction, agriculture and everyday life.