Sensata Technologies, Tommy Ver Elst: We have to be very proud of the automotive industry in Bulgaria

Electronics InterviewSouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 2/2016

Sensata Technologies, Tommy Ver Elst: We have to be very proud of the automotive industry in Bulgaria

Tommy Ver Elst
Sensata Technologies General Manager
for the South-East European Industrial Market magazine

How did you choose Plovdiv to open your second production facility in Bulgaria?
Plovdiv city is becoming more attractive destination for business purposes than ever before. There are many factors for this. The city recently was selected for European Capital of Culture for 2019. During the annual ranking for Bulgarian “Best City to Live in” Plovdiv was announced for a best business city. The city GDP increases 12-13 % per year.

Trakia Economic Zone, Plovdiv is one of the biggest investment projects in Bulgaria at the moment, as well in the future. Trakia Economic Zone is expecting investments in the amount of Euro 1bn. More than 51 % of the economy in the region is in the production - some 68,000 employees in the manufacturing sectors, another 20,000 engineers and machine operators in other industries.

The location of Trakia Economic Zone is also very strategic with very convenient geo location - it is close to important railway roads and European transport corridors connecting Europe, Asia and Africa. The infrastructure is very well developed and the zone is very close by Plovdiv city and the airport. For these reasons Sensata Technologies selected Plovdiv city for the construction of its second production plant in the country and to invest USD 40m.

Which global markets and clients will the production be targeted for?
Sensata is a well-diversified company that serves many markets in addition to automotive.
These markets include appliance, aircraft, industrial, military, heavy vehicle, heating, airconditioning and ventilation, data, telecommunications, recreational vehicle and marine
applications. For the most part, our customers are large, global companies, including the global car OEMs based in Europe. The global markets that our production will be targeted for are RSA, PSA and Continental in a first phase. In a later stage we will add Volkswagen.

How many people are already employed in the new plant, and are you currently looking for additional technical professionals?
We have already so far 150 people working in our new factory. The number will increase in the next couple of years to a total of +/- 1500 people. It’s always a challenge to hire technically skilled employees in a competitive labor market like Bulgaria. However, one of the reason we located in Plovdiv was the proximity to the Plovdiv branch of Sofia Technical University. We believe this will give us increased access to a skilled labor force and are confident that we will be able to find the talented people we need to serve customers across Europe.

Tell us more about the construction of the manufacturing facility. What kinds of
technologies and equipment have been employed in the building installations?

The building is a combination between steel structure and reinforced concrete structure. Big
part of our production is happening in cleanrooms where conditions such as temperature &
humidity are automatically controlled. Our type of production has a need of high/low pressure air, specialty gasses and distilled water. Besides normal electricity need this all together is creating a complex utility metrics in our building.
Waste water treatment plants for domestic & industrial water are also in place.

What are your impressions of the automotive supply industry in Bulgaria, and in South Eastern Europe?
We have to be very proud for our automotive industry here in Bulgaria. We have multiple
companies acting on a high level such as Visteon, Melexis, IMI, etc. With all the development in products, technologies & processes the companies here in Bulgaria are really creating a lot of added value towards the automotive industry.