Great enthusiasm, grand construction
The decision about the construction of an aluminium processing plant was taken in 1949. The plant was to be erected in southern Poland, somewhere between Silesia and Kraków. Władysław Remin, the first manager of the plant and the chief designer, was driving around the area seeking a proper location for months. To no avail. When he was totally frustrated, his driver made a suggestion: “Director, let’s go through Kęty, maybe you’ll find something there?”...Along with the construction of ZML “Kęty”, an important part of the history of the aluminium industry in Poland was being written.
The Head Office of Zakłady Metali Lekkich w Budowie (Light Metals Plant in Construction) based in Walcownia Metali “Dziedzice” (“Dziedzice” Metals Rolling Mill) in Czechowice was established in 1950. Since 1952, the head office has been already located in Kęty in a two-segment hut. Office rooms were located in one wing, and the other wing hosted a ‘hotel’ with living quarters for employees from outside Kęty. Some of them felt as if they were never leaving their workplace.
The date of launching the Foundry Department was scheduled on 21 July 1953, one day before the national holiday on 22 July. Initially, the production was carried out in makeshift conditions. The foundry hall was ready in 25 percent, machines were being assembled and bricklayers put on walls and made floor levellings. Everything was missing…apart from enthusiasm and optimism that “somehow, we will overcome all those problems.”
The Foil Rolling Mill Department was launched in 1956. Insufficient experience resulted in the crew’s initial problems with the production of aluminium foils of a proper quality and of simple laminates. However, with time, they mastered the most difficult rolling, printing and laminating technologies.
The launch of the Press Shop and Drawing Mill Department in 1958 was the last stage of the plant erection. The hall was erected according to the design by eng. Jan Kopciowski. Not only was it the biggest facility in the plant (320 meters long and 60 meters wide), but also apparently the most beautiful one. It was admired by architects at that time.
Great industry, great production
Now, orders for Kęty from the industry were not of hundreds but thousands of tons. Thanks to the launch of the Scrap Processing Unit, where big gas-fired melting furnaces with the capacity of 25 tons and some smaller units were installed, the production of aluminium alloys rose considerably to 100 thousand tons p.a.
Film Rolling Mill II was constructed. In 1970, a modern line for rolling aluminium film 1,000 mm wide and 6-7 up to 25 microns thick was launched.
As part of an agreement with an Italian company, Inocennti, Kęty purchased, among other things, 5-colour printers and the preparation room for rotogravure printing cylinders. In these time, Kęty became open to the world. With time, the employees of the rolling mill began to go to Milan and Turin to learn more about technologies and technical innovation then unknown to them.
In 1978, Press Shop II was launched; it was equipped with Polish hydraulic presses. Earlier, Kęty had purchased Austrian know-how for the designing and manufacturing of press tools. This made it possible to launch the production of completely new shapes used in the production of e.g. aluminium tennis rackets, masts for yachts and sailing boats, and parts for household appliances. There is probably no economy sector today where aluminium parts are not used.
Kęty looked for market niches. In the 1970’s, the production of heaters was launched. As Kęty had goods in such short supply, it was ranked higher in the federation or ministry. And this opened the gate for new projects. Because of the heaters, Kęty became famous all over Poland. In 15 years, it manufactured ca. 1 million of radiators.
Huge changes, new prospects
The 1980’s were not good times for investment projects. The economy during the period of the Martial law was lethargic and there was not enough money for anything. No-one even dreamt of new technologies and devices. But, owing to investment projects from the previous period, the company was able to develop the production of shapes and casting alloys.
After 1989, companies partially shook off the state’s control and became independent at least at a minimum level. For the first time, they were given the liberty to decide where and how they wanted to invest their profits. Kęty began its investments from the purchase of a modern Gautchi casting machine. Then, it bought for the Foil Rolling Mill Department an 8-colour Cerutti printer, Ohio system from the USA and an electroplating line from an Italian company, Acigraf. Owing to these investments, Kęty was able to take advantage of the technology which made it possible to manufacture truly state-of-the-art packaging.
In 1992, the company Zakłady Metali Lekkich was transformed into a sole-shareholder company of the State Treasury. Soon afterwards, the company was incorporated into so-called National Investment Funds, but managed to leave them. The path to privatisation was open.
In 1993, the Supervisory Board appointed a new Management Board of the company. It developed the corporate restructuring programme, including management and finances, marketing and production, the company’s assets and HR policy. Management decentralisation was to be the key to success. Independent managers of the foundry, press shop, foil and technical service units were appointed in the company’s structure. It was the beginning of revolutionary changes that altered Kęty entirely.
Great investment projects for huge money
Kęty was privatised. American funds Enterprise Investors became the main shareholders of the company. In January 1996, the shares of ZML Kęty were floated on Warsaw Stock Exchange.
From the sale of series B shares, the company raised money for investment projects and purchased a modern line for casting aluminium ingots. At the same time, the process of building the capital group was initiated. First, Kęty acquired shares in Metalplast-Bielsko, and later in Interbell Lublin. The two companies were merged; as a result, Metalplast increased its share in the market to 45%. New companies were established, e.g. Flexpol in Płock and Alupol in Tychy.
The biggest investment projects were focused in the economic zone in Tychy. Two plants were built in the territory of the company Alupol, near international automotive concerns. One produced packaging and the other one – aluminium profiles. They were fitted with state-of-the-art plant and machinery which enabled them to automate the production processes almost fully and, at the same time, they ensured the world-level quality of laminates and shapes manufactured in the plants.
The company formulated the development strategy highlighting the importance of the company’s international presence. Such a concept resulted in the establishment of new foreign companies and in the acquisition of smaller entities in the European Union. In 10 years, the company created an international sale network comprising Germany, the UK, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Hungary, Romania and Ukraine.
The company implemented a wide-range investment plan. Between 2000 and 2020, it will spend ca. 2,5 bilion PLN on investments in machines and in new products and services. At the same time, the company has implemented a dividend policy since 2001. Until 2016, it paid the total of 877 million PLN of dividend.
Grupa Kęty 2040
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