The German Bosch Group, a leading global supplier of technology and services, entered the Romanian market 27 years ago, and currently employs over 8,000 people in five entities. With two plants, a research and development centre, sales offices, as well as a center for business process outsourcing solutions, all four of the group’s business sectors are represented locally. Mihai Boldijar, General Manager of Robert Bosch SRL and Bosch’s representative in Romania and Bulgaria,talks in an interview with TheBizz Magazine about the company’s response to the challenges posed by the pandemic, the evolution of the business and future development plans on the local market.

Bosch Group, with a presence of almost three decades in Romania, is again this year one of the most desired employers active on the local market. Which are the main elements contributing to keeping the company on top of the candidates’ preferences?

Bosch is an innovative company, constantly focused on the future, always exploring new business areas, driver of digital transformation and contributor to the creation of a more connected and safer world. But behind the commercial brand and beyond the smart technologies it develops, Bosch is about people. Because people are the catalyst for change and evolution. Our colleagues are our partners, an integrant part of the industry transformations and contribute significantly to shaping tomorrow’s world and therefore to our global success. Through its open organisational culture based on values such as cooperation, respect, trust or responsibility, continuous learning and development programmes or diversity of roles and opportunities, we manage to keep candidates’ interest high. Moreover, the business’ dynamics in itself, the leadership style, the responsibility we show against the way in which we carry out our activities, but against the society as well, all of these create a friendly environment in order that our associates have a harmonious career evolution. And the promise of the organisation to its associates is strong: we grow together, we enjoy our work and we inspire one another. Thus, year by year, we register visible results and we rank among the most wanted employers in the country.

How have you adapted your activity and what measures have you taken to overcome the challenges generated by the health crisis? 

The immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been and continue to be felt by all industry sectors, of course, with different impacts for each. No doubt that the automotive industry is one of the most affected, and for Bosch this translated in customers orders’ drop. Last year, we had to adjust our operations to the overall demand and we continued to operate, for several months, with a reduced volume of production activities. Still, during the first half of the last year we adopted Kurzarbeit solution and shift work schedule, we applied the temporary lay-off scheme that the authorities have made available, and very importantly, we implemented a set of strict preventive and protection health measures, still in use, which helped us to limit the negative effects of the pandemic and to ensure business continuity. We have also turned to teleworking and technology, and we have digitalised part of the company’s processes and operations, where possible – including in departments such as HR or within our BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) division from Timișoara, where digitalisation has reached almost 100%. Thus, health and business measures taken during this period helped us protect our colleagues and secure the jobs of all our employees in Romania, and speed up the production again during last year’s second half and perform better than we expected. Moreover, despite the lockdown and cautious estimates from Q2 2020, Bosch obtained outstanding results in the consumer goods sector – Power Tools and BSH Home Appliances divisions individually registered a double-digit growth during the last FY, and the results of the production units were in line with 2019.

Last year, Bosch business in Romania advanced slightly compared to 2019. How has business evolved this year and what is the forecast for 2022?

Despite the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the drop in automotive production, Bosch Group in Romania ended FY 2020 with consolidated sales of almost 2.2 billion lei (448 million euros), an increase of about three percent compared to the previous year. At the same time, business performance in the first three quarters of this year has been positive, despite the challenging market environment shaped by the semiconductor crisis, constant supply chain disruptions and fluctuations in the health crisis. We rely on innovation and we are confident that AI and connectivity, research and development, sustainability and manufacturing excellence, together with Bosch’s smart solutions will help us perform well during this last leg of the year. Therefore, our forecast for FY 2021 remains positive.

At the beginning of September you inaugurated the third production hall in the automotive electronic components factory in Cluj. What other investment projects do you have underway or plan to launch in the coming period?

Bosch Group’s production and development activities in Romania have grown steadily and sustainably in recent years, and this year we inaugurated the third production hall in our plant in Jucu, following an investment of 55 million euros, and started the construction work on the second office building of the Engineering Centre in Cluj. The new building involves a consolidated investment estimated at around 21 million euros and will support the expansion of our R&D activities in Cluj, while providing us with the necessary infrastructure to carry out complex new projects and strengthen Bosch’s position in the region. Equally carefully, we are looking at the area of sustainable production, where we continue to implement solutions to increase energy efficiency in the production processes at our factories in Cluj and Blaj. Reducing our carbon footprint to zero and the continued implementation of energy-efficient solutions continue to be an important target for us. Specifically, we focus on sustainable production and digitalisation projects. In this respect, we are already working with Industry 4.0 solutions and we want to expand our product portfolio. Electromobility is also one of our main development directions, as are the educational projects in which Bosch is involved: dual education, university courses and master programs, Bosch Academy in Blaj, Controlling Academy in Timisoara, etc...

Germany is Romania’s most important trading partner. What are the opportunities that the local market currently offers and what are the expectations of the German business community to accelerate investments in Romania?

German investments on a local level and implicitly trade relations between Romania and Germany have evolved and performed extraordinarily well in the last decade. Between 2001 and 2021 alone, bilateral trade and investment doubled, and this is because besides the tax facilities that investors find here, Romania offers many advantages for production activities compared to other European countries. Also very important in this respect is access to the workforce, to talent that is well-trained or has potential and wants to learn and grow with the organisation. The geographical and cultural proximity to Germany, as well as the industrial heritage, the increasingly automated and efficient production facilities, are also attractive to investors. Of course, in turn, German companies also visibly contributed over time to rebuilding the industrial foundation destroyed during and immediately after the communist era. In terms of expectations, investors would certainly welcome a more stable and predictable political climate, a more developed infrastructure, as well as greater government involvement in the future of education and of the workforce.

Interview by Ioan Dornescu