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TECHNICAL-TECHNOLOGICAL RENEWAL

 
TECHNICAL-TECHNOLOGICAL RENEWAL
After its privatisation, the factory made its technical-technological facilities available for creative artists on several occasions, sometimes in the framework of workshops held on its premises. One of these events was organized by the De Fonna Foundation, under whose aegis interesting art-works were born.
A characteristic experiment of the period aimed at encouraging "artistic innovation" was the establishment of the Endre Szasz Studio in 1990. Its objective was the creation of unique pieces, or items made in limited numbers, of a high aesthetic and technical quality.
 
Held with much success in 1991, Budapest, the exhibition displaying the results of the experiment was accompanied by a catalogue entitled "Endre Szasz and Ajka". The factory keeps a prototype of each exhibit.
What has been perhaps the most important benefit of the factory's privatisation is the acceleration of technical-technological innovation.
The rapidly implemented improvements were started in 1990 to strategic plans worked out by the new proprietor and the management of the company. (In that year 27 million forints were spent on development.)
The purpose of increasing capacities was fairly obvious: the cost-efficient production of easily marketable ware representing high artistic-technological standards. The result can be classified under the following technical-technological headings:
- polychrome potash glassware
- crystalline items
- color-layered items
- hand-painted, blown, spun and layered glassware.
 
Porcelain egg, with coloured painting, 1997An essential condition of manu¬facturing these high quality products was that the existing smelting furnaces be reconstructed and new ones procured. The pot-furnaces where white potash and lead glass was made were renewed and two new ones were set up so that the production of double-layered color glass could be increased. For the manufacture of ware made of multi¬colored constituents called polychrome glass, four, low-capacity, mobile furnaces were imported from Italy. Later on, as growing de¬mands necessitated further develop¬ment, new tubs of the factory's own design were put in. With a process¬ing time of three eight-hour shifts a day, these units produced enough glass for a day's production.
Another innovation was the manufacture of crystalline ware, a type of glass with a reduced lead content (8 per cent) and with a higher light-fracturing coefficient exported mainly to Japan and the United States.
It was vital to enlarge the furnace whose operation determined the production capacity of the entire fac¬tory. Due to the shortage of space, this could not be done in the old fac¬tory building. The new unit was installed in an old construction under official protection as part of the country's industrial heritage in the Alsócsinger district of Ajka. Today approximately sixty workers are employed in the kiln-unit, which houses one large furnace and seven smaller ones. (The unit was designed and built by Veszpremterv and Avar Ajka Ltd. respectively, and the investment cost 132 million forints altogether.) Mainly white and polychrome potash glass is made here.
An investment made in 1991 was the installment, first considered as long ago as 1985, of "environmentally sound" electric furnaces. A great advantage of electric furnaces over gas-fuelled ones is that the same capacity can be achieved with a smelting space one third in size, at far lower emission rates and practically no fumes exuded. Eight furnaces were built with molybdenumrod electrodes and two with tinoxide-block electrodes. The electric furnaces were of the factory's own development with the electrodes applied on the basis of American references.
 
Financed from the factory's own funds (and costing 51 million forints), an electric-smelting furnace for the manufacturing of lead-glass was made in 1993. In 1995 another, tin-oxide, furnace of a similar capacity and design was put into service.
These large-scale investments were accompanied by the implementation of small machinery and automation. This included the installment of Linder-type vacuum scoopers, which suck up the required quantities from the surface of the molten glass (three of these have been put Into operation since 1990) and a Linder-type feeder of a similar purpose. Mainly used fat- the production of decorative glassware as practically limitless variations of required amounts can be set on it. The former occupies one furnace-opening. With the latter type, molten glass is extracted from the furnace via a pouring spout. The extraction process is computer-controlled with both machines.
The two automatic grinding machines of the factory are also computer-controlled. Although these cannot replace manual grinding, they can still reduce the employee's workload. One of these machines can use its two (Proaxa) grinding heads to make two different decorations at one and the same time, and it can cut Items of a larger weight with ease. The other is equipped with eight (Pöting) grinding heads and can thus apply (the same) pre-programmed decoration to as many as eight items simultaneously, Mention is to be made of the cutter mounted with a diamond-disk and used to make the finishing of brims easier, and the automatic grinding machines (Mini-Grinding) whose use is particularly advantageous with small series.
 
The most important investments into the protection of the environment include the following: the electric smelting of lead-glass and color glass; the special treatment of water mixed with glass-powder after grinding: processes used for the washing of the acidic fumes resulting from chemical polishing and the neutralization of acidic water.
As early as 1984-85 plans for the computerization of the factory were prepared, whose first step consisted of processing manufacturing data, which was followed by the programming of production (the calculation of piece-rates, and the compilation of a data-bank for the accountancy records). Citation for excellence at the Budapest Industrial Fair of 1985 testifies the high standards of the system thus worked out.
Ornamental glass set, Magda Nemeth, 2000Development made possible after the firm's privatization is testified by the installment of a computer network consisting of 55 terminals. The software applied is of the company's own development, which can best guarantee that the systems used are perfectly well suited to the factory's special needs. From planning through filing orders and banking transactions the entire operational process is computerized.
 
Since 1997, the planning of furnaces, technological alterations, and the manufacturing of spare parts is assisted by computer and in 1998 the factory went on line.
Until 1996 the company had spent 702 million forints on development.
This is how the factory's equity capital has changed in the course of the years:
1989 25.5 million HUF
1990 55.5 million HUF
1993 732 million HUF
1995 735 million HUF
1996 775 million HUF
 
Successful modernization was accompanied by growing revenues, In 1991 these amounted to 1.376 billion, in 1995 more than two billion, and in 1997 more than three billion forints. The increase in productivity that resulted from the factory's technical, technological upgrading, together with the consistent marketing work done, is indicated by the fact that the workforce employed diminished in the meantime.
Today, and probably in the future too, the factory is operated as a limited liability company managed and supervised by an assembly, a supervisory committee and a factory council. At the head of the factory are Dr. Zoltan Katzer managing director, his general deputy Zoltan Marschek. Subordinated to these three executive officers are various, further subdivided, units of organization like this: managing director. management, personnel, product development, investment and sales departments, the internal supervision, the quality control, and the plant-management divisions as well as the exports bureau.
General deputy: production department, smelting, kiln and timber processing plants and the team setting piece-rates, Economic deputy: accountancy and finances, material management, labor and informatics departments.
Some twenty experts - heads of departments, plant managers and foremen - played vital role in the management of the company.
 
In order to maintain the efficiency of the company's exporting activities, great emphasis is laid on product development, into which Ft 18,142,000 was invested in 1997.
Additional trades relations were maintained or built out with Canada, Austria, Finland, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Panama, the Czech Republic and the Republic of Korea.
 
The coverage ratio, which is regarded as a real index in commerce, was 44.84 per cent on average, which was exceeded in the order of the greatest buyers by Japan, Great Britain and the United States.
Two major factors determining the firm's production results are the material costs and the salaries and wages paid to the employees, as the overwhelming majority of the products require a high degree of craftsmanship, In recent times costs have been significantly increased in both areas; for example, from 1996 to 1997, material costs increased from 1,175,000,000 to 1 ,450,000,000 forints, while payments to employees rose from 634,032.000 to 816,759,000 forints.
At home and abroad, the factory has had to stand its ground amid keen competition. According to a statistical almanac, 8435 metric tons of decorative glass was produced in Hungary in 1996, of which 10.26 per cent came from Ajka, which accounted for 42 per cent of the total value, Of the country's glassware exports the factory had an even larger share at 48.35 percent. In 1996 the company's domestic sales reached a net value of 318,927,000 forints, and in 1997 342,759000 forints, with foreign sales totaling at 2,060,992,000 and 2,769,921 forints respectively. Capital net worth is at 71.5 per cent its profitability at 24 per cent, with the profit margin on sales standing at 12,1 percent. Within the profits the value added amounted to 1,828,320,000 forints. while the value added per employee is 1,219 forints. The percentage of debts is only 1.6.
 
The basis of the factory's marketing philosophy is that Its aim is not only to counter but to beat competition, Obviously it intends to enlarge its markets, which is why it regularly exhibits at the Frankfurt Milan, Paris and various American fairs (the latter held at New York, Dallas, and High Point).
Successes have been scored in building out a network of factory outlets, nine of which were in operation in the Transdanubian region and another eight in Budapest in 1997, a sales activity which generated a revenue of 154 million forints in the given year.
On the premises of the factory, built in a separate area, works a porcelain painting shop, Originally opened in Budapest in 1991, the facility was relocated to Ajka in 1992.
 
The arts director is József Csiszár, Erzsébet Seres is in charge of training and the number of painters is twenty-three.
The porcelain to be painted and the moulds are imported from Limoges, France, and from Germany, whereas the decorations are mainly Japanese, American, English and German in origin, and the items are often made to "family" orders. The types of item most often ordered are large, twenty-four-piece services - as is the one ordered by the English royal family - small coffee sets exported to Japan, or large items, usually standard vases, made for American buyers.
 
A special type of item made in the painters' manufacture is the richly gilded "Faberge-egg". The decoration, applied with a technique. Approaching in its refinery the art 'of miniature painting, makes use of motifs familiar from Faberge's goldsmith pieces painted on the object.
The embellishments are partly blends of conventional motifs used on porcelain ware, partly naturalistic "paintings". Credit goes for the latter to József Csiszár, a craftsman who had worked at Herend for decades and who painted characteristic landscapes and hunting scenes. More than five hundred motifs have been created in the painters' shop, of which 132 were made in 1997 alone.
A remarkable experiment of recent times resurrects a historical, mainly 19th century, combination of technologies. The technique, which involves the painting, on layered glass, of floral motifs, fits perfectly into the practice of the workshop characterized by rediscovering traditional techniques and types of items. These pieces are of a much higher technological standard than that characterizing similar ware made in Bohemia.
 
At the exhibition called "Living Design London" held in the British capital in 1991, these objects were particularly well received, especially Csiszár's vases decorated with African landscapes and hunting scenes.
Further original decorations are expected to be designed in the future.
 
DEVELOPMENT: PLANS AND DIRECTIONS
Magda Nemeth: Vase and decantermade of three-layered glass with cut decoration, 1998Hungary's admittance into the EU is an incentive for the company to further intensify its development activity. While manufacture-style work remains in the focus of development, the factory’s intent on making processes of a less than vital importance more productive via the instalment of small machines.
Added to this is the continued implementation of the factory's programme of environment protection and training courses related to this, as well as the gradual improvement of the factory's product range through laying more and more emphasis on unique, multi-level products whose manufacturing requires complex technologies and shapes. (The major types of these are such utility articles as goblets, mugs, bottles, various decorative pieces, unique items, and the replicas of museum exhibits.)
 
In future the importance of items made to order will likely be increased. These will probably include unique items, small and larger senes, and layered glassware combined with enamel-painting or gilding required for the production of antique and float glass, leaded an quartz glass can also be developed. Preliminary estimates put the amounts to be spent on new technical-technological development at 250 million in 1999, at 280 million in 2000 and at 300 million forints in 2001.
These high technological standards provide the material background for the work of the artist designer, who is to play an increasingly important role in the factory hierarchy.
 
Little is now left to be accounted for in this overview of the artistic technological development of Ajka glass. It is a strange story indeed that ends with plans and hopes, but the story of Ajka is not yet over...
Its designers and managers dream their realistic dreams: Magda Nemeth, the designer of the factory, intends to make plans for polychrome layered glass and for blown glass statuettes. Her dream is that these future designs of hers will be precisely executed.
Zoltán Katzer, the director of the factory, believes that processing glass is an art in itself, that glass is a live material that is rebom day after day: glass is an entity with more than material value to him. To Mr Katzer it is very important that the production of this value should be done under circumstances both human and environmentally sound.
 
Vera Varga

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