Success doesn’t come overnight

By balancing internal potentials and external market demands, we achieve optimal business, which is the goal of every company. Optimization is a dynamic category – it is prone to improvement at all levels and in all phases of business

The title of mechanical engineer is obtained by graduating from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. Acquired knowledge and skills can be improved. It is possible to be a top and successful engineer with certain work. But what does it take for an experienced engineer to successfully run a company? What distinguishes him from his fellow engineers is his entrepreneurial spirit, which includes entrepreneurship as a trait, proactivity, initiative, independence and innovation. Entrepreneurial spirit also implies an attitude to life that you believe in yourself and have the desire to be active. To create change, both in the environment and in your own life.

The decision to enter the troubled entrepreneurial waters was made by the mechanical engineer Branko Babić at the beginning of the 90s of the last century. Previously, he built his career in Prva Petoletka from Trstenik, a large and well-known company not only in Yugoslavia at the time but also much wider. As a result of unfortunate events, sanctions, inflation, conflicts, economic and political crisis, Petoletka began to stagnate and collapse, and the employees entered a very unenviable position, considering the wages that could not provide even the most basic necessities of life. After 12 years in Petoletka and gained experience on many complex projects in the country and abroad, Mr. Babić founded the company Omniprojekt in December 1992.

Today, this company deals with the design, construction, production and assembly of machines and complete lines for filling and packaging liquid, powder, semi-solid and solid forms in the appropriate type of packaging. For its machines and lines, it designs and develops its own electrical control cabinets with its own control software, using components from leading Western manufacturers. In addition to designing and manufacturing machines for the domestic and foreign markets, Omniprojekt also deals with consulting for large economic systems, in terms of improving technological processes. Today, the company has focused its main activity on the pharmaceutical sector, and over 60% of production is exported.

You graduated from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, where did you find your first job?

I enrolled in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering majoring in engines and motor and rail vehicles because the Kraljeva industry at that time relied on the Wagon Factory, however, in the last semester of my studies, I received a scholarship from the company Prva Petoletka from Trstenik, with the obligation to spend a period of time working after graduation at their place. At that time, Petoletka was one of the most developed factories in the region. It was engaged in the production of hydraulics and pneumatics, it was a challenge for young engineers, so for me it was an environment where I could learn a lot. I got a job in 1981 and started as a trainee engineer, went through all the procedures and sectors. Constant travel from Kraljevo to Trstenik required a certain amount of effort, but the desire to acquire knowledge and skills was decisive for me to stay at the factory.

I progressed relatively quickly from design engineer, lead designer to head of the development project bureau. I have worked on many important projects, and I would especially like to emphasize those on the Russian market in the field of manipulation technology systems. However, at that time there was a crisis, hyperinflation, low wages, so I left Petoletka after 12 years of work. As an experienced engineer, I had to look for income and make a living outside the factory, because it did not have the capacity to retain quality engineers at the time.

So you are founding a company and starting a private business?

Yes. Those years were uncertain, above all from an existential point of view. A salary of around 30 marks did not cover even the most basic needs. After a short engagement in other private companies, in 1992 I decided to found the company Omni Projekt and started a private business with a couple of fellow engineers. Initially, these were packaging machines intended for the food industry in Serbia. Since private companies were then allowed to work with coffee, the market for coffee roasting, roasting and packaging machines opened up. We designed and delivered machines to many roasters, we did what the market demanded at the time.

The springboard was in 1997, going to a fair in Moscow where we established contact with potential customers and found our representative for that market. While I was working at Petoletka, I often went to Russia and worked on many projects. The Russian market had great potential, almost anything could be sold. I will give an example that the German Mercedes sold more vehicles in the Moscow region in one month than in Western Europe in half a year.

How did the business continue, are you operating in the pharmaceutical sector today?

I saw that many large economic Idustrial systems such as the First Five-Year Plan, Lola, began to lose personnel under the onslaught of the crisis. The same was true in the pharmaceutical sector, large pharmaceutical companies such as Galenika, Velefarm, Zdravlja, Nevena, began to stagnate. Private pharmaceutical companies appeared, which initially engaged in the wholesale trade of medicines, and later started with production.

At that time, it was important for us to go to pharmaceutical equipment fairs in Italy and Germany, where we gained experience. As a consultant, we provided support in the selection of equipment that we did not produce ourselves. We still cooperate with many of them today.

Omniprojekt offers turnkey machines and complete production lines, has its own project bureau for machine design and develops its own control software packages for automatic control.

The development of equipment for the pharmaceutical market contributed to mastering GMP standards and validation protocols. That is why our production is focused 60 percent on the needs of the pharmaceutical sector, and the rest is related to the food, petrochemical and chemical industries.

It is important to analyze and weigh well, not only the amount of risk that is acceptable to your company, but to choose those ventures that can be controlled by the available resources in the given environment.

This year you are celebrating the anniversary of 30 years of business, how do you see the changes in the context of business?

It can be said that each time carries its own burden. You have to adapt to the environment, both in life and in business. We in technology often use the term “optimize”. There is no technical minimum and technical maximum, but a technical optimum. It is the same in the development of the company – you look to optimize yourself. We live in a time of very dynamic changes, in the market you have to react quickly. By adjusting the product range in terms of price, quantity and quality, companies meet the needs of the market in different ways and thus ensure their growth and development.

On the other hand, the company’s internal resources, primarily personnel, material, financial, work resources and others, influence the design of the production program. By balancing internal potentials and external market demands, we achieve optimal business, which is the goal of every company. Of course, optimization is a dynamic category and it is prone to improvement at all levels and stages of business. The business environment is very important, i.e. the state of the country, inflation and the stability of the exchange rate.

Certainly, the changes caused by the appearance of “corona” made it difficult for many business entities to operate. That happened to us as well, but we had an increased demand for equipment, which had a positive impact on business.

What brings risk in business, how do you see it?

Today, risk is a part of everyday life. In the business sense, companies are constantly faced with smaller or larger risks. The first have potentially minor consequences for the business and can be controlled relatively easily, while the second, greater risks, can be fatal to the survival of the company. Risk is associated with decision-making. In recent decades, the level of risk in business has increased, which is a consequence of more dynamic business, that is, the frequency of making business decisions. The world is changing, the business environment is also changing, companies that do not anticipate and respond in time with adequate decisions may lose competitiveness or have more serious consequences for their business.

That is why it is very important to analyze and measure beforehand not only the amount of risk that is acceptable to your company, but also to choose those ventures that can be controlled with the available resources in the given environment. Some time ago, we decided to expand our business capacity by building another production hall. Many were skeptical, given the instability of the market, but it was not a reckless decision, but a decision made on the basis of second-term development and the need to expand capacity, in order to better respond to the needs of customers.

Today, the hall is finished and put into operation for our business. Through my work so far, I have learned that the most important thing is not to stop in business, because then the obligations arrive, and there is no income, the business suffers and it is very difficult to return to a normal mode of work.

So, there’s no stopping, you have to keep moving forward?

Don’t just walk, you have to run. About twenty years ago, I read a speech by Andrew Carnegie, the American king of steel, at the opening of a company that had an antelope in its logo. He then vividly stated that every morning when he wakes up, the antelope must run faster than the lion. On the other hand, when a lion wakes up, it must be faster than the slowest antelope in order to survive. So it doesn’t matter if you are an antelope or a lion, what matters is that when you wake up you start running. The rule does not apply that a big fish eats a small one, but that faster ones eat slower ones. Being faster and better is imperative in today’s business.

The pharmaceutical sector is demanding. How much are you investing in your capacity to meet customer demands?

In order to meet the demands of clients, we have to continuously improve our own production. It is no longer just automation, but the concept of Industry 4.0, which includes digital technologies. By implementing the latest technological achievements in the work process, we raise and improve our service, thereby meeting the requirements of many standards and conveying quality to our customers. Simply, the implementation of business process optimization brings efficiency and relief from unnecessary operations that you have been doing until now. For example, in our production, we have started to apply special software packages that monitor the production process in real time. We can track the status of production, to know in every detail what has been started and when it is finished.

Before the delivery of the equipment, we invite clients to a pre-receipt of the equipment, the so-called FAT protocols, when they can see how the line works, to suggest remarks and suggestions. After a successful pre-acceptance, the equipment and installation are delivered to the client, the so-called. SAT protocols. Then the final acceptance of the equipment is performed, after which the warranty period begins.

How important are employees? How to motivate them to achieve the best result?

You may have large halls, modern offices, the latest machines and equipment, but employees are considered the most valuable capital of any company. Motivated employees are productive, efficient, committed and influence the positive result of the business.

If we start from earnings, it is normal that employees want to earn well. But they also want a certain environment, quality conditions for work, to develop and progress, to have good interpersonal relations. There are also other activities related to socializing, recreation and other activities that serve the purpose of better connection and communication, in order to feel a sense of belonging to the collective.

While I was working in Prva Petoletka, we had a dynamic calculation of personal income. It was assumed that the amount of income is not a fixed category.

The rule does not apply that a big fish eats a small one, but that faster ones eat slower ones. Being faster and better is imperative in today’s business.

It was not the same to spend 150 or 200 hours at work. Someone had to judge whether the job required staying longer at work and that this was a worthwhile reason. It was the so-called personal contribution coefficient, which brings personal stimulation up to 20 percent on a monthly basis. The second coefficient is the so-called invoiced realization, which means that you share the fate of the factory, i.e. you receive a part of the salary that varies depending on whether the plans are fulfilled, whether it is invoiced, whether the realization is carried out. When that was fulfilled, personal income grew, which affected collective motivation. Finally, there is a coefficient related to the workplace based on systematization, and all three coefficients affected the dynamic calculation, which resulted in no month being the same in terms of earnings.

Can you single out important decisions in your business so far?

It must be the decision to leave the government job in Petoletka and start a company. Then the decision comes on the Russian market. Going to fairs in Italy and Germany, where we established contacts and cooperation with many companies. And of course, commitment to equipment in the pharmaceutical industry, which is why it is a dominant sector in our production portfolio.

We recently made the decision to participate in the Düsseldorf Interpak 2023 fair, which was a significant financial step forward, but we expect that it will open up new foreign markets for us, maybe even the American one. It is not the same to sell a machine in Serbia, or let’s say in America, because there is a big price difference. This fair is specialized in demonstrating the technological achievements of production lines and packaging technology for the pharmaceutical, food and chemical industries. It is specific in that it is held every third year and is considered one of the most prestigious in the world.

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