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Step up for Pipelife in Czech Republic

Otrokovice. The hilly town of Otrokovice in the central region of Moravia in the Czech Republic used to be world famous for the design and crafting of Bata fashion shoes. It is now home to Pipelife having embraced a new expertise: making plastic pipe systems. Signs are that the transition from shoe fittings to pipe fittings is proving very successful.

Pipelife in the Czech Republic was founded through a joint venture in 1994 between its local subsidiary and Fatra A.S. Napajedla, a large Czech plastic processing company. Production of pipes was rolled out the following year from two PVC and two PE lines in Otrokovice. Jiri Mitek is Managing Director of the firm. A chemical engineer, he was involved from its very beginnings: "It was an interesting period for pipe companies all over Central Europe," he explains. "We were not the only company to make Czech plastic pipes but we were certainly more focused on growth."

This focus became more evident when Pipelife decided to buy the Fatra shareholding in 2004 to become Pipelife Czech (CZO). "Competition throughout the local industry was fierce as major European multinationals wanted to expand their geographical presence. There was also impressive competition from local plastic pipe makers."

In June last year, the firm consolidated its leading position by acquiring one of these local producers, namely Instaplast Praha. "By size and by customer preference, we are now the leading firm. Even though we are market leader of the national pipe market, we are continuously striving to enhance our performance."

CZO has approximately 130 employees – 103 working in Otrokovice, the rest employed in outlets and as regional managers around the whole Czech Republic. In Instaplast there are about 90 regular employees. The firm also maintains active trade links with neighboring Slovakia, Slovenia and Bulgaria.

"All our human talent and investment in ideas and machines have paid off. We are market leader in sewer, gas and cable protection. We are proud of this achievement but we still have plenty of ideas for improving our market position in other application areas.

Jiri insists that EU funds have boosted sales for Pipelife in his country. "We have been involved with many large and prestigious projects over the last fifteen years. Traditional pipe materials are not only losing their contents but also their reputation. Plastic pipe technology is gradually becoming the norm."

Recent CZO projects illustrate this trend in Čistá Bečva and Šlapanicko. These infrastructure developments have relied on PP Pragma and PP Master extensively. Total value per project for Pipelife amounts to EUR 2 million. "The Czech Republic has to fulfill certain obligations before joining the EU," explains Jiri. "That means a lot of new projects for improving sewer networks this year. We are therefore in close contact with designers, investors and construction companies to communicate the appealing benefits of our products."

Inspired

The launch of new products is a major element of the ‘appeal’ strategy and one that Mitek believes will succeed even amid difficult economic times. "We have recently started to make a new generation of PE pipes for the sewer and water utility services. And our introduction of the STORMBOX local Infiltration System into the building and construction market will also be successful. Our plans for the Hot & Cold water sector are equally promising."

Mitek says that locally inspired product development is also finding a receptive audience. What about the larger international context?

"Pipelife is a company of colleagues throughout Europe. Our close working relationships make it all possible. The Czech Republic has over ten million inhabitants and we are an inspired nation. It is perhaps no accident that Sigmund Freud, the grandfather of psychology was born not too far from Otrokovice. Inspiration is a state of mind and at Pipelife we treasure that resource on a daily basis."