|The republic of Belarus declared its independence in 1991 and, looking forwards, was one of the first ex-Soviet republics to sign the creation agreement of the Commonwealth of Independent States (the CIS). A key pillar of the Belarusian economy is its manufacturing sector and the longstanding Minsk Motor Plant (MMP) – with its market-leading diesel engines and the production and sale of machine parts, aluminium castings and commercial tools – is a successful example of that sector with units and facilities across the country and an international client list.||
Although MMP lists its official ‘birthday‘ as 23 July 1963, its history started earlier than that. Looking back, the seed that became Minsk Motor Plant was sown in the motor department of the state-owned Minsk tractor works in post-war 1948. Capitalising on the success of the department, in 1960 the Central Committee decided to use it as the basis of a separate unit for the manufacture of diesel engines and by 1963, the designs, the factory and the personnel were all in place.By 1974, the millionth engine had rolled off the production line and the following year, MMP began exporting its products to Bulgaria, Pakistan, Vietnam and various other countries.
By 1991 and national independence, MMP was a successful brand and the company took the opportunity afforded by the country’s new status to begin to expand its range of engines to include cars and buses. In 1993, MMP’s 30th birthday was honoured with a number of national awards. Returning to the present day, MMP is now an established international player, producing diesel engines and spare parts for tractors, cars, buses, trucks and various other heavy machinery, including concrete mixer trucks, caterpillar-track vehicles, concrete pumps and combine harvesters.
Looking after the customer
There are, of course, other motor and engine manufacturers but a number of factors contribute to MMP standing out in its chosen market. Firstly, MMP offers what amounts to a bespoke service. Its foundation range of standard engines can be modified in any of up to 250 ways which creates a total product range of approximately 1,000 different versions. All of these modifications are potentially part of MMP’s standard manufacturing procedures, which means that whatever the client’s requirements, an engine tailored to their precise needs can be produced within a relatively short time period.
Secondly, MMP provides both an after-sales service and a wide range of spare parts. Indeed, several of the MMP production facilities manufacture particular parts rather than whole engines; for example, gear pumps and pistons at the Zhitkovichy unit, starter motors in Gomel, and air compressors and oil pumps in Borisov. An indicator of the breadth of the after-sales service is the number of service centres: 38 in the republic of Belarus, 27 in the Ukraine and a staggering 328 across the Russian Federation.
Naturally, MMP’s history of commerce with Russia dates back to its inception in 1963, when Russian-built tractors and other agricultural machinery were supplied with MMP engines. This close relationship survived the dissolution of the USSR and one of the first customers for MMP’s new car engines was the Zavod Imeni Likhacheva company in Moscow (often better known simply as ZIL). Many other Russian car and truck manufacturers are also longstanding customers of MMP and the company now exports its products all over the world to Germany, Cuba, Egypt, Hungary, Poland, Pakistan, Vietnam and over 40 other countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. MMP’s pledge to its global customers is to combine power, price, quality and efficiency.
Like all manufacturers of combustion engines, MMP has had to embrace ’green‘ thinking. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 set strict emissions targets for countries in the United Nations, including the European Community. Consequently, for MMP to continue to do business with Europe, their products have had to comply with the latest European ecological standards. As a result, a series of independently-monitored trials of MMP products were conducted by the auditing and testing specialists TÜVSÜD at their Prague site, overseen by representatives of the Bosch company. Thanks to MMP’s success in these trials, the route to Europe remains open and production of the ‘Euro-compliant‘ engines is scheduled for January 2012.
Eyes on the future
The economic downturn in recent years has caused a drop in turnover for almost all businesses worldwide and MMP did not escape (sales volumes fell over 40% between 2008 and 2009) but MMP’s strategy is focussed firmly on recovery with a four-fold plan:
· to produce competitive engines that comply with requirements of the modern world
· to continue the process of modernising the assembly lines
· to raise quality standards (it is worth noting that in this arena, MMP’s quality management system is certified to the ISO 9001 standard)
· to reduce the cost and increase the range of production (a notable part of this strand of the strategy is the development of a line of engines operating on mixed bio and diesel fuels)
A further business avenue that MMP is exploring fully is that of maintenance and upgrading; for example, taking existing machinery or vehicles that have petrol engines and re-equipping them with MMP diesel units. From the vehicle-owner’s point of view, such a procedure reduces fuel consumption, increases reliability and – perhaps most importantly these days – reduces costs in that they are purchasing a new engine only and not an entire truck. On the maintenance side, an increasing amount of MMP’s operation involves the repair of existing engines via the network of service centres. The ongoing economic climate means that many businesses would prefer to repair their current fleet of trucks rather than buy new ones and MMP project that such work could grow to become up to 30% of their total business.
As ever, MMP is meeting the changes with a flexible and determined approach which is beginning to reap rewards as 2010 saw the beginning of an upswing as sales started to climb back towards their previous level. With a strong history of thriving in spite of whatever situation the markets (or politics) create, Minsk Motor Plant is facing the future with confidence.
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