Visiting MIND Park near Kragujevac – Conquering rail sector with high technology, targeting air industry as well
The rail industry in Europe and the world is looking at a bright future, which will return Serbia to the maps of large, important industrial states, thanks to the unique cluster project – MIND Park in Sobovica, near Kragujevac.
The eKapija team has visited MIND Park, a large and important industrial construction site in this part of Serbia, especially Sumadija, where the first production halls for companies within MIND are already operating. In an exclusive story, we present the plans for the development of this “small” industrial wonder in the heart of Sumadija. Among the fertile farming land, a high-tech and rail industry pioneer in this part of the world is growing, already cooperating with the most important companies. Thanks to the innovative methods and the relation toward the employees, which is not based on work-intensive production, MIND Park has become one of the most popular places for work among the people of Kragujevac and the places in the area – Topola, Smederevska Palanka and other places where the knowledge of rail and automotive industry has been fostered and skilfully upgraded for a whole century.
The park will take up slightly over 150 hectares and all the important players in the sector of production of rail vehicles will be located in that area. The construction of the park is divided into several segments. In the first phase of the construction, which is in progress, the infrastructure and the side features for about 3,500 employees have been designed. At MIND Group and two Siemens factories, one within MIND Park and the other in the old location, two kilometers away, more than 1,200 people are employed.
MIND Group stands for Milanovic Industries Group, founded by Bratislav Milanovic. The idea about forming MIND Park dates back to 2017, and what initiated the focusing on shaping this concept was the offer of Siemens AG to take over Milanovic Inzenjering, then owned by Bratislav Milanovic.
Kragujevac and its area, which relied on the car industry for decades, now concentrate on the rail sector. Everything we know about the current trends in the European and global economy tells us that trams from MIND Park will succeed where Yugo couldn't in its time and find a secure place in the global market.
– Globally, the rail vehicle industry is an industry with a tendency of constant growth – Darko Djoric, the CEO of Mind Group, says for eKapija. For example, there's a tendency in Europe to have shorter flights, partly for ecological reasons too, replaced with rail lines, as advantage is given to rail transport everywhere.
It's a paradox that the rail system is particularly undeveloped in Sumadija. Kragujevac used to plan trolleys in its time, not trams. But MIND Park's ambitions are not local and do not stop at rail systems.
– This year, we are building at least another three production halls for suppliers in the rail vehicle industry. We do not limit ourselves to this area, but target all the segments in the metal processing industry. In the future, we want to focus on the aviation industry, as about 80% of the processes and procedures are similar to those in the rail industry – says Marion Georgi, Business Development & Shared Services Manager at MIND Park.
CEO Djordjevic adds that MIND Industries Group is having intensive negotiations with several companies about the production of aircraft components.
– One of the rail R&D projects we are carrying out is the process of friction welding, which is also used in the air industry.
The state-of-the-art infrastructure of MIND Park aims to enable technical solutions at the level of Industry 4.0. A traditional industry, such as the rail industry, is brought into the Fourth Industrial Revolution though an integration of modern information systems and technologies with the production and processes.
– The production of Siemens trams is expected to begin in March – says Darko Djoric. – The capacity of the facility is 80 trams (320 rail cars) a year, and the first delivery is to go to Bremen. MIND Park will manufacture finished products, and the idea is to unify the production processes for as many parts of a rail car as possible. The trams will be given the final layer of coating at our facility, and this sort of a facility is something Serbia has not seen yet and is completely different from the coating facilities in the automotive industry.
Advantages for partners and employees – logistics center, kindergarten, hotel, airport
The company MIND Real Estate owns the park. A team of designers within this company take care of the construction of all the structures and coordinate the works with external designers and contractors. MIND Real Estate also features a “shared service center”, designed as a set of services used by the companies within MIND Group, but also by external companies – tenants at MIND Park. It pertains to finance, HR, building maintenance and IT.
The interest of potential tenants in MIND Park is great. Agreements were signed with the Austrian tool and forklift manufacturer Autolift, Siemens, AMM Manufacturing and Stef Trans. In the upcoming days, a final agreement is expected with one or two Spanish companies.
– For Autolift, we have carried out all the formal activities necessary for the company to start operating within MIND Park, and they only need to focus on the production – says Marion Georgi.
Her colleague Igor Mitrovic, the director of MIND Real Estate, clarifies that MIND Park is not a classical industrial park, but that it provides full support to the operations of the companies which decide to work there.
Future management building – currently under construction – with industrial facilities in the background
A modern data center for all companies in the park will be located in the future management building. The management building has been designed by architect Predrag Milutinovic of the Belgrade-based studio Mapa Architects. A cafeteria, which will be rented by Culinaris, a member of MIND Group, is also under construction. Culinaris is in charge of preparing food for all the employees at the Park and providing catering for all corporate and private events.
MIND Park has been pronounced a project of national importance. Darko Djoric emphasizes the state's support in building the Park's infrastructure: access roads from Kragujevac and to Topola, optical cables, high-pressure gas pipeline and a substation, with another one to be completed next year. The rail connection with the world, a rail of 12 kilometers, the tendering for which opened recently, should be completed in 2021, which will enable the opening of a serious logistics center for the purposes of the Park and a wider area.
In the first phase, the logistics center will have 25,000 m2 of storage room, as well as a container terminal on 6 ha, a “land port” which will connect water and rail transport. This is a project of remarkable importance, as there are no serious logistics centers in Kragujevac.
Bank and post branch offices, a town management office, a kindergarten and a hotel are also planned.
– We are looking for a partner for the polyclinic and the diagnostics center – Djoric adds. – The facility would certainly feature an occupational medicine unit, and Siemens would help us procure the most modern equipment.
At MIND Park, the plan is also to build a runway of 1,400 m with a heliport.
– The project documentation is currently being completed. Zones such as this need to have favorable conditions for the handling of business jets. Serbia really needs to catch up in this segment – says the CEO of MIND Group.
Future runway at MIND Park
Knowledge is the essence
Since its founding, MIND Group has been investing in acquiring new knowledge and skills, through constant training of the employees. Professional training is done in cooperation with reputable schools, faculties and other organizations that are already trained for the execution of a concrete process. At the moment, advanced adhesion skills are being perfected, for which the company has already received a certificate.
– Siemens has frequently included us in the development of new products – Darko Djoric says. – The main reason why Siemens has bought Milanovic Inzenjering are good, professional employees.
New knowledge is in the center of the further development of MIND Group and, consequently, MIND Park.
MIND Group is realizing a one-year master program for acquiring the title of Mobility Master Engineer together with Siemens and the Faculty of Engineering Sciences in Kragujevac, which has been recording a serious increase in the number of students in the past two years.
This year's plans include the construction of a science-technology park, another potential cooperation with the state. The park will also feature an R&D center and a space for startups, focusing on IT and production in the rail industry.
MIND Edu provides training in the crafts needed at the park itself, as well as in software, soft skills and foreign languages. More than 150 people have already gone through training at the center, and the intention is for MIND Group to grow into a publicly recognized education institution.
The largest of the seven companies within Milanovic Industries Group is AMM Manufacturing, which produces components for rail vehicles and employs around 400 workers at the moment, in its second year of operations. It is located in two production halls, and a coating facility has also been raised.
As an environmentally aware group, Milanovic Tretman Voda also operated within MIND Park. It plans, engineers and produces turnkey systems for the treatment of drinking and waste waters.
The readiness to expand to other industries is shown by a rather unusual company within the group. Formed as a hobby, PROASPA processes and exports fruit and vegetables, focusing on asparagus, plums and sour cherries.
Finally, there's the IMW Institute. The youngest segment of MIND Group, formed in order to secure continuity when it comes to the quality of the park's products and services, IMW Institute is already carrying out several R&D projects in cooperation with faculties in Belgrade and Kragujevac, as well as with companies. Today, the Institute monitors the testing of materials and welds, whereas, in the upcoming year, its activities are expected to expand to include not just the industries present in the park, namely metal processing and welding, but testing the quality of water, composite materials and everything related to new technologies and materials.
S. Petrovic – M. Radonjic