EXPOM SA: complicated projects are our everyday life

EXPOM SA: complicated projects are our everyday life


Expom is a company with over 60 years of experience in executing projects for demanding industries such as offshore, shipbuilding, machinery, oil and gas, energy, and the renewable energy sector. The company provides comprehensive order fulfillment, starting from steel structure design, through analysis, production, and equipment, to independent testing. Its products reach the farthest corners of the globe. We interviewed Rafał Domżalski, the CEO of Expom SA, about the company’s areas of expertise, collaboration with international clients, and its perception of competition.

Expom SA operates in several specializations and industries. Please list the main areas.

We specialize in large-scale, specialized steel structures for industries with high technical requirements, such as mining, energy, machinery, maritime, and lifting. In addition to the structures themselves, we also equip them with hydraulic, electrical systems, and remote control systems. Furthermore, we conduct final tests on our products at our facility. This allows us to oversee the entire production process, including painting, equipment, final inspections, and technical tests.

Expom SA’s products are delivered to companies in Europe, Asia, and the USA. Almost all of our production fulfills orders from foreign clients.

How can a Polish company successfully navigate international markets among global and demanding customers? How did you manage to reach foreign companies with your offerings?

Expom primarily sends its products to Western and Northern Europe, but we have also executed contracts for the United States, Cameroon, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia.

One of the factors helping us acquire foreign clients is our experience. Expom, as an organization, boasts an uninterrupted 65-year history of operations. Another significant factor is the set goals for expansion into foreign markets, which we consistently pursue as a company. This requires patience, persistence, and often many hours of conceptual work and challenging prototype production. Our clients seek a reliable and trustworthy partner, and trust takes time.

How does Expom handle the shipment of structures to such remote corners of the world? It certainly requires substantial logistical support. Do you recall any particularly demanding shipments?

It is indeed a demanding matter, especially given the rapid growth in sales that Expom has experienced over the past few years. The company handles approximately a thousand demanding projects annually, which often include not only steel structures but also additional components and systems. Sometimes, complete finished products, such as large cranes, leave our factory. This is when serious logistical challenges arise.

For instance, we shipped a crane weighing over 50 tons to Dubai. Coordinating such efforts involves multiple threads because these massive structures are transported on oversized trucks, usually at night, with pilot escorts and closed roads. The entire operation takes many hours and is costly. The transport must arrive at the port at a specific time because any delay would incur significant costs.

Additionally, the convoy cannot wait for too long. The entire logistics process is closely tied to environmental protection, which is a priority for us. Cranes undergo tests with a substantial amount of hydraulic oil, and this oil must be removed from the tanks and the structure properly secured before transport. We also have to handle customs matters and even details such as certifications for the wood protecting the steel structure, which must meet specific standards to leave the continent. We manage these challenges mainly through experience and a dynamic team at Expom, following a project management model.

What enables Polish companies, including Expom, to be active in foreign markets and competitive in demanding industries?

Everything boils down to the right people and knowledge, along with a written plan in the form of a strategy. I believe that as Poles, we are ready to quickly acquire new knowledge, allowing Polish companies to operate dynamically and flexibly while maintaining high-quality standards. Taking on challenging tasks does not deter Polish companies, even though these assignments are often highly complex from a technical perspective, and their completion must adhere to strict standards and, perhaps most stressful, a specific timeframe for the project.

Imagine the consequences of a delay in building, for example, a crane designed to work on a large transport ship, which has been scheduled for a brief stopover in a specific port over a year in advance to install the crane. Handling such projects is routine for us, but I think ambition and courage are simply traits of both Poles and domestic companies, enabling us to succeed in international markets. Over the past few years, Polish companies have earned a reputation as reliable manufacturers and trusted partners worldwide.

Expom specializes in the production of compact and machine-based davits, heavy-duty cranes for offshore platforms, and rotating davits for offshore wind farms. How do you assess Polish competition in this field? It seems that the number of competitors is limited.

What sets Expom apart is that within our own production resources, we can build such structures from start to finish, creating a complete end product that undergoes rigorous testing on specialized testing equipment. It’s worth noting that, for instance, crane structures are produced under the supervision of specialized external certifying bodies. Considering our experience, technical knowledge, comprehensiveness, and the ability to produce according to specific norms and standards, we indeed operate within a relatively narrow group of companies in the country.

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One of Expom’s products is structures designed for use in challenging conditions, enhanced with anti-collision and anti-corrosion systems. Could you tell us more about them?

The final products that leave Expom, such as lifting equipment, are highly complex. This complexity is evident in the so-called anti-collision systems, which must be installed in many units according to international regulations. Their primary purpose is to protect the crane from colliding with other equipment installed on a ship or platform. These systems significantly enhance the safety of both the crane itself and the crew operating it.

Our technologists must initiate the analysis of such complex devices right at the beginning of each project in the technological office. The final step is to ensure that the system functions correctly. To do this, we conduct tests in which we verify whether the equipment is safe for future users after connecting the electrical systems.

What are the most interesting and demanding projects that Expom has undertaken so far? Which ones would you like to highlight in particular?

All of our projects are somewhat interesting and demanding. From the exceptional ones, I can mention the production of large-scale stands for electric machines weighing 52 tons or the production of a complete and final set of cranes for offshore wind farms. I also recall a project where we had to produce over 100 tons of highly demanding sets for gas industry pipe laying machines in just a few weeks. Such projects demonstrate the immense strength of a cohesive team.

Expom has its own technological and design office, as well as five production halls with a total area of 6,500 square meters, along with a machine park. Could you tell us more about it?

The company regularly invests millions in infrastructure and new machinery. The last five years have been crucial for Expom as we have significantly modernized our machine park. Currently, the company has machines for large-scale processing with weights of up to 63 tons, achieving machining tolerances on the order of a few hundredths of a millimeter per meter.

We have multi-axis machining centers and an extensive facility for plastic processing. Virtually the entire technological process, from thermal cutting to anti-corrosion treatment, the assembly of hydraulic and electrical systems, and testing, is carried out at Expom. We made massive investments in each link of production in the last five years.

Besides machining, we also invested in a professional paint chamber that meets Frosio and Norsok standards, as well as increasing lifting capacity to 30 tons. We continuously expand and coordinate Expom’s production capabilities. Further significant investments are planned for this year.

Expom SA places a significant emphasis on the idea of sustainable development. Could you tell us how Expom fits into the important recent concern for the natural environment?

Indeed, this is a very important element of our policy. Consequently, we have significantly increased our investments in environmental protection. We are a company that complies with international standards in this regard, and the best proof of this is our clients from Scandinavia, pioneers in environmental protection. Without a high level of culture in this area, such extensive cooperation with companies from this region would not have been possible. Investment expenditure is one thing; we also focus on educating our staff.

Just in the last few quarters, we launched several internal employee programs, most of which are aimed at increasing awareness among all of us as employees and improving the comfort and working conditions at Expom. Our programs have received wide acclaim not only from employees but also from other stakeholders at Expom, and numerous awards in the past year and the first half of 2017 are the culmination of this.

Could you provide an example, using Expom as a case study, of how to create an ambitious yet realistic company strategy and translate it into operational actions and the achievement of set goals?

The strategy was developed through a series of strategic workshop sessions, attended not only by the management but also by members of the supervisory board and shareholders of Expom SA. From the ideas, visions of the company’s future, and experiences of key individuals within the company, we compiled a coherent document that answers the questions of “what” and “how.” We do not hesitate to specify the goals we set for ourselves, which is why we also included specific figures. For now, we are implementing the planned strategy.

This is primarily because we have created a document that we revisit periodically and update as necessary. It serves as a guide that helps the company stay on course. Another important aspect is engaging people in strategy implementation, ensuring that it doesn’t remain just a “dead” document. It is crucial that people working in their positions know why certain things are happening and how their work can impact the overall performance of the company. This fosters employee engagement and provides a broader perspective, which often makes it easier to overcome daily challenges.

It’s like the story of the people who were laying heavy stones. One of them, when asked what he was doing, replied, “I’m toiling and lifting terribly heavy stones all day long.” Another person, performing the same task, answered, “We are building an exceptionally beautiful temple in this place.”

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How has the company’s development been in recent years? What investments to enhance the company’s production capabilities and competitiveness have you implemented?

In recent years, there have been many positive changes at Expom. We have significantly expanded our sales department to intensify the company’s presence in key foreign markets, especially in strategically important countries from our perspective. Additionally, we have invested substantial amounts in modernizing our machinery and factory infrastructure.

Currently, we continue to invest in the factory’s infrastructure and have further expanded our production area. Furthermore, we maintain several programs aimed at improving the efficiency of managing various areas of our operations to better control and manage the growing portfolio of projects. Some decisions were necessary, others required time to mature, and still, others were very challenging, but in hindsight, they have brought significant benefits to the company.

I believe that the synergy between the company’s management and the supervisory board was instrumental in our dynamic growth. This allowed us to effectively combine market knowledge and technical expertise with the rich business experience of key individuals managing the company or influencing its future. It’s worth noting that the core team has remained unchanged over the past few years, although we have been expanding our staff with new members.

What are Expom’s plans for the near future?

We are not resting on our laurels. First and foremost, we want to continue the growth trend, and we have specific ideas to ensure that the coming years are not much different from the past few. This means that we will continue to invest in our machinery park, place even greater emphasis on developing mid-level management, and maintain a strong presence in key markets for us.”