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EBRD and EU support Serbian furniture materials maker

By Bojana Vlajcic

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Pinoles boosts productivity with automated cutting machine   

From car equipment producers to textile manufacturers and agribusinesses, almost all industries can boost productivity and cut energy costs through automation, digitalisation and smart solutions.

“We consider investments in these areas to be our main opportunity for further growth and business development,” says Tijana Raus, CFO of Pinoles, a Serbian manufacturer of plywood and wholesaler of wood panels, laminate and other furniture and finishing construction materials.

Pinoles was established in 1998 and today employs around 150 people. The company has a store in Belgrade and production facilities in Nova Pazova. It is the official distributor of several top furniture material brands in Serbia and has its own product range.

“With our growing business, we decided to invest in new equipment to be able to respond to increasing market demand and boost the quality of our products and services,” Tijana says.

With blend finance from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), supported by the European Union (EU), the company invested in an automated cutting machine.

“The new machine has allowed us to increase our cutting capacity and has made the work of our employees much easier and safer,” Tijana says. “It also allows us to process additional materials, which has led to an increase in sales of those materials of up to 50 per cent. Final product quality has also improved.”

The new equipment further meets the requirements of several EU directives, expanding the company’s export opportunities to EU markets. It is ECO PLUS certified, which attests that all assemblies are made using technology that maximise energy efficiency. It also does not emit any dust and so improves health and safety conditions for employees in the production unit.

Pinoles financed the investment with a lease from Unicredit Leasing, a local partner that on-lends EBRD’s funding tailor-made to support investments of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The aim is to help SMEs improve in areas such as energy efficiency, health and safety, and product quality and become more competitive in local and European markets.

After verification of its investment project, the company received a 15 per cent cash-back incentive, funded by the EU. This type of financing support is particularly useful to SMEs, Tijana explains.

“Access to finance has been one of our major challenges as our company has grown”, she says. “We are a medium-sized company, which are often thought to have the most balanced combination of capital and flexibility. However, we are in a less favourable position than large companies, which have greater amounts of capital and easier access to financial resources. Small and micro-businesses have more options for obtaining funds through various support programmes, such as this one.” 

Improving access to finance and helping SMEs to grow their businesses is one of the EBRD’s key priorities in Serbia. In recent years, in cooperation with its partner banks, the Bank has extended financing to more than 500 SMEs in Serbia, enabling them to invest in new equipment, facilities, renewable energy and other areas.

“We are united with our partners, the EU and local partner banks in helping SMEs to grow, strengthen their ability to export to the EU and speed up the transition to a greener, more sustainable economy. We will continue to provide affordable financing to support SME’s investments that help them become more competitive and resilient,” says Aleksandra Vukosavljević, EBRD Director, Financial Institutions, Western Balkans and Eastern Europe

Nurturing old partnerships, investing in knowledge

Next year, Pinoles will mark 25 years in business in Serbia and takes prides the fact that many of its employees have been there from the start.

“Partnership and cooperation are our driving force, which we nurture both within and outside our company,” Tijana says. “For us, our customers and suppliers are our partners. This is supported by the fact that one-third of our 150 employees have been working in Pinoles for more than 10 years. We have also been working with some of our customers for more than 20 years.”

As for the future, Tijana highlights the importance of investing in knowledge.

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