After building three factories in Plovdiv, the German group Liebherr has now chosen Bulgaria and Plovdiv in particular as the center for its ‘smart’ growth. The Plovdiv-based Liebherr Hausgerete Maritsa, which manufactures home appliances and is the group’s first investment abroad, is already expanding its development team, which will work on more complex software products and electronics for the group’s products. This is part of Liebherr’s global strategy for turning the Bulgarian company into an R&D center for the household appliances sector and for expanding markets in Europe, Asia and the USA.
“This will allow our production to be much more flexible and able to react more quickly to the needs of the market. We will also be able to plan our future more effectively”, comments Plamen Totev, Head of the Electronics and Software Department at Liebherr Hausgerete.
Closing the circle
The R&D activity at Liebherr Hausgerete is divided into two types – for the final product and for components, explains Totev. The one for the final product includes the assembly of the devices as well as the verification of their technological functionality and has been available since the company’s establishment.
The second part – that for components, is part of the Bulgarian activity since 2016-17 – prior to that it was performed entirely by external suppliers with the indirect participation of engineers from the company. With the construction of this unit, Liebherr Hausgerets were able to gradually achieve independence from their external suppliers and start building their own know-how in the development of electronics and software. Expanding the team will give additional autonomy and increase the efficiency of operations because the development of a given component and then its integration into the final product can be done in parallel rather than sequentially.
“We still don’t have the human capacity to meet the needs of the company, and therefore we still have to rely on external suppliers for the development of some components or their production. However, this is not an efficient process, because when rapid changes in the components are necessary, we still have to prepare a new assignment or have a discussion with the suppliers, and then they have to start their processes, and everything happens very slowly,” commented Totev.
New technologies and future projects
What lies ahead for the plant in Plovdiv can be seen from the new high-tech project, which will be aimed at designing and building the software and electronics for the refrigeration equipment. This will include the development of remote control, consumption monitoring, IoT, Bluetooth connectivity, etc. technologies, which subsequently, if compatible, can also be used in the products of another class in the group’s centers in Germany and Austria.
“There are a large number of development projects underway and there are many that will commence in the next few years. This is due to the global strategy of expanding markets and offering new types of models. In this regard, we need capacity and we are expanding the team. We are looking for embedded system developers, user interface designers, software testers and electronic engineers who will work on several projects simultaneously in an international environment together with colleagues from Germany and Austria,” commented Totev.
According to Liebherr Hausgerete representatives, each of the R&D projects lasts between 1 and 2 years on average. This is also due to the need for rapid innovation in the market, driven by the increasingly high technological demands of end users.