Visionary shopping worlds from Belarus

Visionary shopping worlds from Belarus

December 2018

Modern Expo came, saw, and produced. In record time, the retail outfitter has built a state-of-the-art production facility from scratch in Belarus and has been enhancing production based on lean principles year after year ever since. The vision: To enhance and reinvent the shopping experience.

Sometimes history brings forth remarkable blossoms, for example in the Belarusian city of Vitebsk. When Marc Chagall founded the Vitebsk School of Art in his hometown in 1919 and attracted great Russian avant-garde artists such as Kazimir Malevich, nobody could have imagined that this very spot would one day become a major Belarusian production site. A three-and-a-half hour drive from the capital Minsk, where the hammer and sickle once set the pace, Modern Expo has been producing according to state-of-the-art standards since 2016. In a factory building from Soviet times, the retail outfitter with headquarters in the Ukraine is already developing today the shopping world of tomorrow. “The future belongs to networked shopping,” Oleg Tkachuk says. The General Manager talks about a shopping trolley that not only transports goods, but also weighs them and provides consumers with useful information. For example, how many calories are contained in the purchased groceries.

High proportion of women: Modern Expo is growing rapidly and attracting young talent to Vitebsk, including many women.
High proportion of women: Modern Expo is growing rapidly and attracting young talent to Vitebsk, including many women.

The Ukrainian Oleg Tkachuk was involved in setting up the site in Vitebsk from day one. “Nobody could figure out what Modern Expo wants in Vitebsk, of all places,” Tkachuk recalls. One of the key factors in the choice of location was the favorable economic environment: In the newly created free-trade zone, the company can take advantage of tax incentives. Part of the deal was the reconstruction of a historic factory building.

Meanwhile, the critical voices have fallen silent. The statistics show why: Every year 1600 shipments leave the factory, each weighing at least 20 tons. Tkachuk: “We are proud of these figures; that is no secret.” The extremely efficient production method is also no secret: Modern Expo consistently applies lean principles to its production activities.

Lean is a form of religion

Accompanied by the constant ringing from his smartphone, the General Manager guides us through the almost clinically clean production halls and tells us how work is done here. Everything is precisely coordinated, step by step. Every employee is trained in lean production from the outset: “Lean is somewhat of a religion to us,” Oleg Tkachuk says summing things up.

It’s obvious: Here, lean is not wishful thinking, but everyday life. The key element of the production environment will make the heart of any lean expert beat faster. It consists of three identical cells, each equipped with a BySprint Fiber 3015 laser cutting system and three Xpert 100 bending machines. A separate welding machine is connected to each production cell, which subsequently reinforces the processed sheets as required. The distances within the production cells are so short that each worker has to take no more than just a few steps to complete the next processing step. It is even possible to bend and process different parts in parallel.

Directly after cutting and bending, the parts swing along the factory ceiling into a fully automated paint shop. The elements are painted according to customer specifications. Next step: Drying room. In the final step, the parts are combined according to customer requirements. Here, everything is laid out according to the Kanban principle: Every screw and every tool is registered, nothing is left to chance. Subsequently, the parts are packaged and the customs documents are issued directly on site. The advanced production method also poses challenges – albeit of a somewhat humorous nature: “The customs authorities often find it hard to believe that it takes so little time from the incoming raw sheets to the delivery of the finished product,” Oleg Tkachuk says. 

"Lean" is a kind of religion for us, says the industrious managing director Oleg Tkachuk.
"Lean" is a kind of religion for us, says the industrious managing director Oleg Tkachuk.

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