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Kakhovka Plant of Electric Welding Equipment is a world leader in making welding stationary machines

 

Yaroslav Mykytyn was born in the land of Ternopilshchyna, Western Ukraine on October 22 1943. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Joint-Stock Company Kakhovka Plant of Electric Welding Equipment, Academician of the Ukrainian Academy of Engineering Sciences, a member of the American Business Academy. Mykytyn whose work experience spans 40 years, has authored many inventions. Mykytyn is a recipient of many honorary titles and awards for diligence and contribution to the industrial development of Ukraine and promoting Ukrainian products at the world markets (Gold Medal Za efektyvne upravlinnya; St Volodymyr Order; Crosses Knyaz Svyatoslav and Derzhava, Bezpeka, Sumlinnist; Premiya Rady Ministriv SRSR; Zasluzheny mashynobudivnyk Ukrayiny and others).

Yaroslav Mykytyn is an adherent of Christian ethics; he is married and has a daughter.

 

The Kakhovka Plant of Electric Welding Equipment (KPEWE) is a world leader in making stationary machines for flash-butt welding of rails, resistance flash-butt pipe-welding machines and welding plants of a new generation. Machines and equipment made by the KPEWE are exported to 76 countries of the world. Like so many other plants in Ukraine, it was hard hit by the economic crisis of the 1990s but the KPEWE managed to retain its engineers and workers while changing over from a typical Soviet plant to an equipment maker operating on the market economy principles. To a large extent it became possible thanks to Yaroslav Mykytyn, chairman of the Board.

Yaroslav Mykytyn was interviewed by Myroslava Barchuk when Mr Mykytyn paid a visit to the WU offices in Kyiv.

 

Mr Mykytyn, the KPEWE will celebrate its 75th anniversary next century  three quarters of a century has passed since the foundation of the plant and it continues to develop, intensively and effectively, despite the radical changes in this countrys political and economic system. Its no secret that so many enterprises founded in the Soviet times failed to adjust to the new conditions. How did you manage to steer the KPEWE through the transition period without much loss?

The plant was founded back in 1929, at the time when the Soviet Union was being industrialized and new machine building plants were being built. Originally, the plant had little to do with welding  for a decade, practically up to the war that broke out in 1941, the plant was making all kinds of agricultural machinery and spare parts for tractors. After the post-war reconstruction, the plant began producing all kinds of hardware for the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station which was built in the early 1950s. At the end of the 1950s, a new wave of industrialization rolled across the country. At the same time, Academician Borys Paton, the top expert in welding, was working out new methods of electric welding, and our plant was among the four other plants which were reoriented towards making welding equipment. In 1959, the Kakhovka plant made its first welding machine. It turned out to be exactly what was needed to get the plant going. The number of workers and engineers increased tenfold  incidentally, at present the KPEWE employs 2,200 people as it used to in the Soviet times  and the range of equipment made at the plant kept widening considerably. The plant began making various kinds of machines for welding railroad rails, both mobile and stationary, fully automatic and semiautomatic, flash-butt pipe-welding machines, fittings and parts for machine building. The KPEWE performed important tasks, commissioned by the central Soviet government and its machines were used in laying the pipelines to Siberia and Europe. 60 percent of the welding machines and equipment used in the construction of the Urengoy PomaraUzhgorod gas pipeline, for example, were made at the KPEWE, and that pipeline was one of the major construction projects in the Soviet Union.

The breakup of the Soviet Union must have hit you hard. It must have been very difficult to survive the transition from planned to market economy.

It was a very difficult time for us indeed. And the most difficult thing was to find the market for our products. But we managed to maintain our technological base almost intact. We did not lose our design potential either. We set up an engineering research centre which employed about 250 top experts. This research and design centre was the brain of the plant. We worked out a new type of relations with the Paton Electric Welding Institute in Kyiv which in the early 1990s was also living through hard times. We joined forces and mapped joint strategies  we must keep abreast of  or even be ahead of everything that was being done in the sphere of electric welding in the world; everything that we produced must be at the cutting edge of technology. That was the only way to stay competitive. We transfer a certain percentage of what we get for every machine we sell, to the Institute, and this money is used for the development of science.

Another big problem was to raise the quality of our machines. You see, in the Soviet times, workers were paid for how much they made and not for how well they made it  the quantity was always ahead of the quality. We used all kinds of incentives, ranging from material to psychological, and at last we did get the quality that we wanted. The better the quality, the higher competitiveness.

Do you still make machines of the kind you used to make in the Soviet times?

No. None of the machines and equipment that we make today were produced in the Soviet times. In other words, its a 100 percent totally new product range. The volume of production increased 1.4 times.

Among the new generation of machines for flash-butt welding of rails are K900, K920, K 924, K1000, which are better than similar machines made abroad. Among other sophisticated machines are arc welders, semi-automatic welders, four post welding plants, and welding rectifiers. We have begun making welding equipment practically for all the car factories in the countries of the former Union. Earlier, such equipment was purchased in the west. Also, we have begun making universal welding semi-automatic machines and welding power plants in cooperation with the German company CLOOS.

You export a lot of what you produce, dont you?

We export practically everything we make at the KPEWE, and it is about 60 kinds of machines and equipment. And we export to 76 countries of the world, the USA, Austria, Canada, China and South Korea among them. In fact, about 99 percent of all the machines for welding of rails that are to be found in the world have been made at the KPEWE. And naturally we are proud that the KPEWE machines are so popular  it means they are of excellent quality and easy to use.

Are there any other advantages that your machines offer?

Of course! We were the first to equip welding machines with systems of operation and control based on microprocessors, and it means that the quality of welding can be under control all the time. During welding, 14 parameters are continuously monitored, and the recording of these parameters takes place every four milliseconds. It gives practically complete control and reliability. A KPEWE machine performs, say, 70 weldings during a shift, and each welded joint is given its special number with all the data in 14 vital parameters stored in the computer. The computer analyzes the data and informs the operator about the quality of welding of each joint. Our K 924 machine is quite unique  it is used for flash-butt welding with impulse flashing of rail ends to the railway cross-pieces joints made of high-manganese steel to appropriate rail ends made of high-resistance steel and for welding of rails with the profile height from 140mm up to 195 mm. This information probably means little to you but for any specialist it speaks volumes. This machine is a joint creation of the Paton Institute and of the KPEWE and its a recent development. There are only three K 924 machines that have been exported so far  one to the city of Murom in Russia and the other one to South Korea. The third one is exploited in Ukraine, the city of Dnipropetrovsk. Its advantages? It is three times lighter  in weight  than similar machines produced by other companies, and it uses four times less electricity.

How much do KPEWE workers and engineers earn?

Workers wages range from 600 to 800 hryvnyas a month, and engineers get from 800 up to 1300 hryvnyas a month. By Kakhovkas standards its a lot of money. We also provide other benefits. We run a very nice kindergarten and a health-improvement centre which is situated right in the territory of the plant. We purchase, among other things, curative mud brought from the Crimea, mineral water concentrates with curative properties, we have installed quite sophisticated equipment at our health centre for treatment and diagnosis of all kinds of diseases. We run two rest homes  one in the estuary of the Dnipro River, and the other one on the Azov Sea coast. We build apartments for our workers and give them to the workers free. Last year, for example, we had an apartment house built for 182 apartments. All of these and other things make the KPEWE a popular place to come to work at, and our personnel department is besieged by applicants for the jobs  but only one in ten is taken.

Another important thing  we pay for college education of the children of our workers and engineers. Mostly its those colleges that provide technical education of the kind that can come in handy if a graduate wants to come back to work at the KPEWE  the Kherson Industrial University, Novokakhovka Polytechnic, Odesa Polytechnic, Mykolayiv Machine Building Institute and Kyiv Polytechnic. We figure that even if one out of four students we send to study becomes a good specialist, then its worth it, and our expenses  we pay for tuition and we pay monthly allowances  will have been for a good cause and eventually they will be generously repaid. We, at the KPEWE, look confidently into the future. The average age of people we employ is 36-37, our equipment is of excellent quality and is in high demand.

You may be doing fine, but what about the general state of things in Ukraines economy? What are the prospects of development?

Its a very pertinent question. Im of the opinion that those plants, factories and companies that have managed not only to stay afloat but attained some success will have a good chance of further development. Those that just barely stay afloat are likely to sink because too much money is needed for their renovation. Those that lost their equipment and have actually nothing but the premises are dead and nothing will revive them. And I dont think its even worth to make an attempt to bring them back to life  all such attempts are doomed because youd have to start from scratch. By contrast, those that have weathered the recession and keep working with some profit have good prospects for further development. Metallurgical works are among those with good prospects. The chemical industry is also likely to develop well. In Western Europe they try to keep it down as much as possible in order to avoid damage to the environment but I dont think we, in Ukraine, can yet afford to do it. Factories producing mineral fertilizers, for example, are likely to do well. But Ukraine should reorient herself towards exporting machinery rather than feedstocks. It will put Ukraine on the world map as a highly developed industrial country, it will give it prestige.

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