In a country once riven by war, the story of GAT is one of determination and triumph in the face of adversity. A former refugee, the company’s owner returned home after the conflict in Bosnia and built a successful manufacturing business supplying his one-time employer in Germany. Today, the company he created employs 65 people and is home to 12 Haas machine tools, including two recently installed UMC-750 five-axis universal machining centres.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is a country on the rise. It’s been 20 years since the conflict ended in 1995, during which time the nation has rebuilt and introduced liberal market reforms to help stimulate the economy. Many of the people who left to escape the war have since returned. Among them is Almir Gvožđar, who in 1996 came back from Germany, invested all of his savings in a second-hand CNC machine tool, and started making aluminium components from the family garage, under the name of GAT d.o.o.
During his time in Germany (citizens of war-affected countries such as Bosnia and Croatia had temporary refugee status in Germany), Mr. Gvožđar worked as a technician for ABM Fahrzeugtechnik GmbH, which is based at Breisach, close to the border with France. ABM is a leading manufacturer of high-performance parts for the motorcycle industry, and the company was later to be GAT’s first customer.
“Working alone I started producing parts for tuning motorcycles,” says Mr. Gvožđar. “From here, we managed to pick up a few other German customers, and so our story began. Indeed, the German market remains our most important to this day, although we also export to countries that include Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia.”
In 2003, GAT purchased a facility measuring 1100 m² on a 5000 m² plot at Sanski Most, in the industrial northwest of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In parallel with investing in premises and the addition of more employees, the company also began to step up its investment in the latest CNC machine tools.
“I first heard about Haas when I was at ABM; they had Haas machines,” says Mr. Gvožđar. “I knew the Haas CNC was easy to use, and that the service and support was good. Haas machines are also a good price – the best buy on the market!”
GAT today has 12 Haas models, including seven VF-2 vertical machining centres, two TL-1 toolroom lathes, and one TL-25. The company’s latest additions, however, are two UMC-750 five-axis universal machining centres, the first to arrive in the region formerly known as Yugoslavia (Bosnia- Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia). The machines have been set to work producing parts such as clutch levers, which GAT designed in co-operation with its customer.
“We were seeing more and more demand for five-axis work, hence the investment,” says Mr. Gvožđar. “Since using the UMC-750s, we’ve seen both productivity and quality increase. We are also achieving a better price for final products.”
Around 90 percent of the parts made on the UMC-750 machines are cut from aluminium. Many of them are motorcycle related – such as components for fuel tanks, air filters, and speedometers – and many involve the generation of complex, freeform surfaces.
GAT also machines parts for other industries, such as the metrology and medical sectors, and is attracting increasing numbers of customers from Western Europe. Because the salary for a machine operator in Bosnia-Herzegovina is circa €400 per month, the company is extremely competitive. GAT adds value to parts by suggesting design changes that will lower the price further still. This is a big advantage, particularly for larger batches – the company produces in volumes up to 10,000 off. So impressed is Mr. Gvožđar with Haas CNC machine tools that he even bough a Haas Mini Mill for the local technical high school, to aid in the training of future machine operators.
Walking into GAT today, visitors are greeted by an impressive, architect-designed building of blue glass, a mesmerizing water feature in the lobby, and a clean, efficient workshop run by well-trained operators making high-quality precision parts. The general presentation and standards could easily pass for that of a German or Swiss company. Located in an area of rapidly emerging modern infrastructure, few would guess that this region was once one of the most war-ravaged places in the world. Visionary companies like GAT, with high standards, ambition, and owners with a sense of urgency, are putting Bosnia-Herzegovina squarely, back on the map.
Source Haas Automation Europe Inc.