Alexander Shusharin: "They trust our quality"


- Alexander Pavlovich, you have created a factory from scratch and made it one of the leading rebar companies in the region. How did you manage it?

- The circumstances in which we found ourselves at that time pushed us to create the company. The plant grew out of a Moscow trading company that was engaged in the sale of fittings. Since 2006, for five years, the company has been the exclusive sales representative of the Ikar pipeline fittings plant. Then the new owners decided that they would trade better than us. It ended, however, in a deplorable way: the plant fell into bankruptcy. We thought about what to do next. You need to do what you know best. We knew how to sell pipe fittings, knew this market, had a reputation as a reliable partner, so we decided to start producing it. Before that, we had quite successful contracts with Transneft for the supply of Hungarian valves. We made a good profit. There were two options - either to take advantage of this profit and live comfortably in a small circle, or to organize production. They chose the second one. In the fall of 2011, the first three machines came to us.

- Where were the shots taken?

- From the Icarus, which by that time had serious problems. As you know, the best people leave the troubled enterprise first, and the specialists there were excellent. Several people believed in our crazy idea to create a new production and came to work with us. There were literally five or six of them. It wasn't easy. Each of us was a jack of all trades. The welder is also the assembler, the adjuster is also the operator. We did everything. I am very grateful to these people for the fact that they were not afraid to go to a new enterprise and plunge into the unknown. It was a brave act. For comparison: now we have more than 230 employees in our team.

Alexander Shusharin: "They trust our quality"

- When did the plant release the first batch of products?

- In January 2012, we released the first six needle valves for the test benches of the Gusev Rebar Plant. As it seems to us now, they were small and unsightly. Then there were small deliveries to oil companies.

- The plant is located far away from us, in the Vladimir region. Why did he order these valves from you?

- When we were engaged in the sale of fittings, the geography of deliveries was absolutely all over the country, from the Far East to Kaliningrad, not to mention the near abroad. In this sense, there were no distant cities for us. Working in the market, we were well acquainted with other rebar factories and as a trading company proved to be a reliable supplier. They needed a short time and high quality, so they turned to us. In addition, we very smoothly switched from selling someone else's fittings to manufacturing and selling our own. Having conceived the idea of organizing the production of fittings, we continued to engage in trade.

Alexander Shusharin: "They trust our quality"

- Which is easier and more profitable – to sell someone else's or produce your own?

- Sell someone else's. For almost the first three years, we worked at a loss. It was necessary to buy equipment, blanks, metal. It takes a lot of money to start. To make a profit, you need to increase sufficient volumes. We reached the break-even point somewhere in late 2013 - early 2014. But it took a lot of work. Since 2013, the machines have been operating in non-stop mode in four shifts. We were moving forward at a fast pace and with big steps. But there was no other way, otherwise we could have failed.

- How many machines do you have now?

"About thirty-five. A new TREVISAN processing center has recently arrived from Italy. It's not fully unpacked yet. Its price in Italy is 540 thousand euros, without taxes and shipping costs, but it is not the largest and not the most expensive machine. To produce high-quality products, we need high-quality, high-performance machines. And the larger the fittings that we produce, the more expensive the machines are.

Alexander Shusharin: "They trust our quality"

- What is your factory producing now?

- Industrial pipe fittings - gate valves, shut-off and check valves. The main customers are companies engaged in oil refining, oil production, and oil transportation. This year we have signed good contracts with Sibur - and this is petrochemistry. I won't say that we have a full load right now. But there are contracts until 2020 inclusive.

- So you feel calm?

- You can never calm down. In my opinion, this is the worst condition. Once you calm down, something bad would happen. Proven by time. It's worth calming down, something will definitely happen. Checked.

Alexander Shusharin: "They trust our quality"

- Development and implementation of high–tech innovative products is the main direction of the company's development. This is stated on your website. What is new invented, made and implemented in your company?

- It is difficult to come up with something completely new in fittings, but it is possible to improve existing ones. We have recently issued a patent for a check valve. Our specialists have been looking for the right design for a very long time. It was necessary to recycle all Russian analogues, a lot of Western analogues, and only in the process of painstaking work and calculations it was possible to achieve such a design that would ensure absolute tightness in a wide range of working pressure. This valve is used mainly at oil refineries, for which even a day of downtime of some installation in case of equipment failure is crazy money. Many manufacturers claim the tightness of their valves, but to achieve this is an extremely difficult task. Now we see that some young rebar plants are buying one or two pieces from us. We know what will be copied.

- Did you copy someone else's?

- When we started the production of the first gate valve, we bought analogues in Korea, Italy, Russia. All of them were disassembled, looked at, checked which one is better. They took an Italian one for the base. It is very ergonomic, looks good, and is light enough. They began to test. After working 50 cycles, the valves flowed. After 150 cycles, the torque began to grow sharply, the threaded bushings began to crumble. Taking the configuration as a base, we had to replace materials, redesign the seat design, spindle diameter in order to achieve the necessary durability and quality. If we take something as a basis, it is necessarily processed and improved. Therefore, we are confident in our fittings.

Alexander Shusharin: "They trust our quality"

- And there is an opinion that everything European is a priori better ...

- European - for Europeans. If German is made for the domestic market, the quality will be excellent. It's already worse for the American market, and even worse for Russia. Because in Russia the main factor is cheapness. And at all tenders, this is the main position. Europeans are not stupid people. Need cheap? It will be cheap for you. However, now in Russia the approach has begun to change. Some oil companies have significantly tightened the requirements, choosing not only by price, but also by quality. They come to the production, conduct an audit, look at the quality of products, technology, evaluate the quality management system. Perhaps one of the toughest companies in this regard is Transneft. LUKOIL and Sibur take quality seriously enough. To get to their suppliers, you need to go through seven circles of hell. But it's worth it. Here you will be compared with the best. There will be no cheap Chinese fittings among your competitors, for which they simply changed their passports and glued the nameplates of the Russian factory.

- How do you position yourself?

- We are not trying to do the cheapest. Doing it cheap is a short–term policy, and therefore from the very beginning we decided that we would occupy the niche where quality is required. In tenders where the low price comes first, we lose. We regret this, but we are not even trying to fight. We are ready to fight only with our own kind and the best, and not with manufacturers of dubious cheap fittings. That's probably why we work with leading oil companies that have different priorities.

Alexander Shusharin: "They trust our quality"

- In one of the interviews, you said that your plant has achieved the specified volumes and quality and now it is important that the products become recognizable and presentable. What does it mean?

- Today our logo is recognizable. At each valve company supplying products to the oil and gas sector, there are representatives of the customer – Rosneft, Gazpromneft and so on, and we receive feedback from them. They say: if there is a RTMT logo, then additional acceptance is no longer required at the fields. Our quality is trusted.

- Our country has been living under sanctions for more than three years. The state has embarked on import substitution. But in one of the interviews you said that targeted support for enterprises will not help, a targeted policy is needed. Has something changed now?

- The government has defined the criteria by which industrial products can be classified as manufactured in Russia. Previously, it was believed that if the share of domestic components for the production of goods is 15%, it is made in Russia. The ultimate goal is at least 50%. An increase in localization depth is required every year. This somehow forces state-owned companies to turn to the Russian market. Gazprom has seriously started to engage in import substitution. Today, oil companies, even where imported fittings are included in projects, give the opportunity toWe are ready to offer Russian analogues. They weren't even looked at before. Therefore, in my opinion, there is some movement, but is it enough?

Alexander Shusharin: "They trust our quality"

- In 2016, Kurgan valve builders and in particular the RTMT plant took part in the International Exhibition of Pipeline Valves "Valve World Expo", which was held in Germany. Was this the first experience of reaching a European buyer or not?

- We have visited this exhibition before, but as visitors, not as participants. If the reinforcement cluster had not organized the trip, we would not have participated in it this time. We didn't sell anything. Germans don't want to buy someone else's. Their task is to sell their own. But if you couldn't sell today or tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow you can "shoot". Therefore, visiting any exhibition is beneficial. In addition, all innovations are presented at European exhibitions. We were able to see a lot of interesting fittings and take note of some ideas.

- Speaking of the cluster. The reinforcement cluster has been operating in Kurgan since 2014. You were one of the first to enter it. What does it give you?

- The more successful the production, the more orders it receives, the more money goes to the regional budget. That is, the development of any enterprise from the cluster brings dividends to the region. A large–scale industrial forum will be held in Kurgan in September - the cluster is among the organizers and initiators. This is great, because it will allow you to invite our customers, fellow competitors to the Kurgan to show your capabilities and make yourself known. This is a big plus. And this is one of the tasks that the cluster should work for. As for cooperation with Kurgan enterprises, we have always cooperated. There is always friendly cooperation among Kurgan rebar workers, we live in the same city and should help each other. For example, we order various laboratory analyses for hundreds of thousands of rubles, including X-ray inspection of workpieces, metallography at Kurganspetsarmatura, with MKT-ASDM (a research and production company specializing in the development of modern designs of oil and gas equipment - approx.) sometimes we change equipment - we, for example, give an electric drive to conduct some kind of tests, they are something else. Therefore, despite the fact that by definition we are competitors, since we all make fittings, there is no obvious competition between us. It's more of a partnership than a relationship between competitors.

- Several projects are being implemented on the initiative of the cluster. What are you most interested in?

- Not so long ago we discussed the idea of a rather interesting event. Director of the Regional Center for Cluster Development Sergey Sukharev proposed to hold a conference among supply companies and potential regional suppliers. To some extent, this will be a presentation of the capabilities of Kurgan enterprises with which the cluster and its plants can cooperate in the future. We buy a lot of products: fasteners, studs, nuts - not for one million rubles a month. And, of course, it would be more convenient for us to buy it in Kurgan, and not in Chelyabinsk or somewhere else. Such cooperation is beneficial to both sides – the cluster will have reliable suppliers, suppliers will have buyers. And in general, this is again a big plus for the development of the region and the budget.

- What, in your opinion, is the main task of the reinforcement cluster?

- There are three things that are important for any enterprise: good sales, good material support and financing for the development of production. This is what we expect from the cluster and are ready to accept. Forums, conferences, exhibitions are an aid in promoting our products. And in this regard, the cluster has taken the right direction. We are counting on the industrial forum to be held in Kurgan in September. This is one of the most positive and useful initiatives.