French energy management and automation company Schneider Electric will invest 60 million euro in the expansion of its smart factory in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv. The project will raise the capacity for manufacture of automated circuit breakers by 30%. The construction of the new facility is expected to finish within about a year, allowing the company to handle increased demand for its products.
As part of the project, the company will build an innovative geothermal energy system that will be used for both heating and cooling. That will be the first such industrial installation in Bulgaria. Its benefits are undoubted in the light of rising energy prices.
More breakers and employees
The project will add 3,000 sq. m of production space and three new production lines to the plant in Plovdiv. Like the existing facility, the expansion will also operate as a smart factory.
"In just two years after receiving an international Smart Factory certificate, we have managed to further increase our automated systems and now more than 70% of the processes in the plant are automated. With the three new production lines, that share will continue increasing," the company said in a press release.
The new lines will boost production capacity by 30%. Currently the factory manufactures more than 40 million automatic circuit breakers a year.
The project will also increase the number of employees at the factory. Schneider Electric Bulgaria plans to create 100 jobs by the middle of 2023, thus growing its total staff to nearly 1,000 people.
Energy from the Earth
The company also plans to invest in a new source of heating and cooling: a geothermal installation. The project will be carried out by Bulgarian company Re Energy Engineering. The equipment will be delivered from Sweden and is expected to arrive by December, so the installation should be up and running by the middle of 2023. The company does not disclose the value of the project but says that given rising prices of energy and insecurity of supplies, it will have a very good return. According to Martin Ganchevski, safety, environment and real estate manager at Schneider Electric Bulgaria, the installation will reduce electricity consumption by more than 70%.
The company expects to achieve a constant temperature of 18 to 25 degrees Celsius in the premises all year round. The installation will occupy a 3,000 sq. m plot on the site of the plant and will replace the existing heating installation, which was built in 2006. What's more, the new geothermal system is much more efficient - its energy efficiency ratio is between 4 and 5, i.e. per 1 kWh of energy used it produces 4 to 5 kWh of heat. For comparison, the existing installation has a ratio of 0.8.
The project will support Schneider Electric Bulgaria's efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. Such is the plan of the entire group too.
Carbon neutrality does not end with Schneider's own production facilities - it also includes all suppliers of the company. In Ganchevski's words, Schneider is constantly sought for advice on energy efficiency optimization by partners and other companies.
France's Schneider Electric set up a local subsidiary, Schneider Electric Bulgaria, in 1998. Several years later, in 2007, the company opened a plant near Plovdiv. The investment amounted to 22 million euro. In 2019 the Bulgarian facility became the second smart factory of the group in Europe.
In 2021 Schneider Electric Bulgaria increased its turnover by 17% to more than 252 million levs (126 million euro). The company employs 880 people according to data as of June 2022.