For years, companies originating from the Far East have been present on the Polish manufacturing and automotive market. The business services parts of their operations have often followed in the footsteps of manufacturing plants. Among potential locations, the Tricity has proved to be one of the preferred spots and its importance should grow further in the post-pandemic recovery period, and here’s why:
Location, location, relocation
The Tricity has developed a strong Business Services Sector (BSS) ecosystem in the last decade, attracting more and more foreign investment projects. Alongside the well-known US brands operating in the region, there is also a significant group of companies with Japanese origins.
– Among the key global directions we look towards for FDI, we would traditionally list out the Nordics, USA and Germany or the UK. But for the last decade, mainly due to the dynamic growth of the BSS sector, a significant number of worldwide renowned brands that have their roots in Japan have launched their operations in Pomerania. We have high hopes for expanding this trend and developing the number of companies originating from the business and innovation titan. We want to prove Pomerania is a willing and able business partner, matching high Japanese standards! – says Marcin Grzegory, Deputy Director at Invest in Pomerania.
The Tricity is home to leading Japanese brands, such as Ricoh, Fujifilm, Nippon Seiki, and ONE. Although these companies represent different sectors, they have shared common experiences and criteria while establishing their offices in Pomerania.
With only a handful of employees, the establishment of Ricoh’s first Business Services office in Poland was preceded by a careful consideration of many other locations, both in Poland and elsewhere. – We started with a very typical shared services approach – says Jessika Jeschor, Head of Business Services at Ricoh EMEA – These were transactional activities in the area of finance and administration that involved a lot of data entry, accounting services, and sales order processing of our Ricoh operating companies across EMEA.
Today, the company employs 240 people and has transformed into a very diverse and highly specialised team, at the same time taking care of a number of various processes: supply chain, data governance, leasing, sales support, professional services, e-commerce, and digital marketing.
Ricoh is not the only company originating from Japan that has opted for Pomerania.
While many Japanese brands in Europe still have their back-offices, as well as financial, accounting, and IT departments based in the UK, France or Germany, we can see the shift taking place, as more of these companies set up their shared services centres in Poland – including the Tricity. – I see a steady growth of Japanese SSCs in Poland – says Thom Barnhardt, founder of CEE Business Media, Inc. and organiser of award events focused on Central and Eastern Europe – Poland is well placed, with a strong talent pool and extensive SSC network.
That’s exactly what convinced Fujifilm Europe to open its shared services centre in Gdańsk. Today, they are carrying out operational processes in the areas of finance, procurement, and human resources as part of Fujifilm Europe.
Why was Tricity chosen as the location? – It was carefully selected with the support of a scoring matrix based on our requirements for the establishment of [such centres] – says Michał Wojciechowski, Shared Service Director at Fujifilm Europe Business Service Sp. z o.o in Gdańsk – Location, skilled staff availability, and infrastructure were the deciding factors and it is fair to say overall 100 cities were considered and in the final stage Gdańsk won against 2 European capital locations in the region. After 5 years since our establishment, there is no debate that this was the right choice – he adds.
This opinion is reflected in many other conversations we’ve had with the representatives of Japanese-based businesses.
Ricoh’s global business services centre in Gdańsk is supporting the company’s entities across the EMEA region, covering everything from accounts payable and receivable, general ledger, order handling, supply chain and financial control in close cooperation with the finance departments of Ricoh entities across the region.
As they were looking at other potential locations in Poland and in other countries, they had a number of criteria in mind that had to be fulfilled. Political stability, good connectivity and proximity to the key markets were among the decisive factors.
The Gdańsk airport has very good connections with Scandinavia, and those are the markets that we are working very closely with – says Jessika Jeschor. The company also wanted to avoid overcrowded markets. – I used to work for some time in Krakow and Warsaw, and in this case we were rather looking for a mid-sized market, where you get quality over quantity. And we’ve never regretted our decision. It’s a very good location for BSS operations and I’d say people are the most important reason – Ms Jeschor says – Talent and language availability – these were the key factors for us to locate our operations in Gdańsk.
The location of the Tricity near ports is also a huge asset for foreign investment. – The development of the Tricity, and especially the visible expansion of the Port of Gdańsk, shows that the Tricity is firmly rooted on the port map of Europe – admits Reiner Zimbalski, Director of the Central Service Unit at the Ocean Network Express Ltd. (ONE).
As part of the continuous improvement process, ONE’s office in Gdańsk assesses the quality of internal processes in the group, develops best practices, optimises logistics, and coordinates the flow of information between ships and seaports, serving more than 20 ports – from Scandinavia/Baltic, continental Europe to the UK and the Mediterranean Sea. Container Management is providing the containers in the right place, right size, right time, and needed volume within Europe and Africa. In addition, the team in Gdańsk also organises the processes of maintenance and repair of containers to assure availability of containers in sound conditions.
Pomerania is the largest academic centre in northern Poland with 24 higher education institutions and over 80 thousand students in total. These include the internationally-recognised Gdańsk University of Technology, University of Gdańsk and Gdynia Maritime University. The Tricity is also home to the Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology, offering not only courses in computer science, but also in such fields as New Media Arts and Culture of Japan.
With a good educational offer, the Tricity is a regional magnet for talents and has a top rank in the country in terms of positive internal and foreign migration balance.
Moreover, about half of the workforce is concentrated in the Tricity agglomeration, which favours specialisation of qualified personnel, thus making it easy for investors to source talents they need. Talent attraction and retention is supported by Invest in Pomerania via their Live more. Pomerania and Jobs@Pomerania initiatives. Both are focused on international business stakeholders already present or willing to move to the region. Thanks to the job portal, all clients can have access to more than 3,000 resumes corresponding to 6 most desired profiles in the region. Learn more at: https://jobs.livemorepomerania.com.
We have a very good mix of talents here, in Pomerania – confirms Ms Jeschor – We are supporting companies and countries across Europe, so, besides the technical skill set, languages are important. It’s also a part of our culture that we want to have a very diverse workforce, consisting of people from different backgrounds, with different experiences, from different countries. The Tricity area is providing us with an excellent talent pool, because people here are usually well educated and English is the business language.
Nippon Seiki is another example of a global company making use of the local talent pool, in this case – engineering talents. – Gdańsk, Sopot, and Gdynia are among the most desired locations to set up a new business or expand an existing one – says Jolanta Gronowska, Office Coordinator at Nippon Seiki (Europe) B.V.
The local branch in Gdańsk is one of the companies operating in the automotive industry in northern Poland. It directly supplies manufacturers of European premium car brands. Engineers from Gdańsk co
operate closely with Nippon Seiki’s engineering centres in Germany, the UK, and Japan. The centre in Gdańsk currently employs 80 people but is planning a further expansion by hiring Project Managers, Software Engineers, Software Test Engineers, System/Requirement Engineers, Software Quality Assurance Engineers, and DevOps Engineers, mostly seniors and mid-levels.
– Our specialists work on the specification of requirements, design, creation, and testing of driving information systems software – says Wojciech Gutowski, Nippon Seiki (Europe) B.V. Branch Manager Gdańsk – We engineer software that ends up in the final product: cars from big premium European car manufacturers.
The investment potential of the Tricity results from its rich educational and business offer based on the proximity of major companies and universities forming an inter-connected hub.
– The Tricity is a well-known location across Europe, being an academic and business cluster attracting many investors, which leads to the rapid growth of the whole region due to prompt technological know-how and human capital exchange resulting in constant development – Mr Gutowski says.
International work culture
Global companies also choose Pomerania for another reason: the possibility to instantly implement an international work culture. – As an international, well-known corporation, the subsidiary in Gdańsk follows cultural standards of an international corporation and, from that perspective, it is not impacted by the ownership structure. In addition our local approach is heavily focused on People – explains Michał Wojciechowski, Shared Service Director at Fujifilm Europe Business Service Sp. z o.o in Gdańsk.
The proximity of Polish and Japanese work cultures allows for the adoption of Japanese traditional values in the local context.
Ricoh was founded more than 80 years ago in Tokyo, today, it is a global company. Still, it tries to keep the founding spirit alive. We call it the spirit of 3 loves – says Jessika Jeschor – Love your neighbour, love your country, love your work. Admittedly, whenever I explain it to new people joining the company, I’m aware it can sound a bit odd and old-fashioned nowadays. But if you translate it into the contemporary context, it is more valid than ever and reflects our CSR engagement and commitment to global sustainability goals – she adds.
When asked about some of the biggest differences in the business culture, Ms Jeschor says: On the surface and compared to other cultures, the decision making processes in Japanese-heritage companies can be seen as slower, but I think there is a lot of value in this different kind of agility.
The tacit cultural differences underlie all aspects of working life, from how you relate to your boss to how a decision process is made. Japanese work culture has many “highs”: they have very high standards in quality of product and quality of processes, they fully expect high trust, they expect high performance outcomes.
– Agility is key and has helped us to accelerate our digital services portfolio throughout the pandemic – says Jessika Jeschor – In order to define our strategic direction here in Ricoh, we are working based on global mid-term plans and I find that a very good way of working, everybody is aware of the strategic goals, where we are going, and what are the steps to take us there.
The testimonials above come from representatives of Japan-based companies present in the region. Hitachi ABB Power Grids, NordGlass, and Yusen Logistics are other examples of international companies with Japanese roots that have also decided to invest and expand their businesses in Pomerania.
The pandemic has caused all businesses to take a step back, re-strategise and come back with even bigger plans. As can be seen in our annual state of BSS report, the BSS is a sector that stands a chance of benefiting from the situation. As more companies will be looking to consolidate their activities in shared services, one can expect a bigger appetite to place more work with the business services providers.
– COVID has changed our perspective, as probably for anybody else – says Ms Jeschor – It’s a phase of uncertainty, so we are in the process of adjusting our plans. However, generally speaking, and I would imagine this applies to the whole BSS sector, as many companies are required to restructure in the view of declining revenues and adjust their cost side, I do think that opportunities for our line of business are there. – She expects the Ricoh centre in Gdańsk to come out of the phase of stabilisation soon and gear towards further growth throughout this year.
The Nippon Seiki Europe office in Gdańsk is also planning to expand. In order to meet the increased needs of the European market, the centre will create new positions in engineering as well as in administration. The Gdańsk team will play an increasingly important role in the development of future Nippon Seiki products that will also be manufactured in Poland – We want to continue to add more enthusiastic and capable resources to our existing highly experienced team so that we may continue to support the rising customer demands for our exciting and stimulating products. The investment we are making in Poland is an important part of our plans across the globe – Wojciech Gutowski says.
This vision hinges not only on the triad: talent pool – infrastructure – location but also on cultural proximity – Japanese culture is actually very close to Polish culture – concludes Ms Gronowska – and we are, of course, cost competitive and have a stable economic and political situation. These and other benefits attract international investors. Close relationships with Scandinavian companies, for which CEE is a nearshore destination, is just an example. This ecosystem is favourable to forming new, convenient international partnerships and strengthening the existing community.
Think globally, act locally
The Tricity is as diverse as the brands operating in the whole of Pomerania. The development of the region is directly linked to FDIs from various fields, implementing a wide range of products and services and searching for all kinds of talents. This goal can be achieved only in cooperation between local entities and both existing and incoming global brands. Japanese companies are a strong pillar of the regional FDI landscape and they continue to increase their share.
Building on the “we care more” creed, what distinguishes the Tricity from other Polish cities is its pioneering vision for the building of diversified human resources based on openness to migrants, rooted in the Hanseatic traditions. The awareness of the added value of diversity and its enormous potential for boosting economic and social growth is shared by all sectors and milieus: local administration, businesses, academia and social organisations. The immigrant integration and the equal treatment models, constitute a practical implementation of this vision.
The region cohesively and seamlessly brings together all the players to offer a synchronized and unified interface consisting of extensive and in-depth toolkits, single-window services, tech visas and much more. It’s an economy based on creativity, cooperation & a friendly business environment, where R&D meets the needs of businesses; tapping into the international flow of information, knowledge and economic cooperation. A strategic location in terms of connectivity and access to both local, domestic and international markets. A world-class education system with public-private partnerships and innovative courses is what makes the Tricity a great place to be in.