Automation & Human Minds
Must Go Hand in Hand
The history of the subsidiary of the German holding KATEK SE began shortly after the Velvet
Revolution in 1993. Over time, the manufacturer of mining electronic systems became a leading
supplier of electronic systems to various industries, from automotive testing systems to medical
technology. KATEK Czech Republic CEO Ernst Käppeler talks us through it all.
Next year your company will celebrate
it’s 30th birthday. How do you remember
We started in 1993 as a supplier of mining
electronic systems. Our first customer in
the Czech Republic, and in Eastern Europe
in general, was the František Mine.
In order not to have a one-way customer
focus, or a single customer in fact,
which was OKD, we started to focus
on electronics assembly and EMS
(Electronic Manufacturing Services).
We started with two employees, today
there are more than four hundred of us.
The mining automation field is behind us
and this year the chapter has completely
closed (you could say it happened with
the end of OKD). Now our main activity
is the development and production of
electronics. This is a prime example of
how the company has changed along
with the region - from a one-sided mining
supplier to a multifaceted electronics
How would you describe your typical
Our typical customers are specialists in
various industries and technology leaders
in their field. These are not manufacturers
of mass goods (cell phones, refrigerators,
televisions...) but companies that deal with
industrial technology and automation.
Another important focus for our company
is electromobility, industrial drives, smart
home applications, industrial machinery
and medical equipment.
On your website you write that you have
perfectly mastered all phases of EMS
production. How would you describe it
to our readers?
EMS (Electronic Manufacturing Services)
include various activities. These are
either the assembly of the circuit boards
or the manufacture of the entire device.
If we make the whole device, we must
always be able to make the electronics
for it. We can develop the electronics for
the customer ourselves, but the customer
can also come up with their own design.
The assembly itself then consists partly of
a highly automated production and partly
of handwork. We need skilled and reliable
expert workers, technicians and engineers
to operate the automated production
machines for assembly, and for product
testing. The assembly of such equipment
is always a combination of manual
work and highly developed automated
You are a company with many years of
tradition and experience. Do you find it
difficult to stay in the market? What is
most difficult for you?
We have enough orders at the moment.
The biggest problem, especially in the last
two years, is getting the necessary parts for
our products. In terms of market position,
all suppliers are struggling with the same
problems, so customers tend to stay with
suppliers that they already know. And you
retain a customer by delivering the order
on time, on price and in the quality you
are supposed to.
segment. What brought you to this
The energy theme is actually management
of currents. This is a huge area today.
We are mainly involved in e-mobility,
producing charging stations for electric
cars and current converters for solar
installations. This market will continue to
grow in the future.
Speaking of the future, tell us how you
envision the future development of
automation, which you are also involved
Automation will continue to develop
intensively, but in my opinion it will always
be a combination of human intellect,
human hands and modern technology. In
the field of sensors and image processing,
the development is very fast. It is essential
to invest in the development of modern
technologies and to be interested in them.
All of us in the company have to identify
with it and learn to work and live with it
in order to stay competitive and retain
Mr Käppeler, thank you for the interview.
Your business is largely in the
electronics and electrical power
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