It was announced in February this year that Lotte Aluminium will soon produce aluminum anode foils for batteries near Tatabánya, west of Budapest. The company will serve enterprises that manufacture batteries for electric vehicles, and plans to supply them with some 18,000 tons of foil annually.
“The EU is strategically pursuing an eco-friendly policy and thus, the number of electric vehicles is expected to grow significantly. We decided to make an investment in Hungary because this country has a particularly good infrastructure for the electric vehicle ecosystem with high level human resources and also has a geographical advantage as it is located in the center of Europe. In addition, our major customers are already operating in Hungary and expanding their business continuously. Through this investment, we can provide higher level customer service, which includes quick delivery and we get a chance to follow the most current technology trends in the electric vehicle sector,” the Managing Director of Lotte Aluminium Hungary Kft., Sang Gab Park tells Diplomacy&Trade.
He adds that as the Hungarian government has an active investment promotion policy for foreign companies, Lotte Aluminium Hungary will set up the world’s best aluminum plant for supplying secondary battery production, receiving versatile support (regarding plant location, administrative procedures, etc.) from the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA).
Factory implementation under way
Lotte Aluminium purchased about 60,000 sqm land in the Tatabánya industrial park last May and started the civil and construction work consecutively in early June. “Now, we are in a final stage of building with the wall – roof work as well as the automatic warehouse are to follow. In the meantime, we have already placed an order for the main production machines with a German company and these are scheduled to arrive Hungary later this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are three months behind the master schedule but we are trying our best to catch up. We hope to start the machine installation from early March next year and start production in the middle of 2021,” the Managing Director explains.
Doing it the Hungarian way
He points out that when they planned the project, they had in mind hiring 85 employees before 2025 but they have now adjusted their employment plan to over one hundred people. “That is because we changed our initial shift plan
after discussion with our Hungarian employees. We expect that it will give better productivity and better employee satisfaction,” he says.
The company is still adjusting its HR plan to Hungarian circumstances in many ways. “We are not going to stick to the Korean company way. We think collaboration will be better. Also, we are investing in developing our employee skills. As you may know, our plant is the first aluminum foil plant in Hungary. Therefore, we are about to send our employees to Korea for training despite the pandemic situation. It will be a good opportunity for our employees. We believe that Hungarians have a good sense of learning and having much curiosity about new things, as history has proven.
So, we expect our employees to show good performance. Next year, the start of the installation of machines will be the first big challenge for us and commercial production will follow. In those challenges, we assume we will meet many hurdles, especially in practical issues and we expect our employees to show their potential talent in solving the problems together with Korean engineers,” Sang Gab Park points out.
Secondary battery elements
Lotte Hungary’s plant is to produce the major elements of secondary battery, which are cathode, anode, separator and electrolyte. Among them, the anode is made with coated activating material on the aluminum foil. This aluminum foil acts to collect the current inside a battery. Lotte Hungary will make this anode foil for the current collector. This requires high electrical conductivity and high aluminum purity as well as low mechanical defect such as pinholes and tight thickness tolerance. The typical final product thickness is 0.012 mm. Most of the product will be supplied to the secondary battery manufacturers such as Samsung SDI in Hungary and others in the European Union.
The procedures in the plant will respect Industry 4.0 standards. It means that all sensor data is stored in the database, monitored for real-time process management and used as basic data for the next process. Raw materials and work-in-progress materials are stored in an automatic warehouse at the center of the factory and can be automatically received and released by the manufacturing execution system (MES). The thickness and flat shape that determine the quality of the product are automatically managed by the measurement system and minimizing operator intervention.
By incorporating IoT technology, it will detect abnormalities in the facilities and automatically inform maintenance personnel what to check, thereby reducing the labor of maintenance people. In addition, all production data is provided to Korean engineers through a cloud system in real time, and this enables effective collaboration
over the geographical locations.
Lotte Aluminium is Korea’s biggest comprehensive packaging material company founded in 1966. It has six plants in Korea and one in Indonesia. Having a long history in packaging materials, Lotte Aluminium has a diverse product portfolio including aluminum foils, printed packaging materials, corrugated cardboard boxes as well as CAN, PET bottles. Among these, the aluminum foil business division has been supplying various kinds of aluminum foil products such as pharmaceutical packaging materials, electric and electronic industrial materials with the best technology that has been accumulated over 50 years. The company’s plant in Hungary will produce anode aluminum foils only and will be the world’s first specialized plant for aluminum battery foils.