Reviewing 25 Years in the Power Industry: Proton-Electrotex
This article presents an interview about Proton-Electrotex's 25 years in the power industry.
Proton-Electrotex is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary. We asked the head of Marketing Department Alexey Cherkasov about the milestones achieved in these years and the company’s plans for the future.
In this Q&A Bodo Arlt asked Alexey Cherkasov about Proton-Electrotex's time in the power industry.
Bodo: The company will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2021. Tell us about the key milestones in its history.
Alexey: Correct. Next February the company will celebrate its 25th anniversary, a landmark event for both the Russian power electronics industry and our company itself. Proton-Electrotex was founded in 1996, at a very unstable time for the Russian state. The founders at the origins of the company, including General Director Alexander Semenov, strived hard to put the company on a sustainable track.
The initial projects mainly involved the development and production of power thyristors for a number of projects in Russia. From the very beginning, the company set itself a goal to provide top-quality solutions, paving the road to further success. In a few years, it allowed us to enter the European market, where competitors from Germany, Great Britain, the Czech Republic and Japan had been present for decades.
Twenty years ago the global market was new and unknown for us, the mentality and approach to doing business were very different from those in Russia. But Proton-Electrotex managed to adapt to the requirements of foreign clients. Within a few years, our company has earned both trust of large industry-forming customers and respect of our competitors. Today Proton-Electrotex is a well-known and respected brand not only in Europe, but in the entire global market of power semiconductor devices.
Alexey Cherkasov, Head of Marketing Department
Bodo: Can you name some special achievements of the company on the Russian and global markets?
Alexey: The company got lots of achievements under its belt in this quarter of a century. Year after year the company kept launching new products and modifying existing models for use in multiple industries. Every day our employees keep working to conquer new heights.
To be specific, I think that our participation in the Vyborg DC link project was one of the most significant international projects. This is the only DC link in Russia built to export electricity from Russia to Finland. Besides, our company participated in the restoration of the SayanoShushenskaya hydroelectric power station. We provided our semiconductors for repairs of the power machines after the 2009 accident.
Speaking about recent achievements, I want to highlight entering the prestigious rating Techup-2019. This is the Russian national ranking of the fastest growing companies in the tech industry. ProtonElectrotex took first place in the "Export potential" category among all Russian enterprises.
Bodo: Which products in the company’s existing product line look the most promising in the Russian and global markets today?
Alexey: Many semiconductors look promising, including thyristors, diodes and IGBT modules. It all depends on their end use and application. But speaking about general trends in the world of power semiconductors, then of course the future belongs to IGBT modules. These products have been on the market for a long time, and yet they still continue to evolve. IGBT modules have standardized electrical parameters and overall dimensions making them an obvious choice for projects in many industries. Engineers around the world work hard to improve existing form factors and design new ones. Researchers of Proton-Electrotex follow this trend too.
Many companies pay special attention to our MIDA-type modules now. These are IGBT modules in a low-inductance housing used in new designs for electric drives, renewable energy and electric vehicles.
Besides, lots of manufacturers are now closely tracking products based on silicon carbide since this material allows end devices to operate at higher frequencies while keeping the same compact size. Dimensions are critical for many manufacturers of electrical equipment. However, there are still some nuances in this technology that prevent SiC devices from fully competing with silicon IGBTs, but this work is underway, and surely the moment will come when SiC will "bite off" the Si devices’ "pie".
Bodo: What solutions allow the company successfully compete in foreign markets? Any new R&D projects in progress?
Alexey: Indeed, our company successfully competes in foreign markets. Today the share of exports in the total sales of the company exceeds 60%. Our facility is equipped with advanced equipment, technologies are constantly being updated, staff join various trainings and internships. Big customers are invited to carry out their own audits that also help us to improve existing production processes.
For us, an audit is a great opportunity to show off our achievements, share experience and learn something new. The company created project teams working on updating almost the entire product portfolio. This process is continuous. This is where our success lies. The world market could confirm the quality of the Proton-Electrotex brand by now, so we are trusted not only by small and medium-sized enterprises but also market giants – ABB, Schneider Electric, Siemens, General Electric.
Bodo: You have announced the launch of a web application to calculate thermal parameters of IGBT. Tell us about this application: what are its tasks, capabilities and what is the benefit for the customer?
Alexey: Yes, we started this project last year and opened access to the app last month. This is our in-house solution, which we are especially proud of. All participants of this project have put their souls into it.
One of the main tasks of the web application is to make it easier for designers to create converters based on IGBT modules manufactured by Proton-Electrotex. This software is designed to calculate heat losses in specified operating modes. A user can select one of the IGBT modules manufactured by our company, specify the circuit type and input data for the voltage, output frequency, phase load and other parameters.
At the moment, calculations support five possible topologies, but we intend to keep developing this application so its functionality will increase in the future.
Bodo: Did your industry encounter any new problems related to the situation on the global financial markets and the pandemic?
Alexey: Though customers from Europe and Asia are already returning to a normal life, one should not expect the same from the economy. The global economy has suffered massive damage over the past few months, and it will take more than one year to recover. Speaking about the electrical engineering market, it is hard to say when it will return to the pre-crisis levels. Now we are positive that the consequences will be there, and the electrical engineering market will begin to feel the consequences of the spread of the virus to a greater extent as soon as in the second half of this year. Major market players have already reduced their forecasts for the next 6-12 months, so a quick recovery is not expected.
Bodo: Recently the company was included in the list of systemically important organizations of the Oryol region. Such a large organization is surely familiar with the problem of staff shortage. How do you solve it?
Alexey: Yes, according to the decree of the Oryol region government Proton-Electrotex is a company of regional significance with a high impact on employment and social stability of the Oryol region. Our company employs about 500 employees now. Each of them makes an invaluable contribution to the development and prosperity of the company.
Understaffing is a known problem in our industry. It is very difficult to find professionals meeting all our requirements. This is why our company has a number of programs aimed at handling this problem. We have been closely working with the Oryol State University for many years now. Starting from early courses we start to supervise promising students, provide them part-time involvement in our projects, give them hands-on experience in research and production. So students become part of our team throughout their studies, and after graduating they join us for full-time employment.
In addition to this program our company holds trainings and seminars, our employees attend all kinds of industry events. There are many ways to improve your skills and gain new knowledge. Heads of departments have an opportunity to improve their qualifications under MBA and EMBA programs.
Professional workforce has tremendous importance in our industry as it directly affects the success of the company, both nationally and internationally. That is why we will always be focused on this issue.
This Q&A originally appeared in Bodo's Power Systems Magazine.