Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Glass Manufacturer Breaks into New Markets

Companies must show that their products meet certain health and safety requirements before selling them across international borders. IFC is offering workshops, seminars and publications to raise general awareness of international standards among companies in Southeast Europe and working closely with a few companies to help them win certification for specific products and enter new markets.

Rama Glas, a leading glass producer in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has overhauled its production processes in a bid to comply with these international standards and enter new markets. “Rama Glas has outgrown Bosnia and Herzegovina. We could make enough glass for the highest building in Sarajevo in three weeks,” says Jasmin Avdic, the company’s manager. He speaks like an engineer – factually and without emotion. But as he shows a new, state-of-the-art machine for tempering glass, he acknowledges that he has a problem: the machine runs at only 35 percent of capacity, and that number won’t increase much unless the company finds new markets.

Rama Glas began its quest to raise quality standards even before getting involved with IFC. Working to fill a contract with a buyer in Slovenia, it found that 30 percent of a first batch of heat resistance oven glass didn’t meet the buyer’s requirements. That led it to reassess its production methods from top to bottom, introducing new quality controls at every step along the way. The changes improved quality, but the cost was high. Still, with potential buyers in Western Europe already lined up, the company set out to qualify two other products – thermal insulating glass and tempered glass – for the CE mark, an official certification that products comply with European safety directives. IFC showed the company how to make quality improvements and introduce the CE mark without breaking the budget.

Avdic says a psychological barrier prevents many Bosnian companies from taking on the challenge. “Knowledge and human resources are the key to compliance efforts,” he says, “yet it’s much easier to get companies and banks to pay for new machines than to invest in transfer of knowledge.”
Rama Glas has no regrets about the investments it has made. Its reputation is growing and the European standards that once appeared insurmountable now appear more manageable. In fact, Avdic even expects to exceed them.

Rama Glas recently got an offer from a prospective customer in the Caribbean who wanted glass strong enough to withstand hurricanes. “Nobody in Europe can do that,” Avdic marvels. “It was the first time I realized that European standards are not the highest in the world.”