This is an EV battery manufacturing plant in Komarom, Hungary, which was built by SK Innovation to target the European market. The construction began in November 2017, and the plant has been in full production since January this year.
▲ SK Innovation’s battery production plant in Komarom, Hungary. Currently, the Plant 1 to produce batteries with an annual capacity of 7.5 GWh is completed. When Plant 2 is completed, these facilities will be able to manufacture batteries of 16.5 GWh per year.
We ran into a familiar person with a pleasure in the very busy battery plant in Hungary. It was Istvan Szabo, a Hungarian engineer who visited Korea in March last year and received training at SK Innovation’s Korean sites, such as Seosan, Daejeon and Seoul.
He is one of the engineers who joined from the start of the Hungarian plant and is passionately working in the battery assembly process. Let’s listen to his story, including how he feels about working for SK Innovation and his experience in Korea.
Q1. Hello, Mr. Istvan Szabo. Can you introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Istvan Szabo, and I work at SK Battery Hungary (SKBH). I joined SKBH since February 2019 when engineers started working. I’m in charge of the stacking process and Packaging Line 1, and we work in a four-team two-shift system. We pride ourselves on making batteries that are the “heart” of electric vehicles.
Q2. I heard that you were trained at SK Innovation’s work sites in Korea last year. How was your visit to Korea?
Yes. In March of last year, I visited Korea and received training for a month. At first, I wasn’t sure why I had to stay in Korea for a month. I usually get training before I am assigned to work, but it was rare for me to get training for such a long time and abroad. However, while I was in Korea, I understood the need for long training sessions, and I felt that SK Innovation value and care about engineers very much. I and my colleagues all thanked SK Innovation.
During the one-month training, we received theoretical training for two weeks and on-the-job training for the other two weeks. It was great to see and experience the processes to be performed at SKBH in Korea in advance. I was also very happy to receive the “Most Outstanding Trainee among the Engineers Visiting Korea” award unexpectedly, probably because of my enthusiastic learning.
▲ In March last year, Hungarian factory engineers visited SK Innovation’s major sites for training.
At first, I didn’t feel comfortable in Korea. That was because I felt that the facial expressions of the Korean people were very stiff. They were not necessarily bad, but they seemed very different from Hungarians. However, I liked the fact that in every restaurant I entered, people were very polite with manners and friendly. Especially I was impressed by the many taxis that are available at very low prices. Hungarian taxis cost more than premium taxis in Korea (laughs).
Q3. What was your impression of the Seosan Plant, which is SK Innovation’s main site where you received training?
I learned that the history of the EV battery process I’m working on began at SK Innovation’s Seosan Plant. So, I was able to see how the technologies have evolved. For example, there is a process called stacking, which stacks the battery separator, anode, and cathode materials. As an engineer, I was interested in the production process. I could see why the machine we’re currently using is structured this way, how it has been able to advance this much, and what changes have happened. I was also able to check battery modules personally, which allowed me to paint a bigger picture of SK’s technology for electric vehicles. Moreover, I was deeply impressed by the fact that the plant is very clean and operated safely. I will cherish the wonderful memories at Seosan for long time.
Q4. Do you have any comments or difficulties while working for SK Innovation, a Korean company in Hungary?
When I told my friends that I would work for a Korean company, they said, “You would have a hard time adjusting to working there because Korean companies give a lot of work to employees and the culture is different.” However, I have worked as an engineer for a Japanese company before, so I had a little understanding of the Asian culture and could predict the working environment. It is nice to see that Korean employees at SKBH work really hard and take great pride in working here.
Hungarian employees working in the process are also grateful for the opportunity to work at SKBH, one of the largest factories in Komarom. We will continue to put all our efforts in to bear fruits. I trust that the plant will run more efficiently over time through our enthusiasm.
Q5. What is your future goal, and do you have anything to say to your colleagues?
I want to be a top expert in the field I’m in charge of at SKBH. In that sense, I feel that I still have a lot to learn. There may be some colleagues who are going through difficult times now. Everything is difficult in the beginning, so please be patient and work hard. I hope everyone thinks that things will get better in the future.
Engineer Szabo Istvan is always doing his best in Hungary, a global manufacturing base that will become a milestone for SK Innovation’s battery business. We look forward to his bright future as a battery process engineer.