30 Years of ABEL-Computer company Year by Year…
1988 – The Beginning of a Long Journey
It is 1988. Milan Mačuga, nowadays the owner of ABEL-Computer, works as a programmer analyst and has a Robotron K-6314 dot matrix printer on his desk. The cartridge for this printer costs 500 Kčs (Czechoslovak crowns) and lasts a week or two. Throwing these cartridges away into a litter bin seems to be excessive wastage for a person with a salary of 3,000 Kčs a month. Therefore, he disassembles the cartridge to examine how it works. To his surprise, the principle (from his point of view) is trivial and, at the same time, brilliant. The cartridge contains a Möbius loop that extends the tape in the cartridge to twice the usual length. The inquisitive programmer will soon find a tape replacement solution. The used-up cartridges are firstly filled by means of typewriter ribbons and, later, from ribbon discs that were several hundred meters long. However, the tape also needs to be spliced. However, there is nothing to do it with on the market, so Milan Mačuga produces the first – quite unique – tape welding machine for creating and smoothing the splice himself. The result is perfect, solid, thin and smooth.
The first remanufactured cartridges were born and long-term tests performed at work confirm that, thanks to the new tape, they print even longer than the original Robotron ones. The production price of the remanufactured cartridge (excluding the cost of the idea, work, packaging, invoicing, etc.) is 12 Kčs! So a good idea is being born in a small office in a block of flats thanks to the Robotron K-6314 printer.
The history of cartridge remanufacturing in Opava is about to begin.
1989 – The End of Old Times
On May 28, 1989, Milan Mačuga started to do business in the area of providing services based on the permission issued by the District National Committee of the City of Opava. The interest in remanufacturing (renovation) of print cartridges is huge due to the quality and cost. Therefore, Milan leaves his job and establishes Programming and System Service. One person, lots of ideas, hard work, courage and belief that it will all work out well. It was sufficient at the beginning.
1990 – A New Journey
It is shortly after the Velvet Revolution and it is necessary to keep abreast of the latest trends. Therefore, from June 1990, Programming and System Service expands the range of its services, so now it includes business activity. The team is reinforced with the first 4 “employees” – so far only as probationers, the so-called “ID employees” (self-employed). The basic working tools: a large suitcase and a calculator, floppy disks, typewriter tapes, and the courage to present it in a purchaser's or financial manager's office. It works and the first large customers, such as Ostroj Opava, Moravské chemické závody (today BorsodChem), ČSAD Ostrava or Galena (today TEVA), appear on the list of customers. At the same time, the first real factory for remanufacturing and production of cartridges for dot matrix printers is being created in the Mačuga family's home. The entire family is involved in the process for a small remuneration. The production takes place in the garage, packing and invoicing at home, in the block of flats. The first huge investment in technology is made. It is obvious that a home-made tape welding machine will no longer suffice in terms of capacity. It is therefore necessary to purchase a professional machine for splicing printing tape. On a loan and with an exorbitant interest. The price is a breathtaking 900,000 Kčs!
1991 – The First Change of Residence
The first two real employees. Moving from the garage to the first larger non-residential premises leased in a company called AGREKOS. Extending the offer with training activities.
1992 – The Birth of a Real Company
26. 8. 1992. A historical date meaning the transformation of a natural person into a legal entity. The company ABEL-Computer s.r.o. is founded.
1993 – The End of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia is splitting up. However, the volume of remanufactured print cartridges is constantly increasing and is complemented by a genuine greater production of new typewriter cartridges. Sales of office equipment and computers are also under way, accredited training and retraining sessions are carried out. While ABEL-Computer is still a small business, it has big plans…
1994 – Slovakia Calls
Number of employees: 8.
After the split-up of Czechoslovakia, the Slovak market becomes, thanks to the borders, essentially inaccessible, but not uninteresting. It is necessary to start preparing for the establishment of a company in Slovakia.
1995 – The Slovak Journey Begins
Number of employees: 10.
The company ABEL-Computer s.r.o. – Slovakia is founded in Čadca. However, the establishment of a branch is very exhausting in terms of time and money. No one knows that the Slovak company will be profitable in 5 long years! But the popularity of refurbishing print cartridges is soaring as it brings enormous financial savings to customers using this consumable.
1996 – The Most Expensive „Training“
Number of employees: 12.
ABEL-Computer still keeps up with the times and expands its services by remanufacturing of ink cartridges. Their refilling is performed using Swiss technology, which, however, proves to be very defective. However, frequent repairs to the machine, which cost 850,000 Kčs, provide valuable information and later lead to the construction of our own ink cartridge remanufacturing machines. It is probably the most expensive, but also the most important „training“ in the company's history. The owner learns from the mistakes, but also from the design perfection of the Swiss machine, and, in the years to come, he designs, manufactures prototypes and programs his own machines for remanufacturing. The foundation of the future R&D department, which he will personally manage later, is laid.
1997 – A Sharp Growth
Number of employees: 26. With the development of our own cartridge remanufacturing machines and investments in other manufacturing technologies in the amount of millions of Czech crowns, the company is expanding rapidly from year to year. The turnover compared to 1996 is growing by 74% and the office equipment shop is open.
1998 – Laser Won't Stop Us
Number of employees: 49.
The company makes continuous progress. Compared to the previous year, the turnover increases by another 80%. Massive investments in new technologies are continuing and much more advanced machines and tools needed to remanufacture the cartridges, now also for laser printers, are being developed.
1999 – The Second Change of Residence
Number of employees: 68.
The company's turnover increases by another 75%. Preparations to start remanufacturing of colour ink cartridges are under way, and it is clear that the existing premises are no longer sufficient. The only option is to find a new facility in Opava and renting a 2000 m2 building proves to be the fastest solution. The Slovak branch is beginning to prosper and achieves a positive economic result for the first time in 5 years!
2000 – Customer First
Number of employees: 90.
Preparations for remanufacturing of colour ink cartridges are being completed and the R&D investments are huge. The process of preparing for quality system certification according to the ISO 9001 standard begins. Investment in the customer care system is made as well. The company introduces the „Customer First“ philosophy as it expects the market to change significantly within 10 years and the care delivered to the customers will be paid back in the form of their loyalty. No one at the time knows that the market change will come in the autumn of 2008 in the form of a severe global economic crisis.
2001 – ISO 9001
Number of employees: 113.
ABEL-Computer's services are extended again and they include servicing and prophylaxis of printers. Cooperation with outsourcing partners begins. By renting 2 production halls, the production area is increased to 4000 m2. Increasing quantity, however, must in no way mean a reduction in quality! The company demonstrates this in August 2001 with the successful completion of the ISO 9001: 2001 quality system certification process.
2002 – The Advent of Colour Laser
Number of employees: 119.
A customer care department and a call centre are established. Preparations for remanufacturing of colour laser cartridges are beginning. The foundation for future success is the perfect understanding of colour printing technologies. Massive investments in cartridge production technologies are being made. ABEL-Computer introduces print colour matching measurements using X-Rite and BYG Gardner spectrophotometers. The suppliers of components for toner cartridge manufacturing are from now on selected solely on the basis of accurate measurements demonstrating that the print will be faithful in terms of colour. The customers appreciate this approach and require it over time.
2003 – We Can Also Handle HP-9000
Number of employees: 121.
New printers and new research and development challenges are coming, requiring more and more extensive investments. Thanks to them, however, ABEL-Computer is able to keep pace with the world and is getting faster and more successful in introducing new types of alternative cartridges into production. We are not even afraid of buying a license and costly remanufacturing technology for the then largest and fastest HP-9000 printer.
The basis of success is still the uncompromising emphasis on quality. Stress tests of the individual components required for remanufacturing of the cartridges are carried out, and dozens of test pieces are „run“ through the appropriate printer before each new cartridge type is put into production. However, the cost of testing returns within a few months, as the cartridges tested are of constant quality and there are almost zero claims. Of course, errors sometimes occur, but they are minimal.
A supplier selection system is in place which is based on individual component stress test results. Almost every delivery is subjected to quality control, and the future confirms that this is the only way to monitor supplier quality.
2004 – Invex – A Historically Important Fair
Number of employees: 126.
Company expansion continues. The existing premises do not suffice either and preparation for the purchase or construction of a new company headquarters began.
As the most important representative of the field of print cartridge remanufacturing in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, ABEL must also be present at the Invex trade fair, the largest domestic IT exhibition. Its booth is always double in terms of exhibition space and always presents itself with something new and interesting. But, then, the year 2004 comes and brings about the presentation of a domestic remanufacturing company, unimaginable and unprecedented until then. The ABEL exposition occupies a completely dominant space in the centre of Hall A2 and offers its customers a program and support comparable to Microsoft's presentation. Hundreds of visitors are taking part in competitions organized by „ABEL people“ at their booth, and dozens of them win Nikon printers and cameras. Gift T-shirts with the company logo can be seen on the streets all over the country for many years.
2005 – Chips Are Not A Problem Either
Number of employees: 156.
Technological advances in the field of printing are leaping quickly. However, the new chip technologies do not mean ABEL-Computer's slowdown in market adjustment. The year 2005 is marked by intensive Colour Management studies and the establishment of cooperation with chip manufacturers within the reverse analysis of new print cartridges with chips. Preparations for the advent of innovative printing technologies are under way at full speed. They culminate in the purchase of a new company headquarters, the preparations for its reconstruction and the purchase of 17,000 m2 of the adjacent land for further development of the company.
2006 – Another Change of Residence
Number of employees: 163.
The goal of the company is clear: to maintain current customers and market position not by promises or tricks, but exclusively by technical abilities and above-standard care. Therefore, further investment in research and development as well as in the study of new technologies is a must. The reconstruction of the future residence on Obloukova Street is nearing the end and the preparation for moving starts.
2007 – Internet Sale Calls
Number of employees: 171.
Moving to a new headquarters means improving the conditions for working in every way. Research and development is gaining a completely new character and the internal communication is taking on a faster and better quality manner. At the same time, customer care based on a long-term personal approach is an ever-increasing priority. But this area also requires an innovative and modern approach. Therefore, preparations for expanding the product range through an online shop are beginning. The domain https://shop.abel.cz. sees the light of day.
2008–2017 – Ten Years Having Passed in No Time
Autumn 2008 comes and brings about a financial crisis. For months, it is not clear what will happen. Many customers reduce or even postpone their orders. At the same time, however, they confirm that the care that ABEL-Computer has provided them with so far will justify continuing cooperation when better times come.
The decline in turnover due to the global crisis is taken as a reality at ABEL and as an impulse for even greater efforts to improve the quality of products and services. It is believed that this approach will be fruitful. After a long year of uncertainty and a deep decline, everything is returning to normal and the customers are coming back. It is a pleasant proof that taking care of your customers, even in times of abundance, really pays off ☺
ISO 9001 is being recertified in 2009 and, once again, it is confirmed that the company controls the quality of its products and the customers appreciate it. In the same year, ABEL-Computer also proves that it takes into account not only the quality of its products, but also the environment. The proof is obtaining the ISO 14001:2005 certificate manifesting that the operation of the company is harmless and has only a minimum impact on the environment. This is a crucial difference compared to the competition at that time.
The implementation of a new information system allows us to increase efficiency in all areas and reduce the costs. The savings are immediately reinvested in new technologies and employee care. This has returned in the form of almost zero fluctuation in the last ten years. After all, 88% of employees have been working for the company for more than 10 years! In addition, babies are increasingly born, so the outlook for the next 20 years is relatively optimistic in terms of employee generation replacement ☺
The company also presents new promotional materials, a slight revitalization of the company's logo and the unification of corporate identity are performed. New activities and interesting events are being prepared for the customers.
In Slovakia, the status of “A Sheltered Workplace” is obtained, thus extending the services by alternative refilling.
Investments in research and development are made continuously. Everything that can be tested and measured is tested and measured to achieve the highest print quality for ABEL cartridges.
The number of employees is no longer changing; we can only optimize the production and introduce innovations, thus optimizing the costs and the production capacity. And the first employees who have worked for the company from the very beginning and believed in its future are going into retirement. Special thanks to them!
2018 – The Family Business Welcomes A New Helper
In February 2018 Tomáš Mačuga, the son of the company owners, becomes a co-owner and a provider of considerable assistance in the company's management. He assumes the responsibility for the further development and direction and the search for new market opportunities in order to differentiate the company from its competition.
2019 – We Are Thirty
It all started in 1989. Thanks to our extraordinary customer care, the interest in our services continues and, when we are celebrating 30 years of our existence in 2019, it is a pretty nice reference for our customers.
“Customer Care First” is proving to be the best model (as we were able to see in the autumn of 2008), and so we continue to improve customer support. Therefore, in the years to come, we are going to increase our investment in training and organizing seminars for the customers.
„The greatest asset the company possesses is its employees“. We are extremely proud that, as one of the few companies (perhaps the last one) in the field of consumables, we still have our own real production and, thus, quality control. After 30 years, we still employ a lot of people in production and we believe that, by continuous improvement of the processes, we will still be a favourite employer. At the same time, we understand that automation and efficiency are terms that will force us, sooner or later, to make changes, but we believe that this is a natural process for every business and that we will be ready.
Therefore, in the following years, we will continue to make massive investments in the amount of tens of millions of crowns into infrastructure, information systems and customer support.
2019–2029 – What Will the Next 10 Years Be Like?
Yes, we are thinking about the future. So far, there is no indication that there will be any revolution in the world of printing. But when it comes, we will definitely be ready.
Let's go through what has happened in the world of printing over the last 30 years:
- Although the first dot matrix printer was born in 1964 (two years before our owner was born ☺), the „pins“ began to rule in the Czech Republic only in the 1990s. That's when our company began to write its story.
Remember the printer Star LC-20? Epson LQ-1000? Can you believe that you could print using 7 pins? Or later in HD quality with the revolutionary 24 pins?☺
- A few years later, the first inkjet printers came and we were there again. We bought technologies for their remanufacturing and, then, started to produce our own cartridges. The „pins“ gradually receded and our company expanded into “inks”.
- When the „laser“ came in, the „pins“ remained only at the supermarket's cash registers (and, nowadays, often not) and the „inks“ retreated into the background. Printing speed increases, but the cost of genuine toner cartridges does not decrease significantly, as we all wish so ☺
- Printer manufacturers realized that the biggest threat came not from the companies that were remanufacturing, but from the Chinese firms that produce tens of millions of counterfeit pieces per month, mostly in the traditional Chinese quality.
What Will Happen in the World of Printing?
Will 3D printing dominate? Certainly not in the field of document printing. The 3D printer has nothing to do with document printing. Nevertheless, it is an area that is likely to experience significant growth in the coming years. Here, too, are still physical obstacles to printing in fine detail at higher speeds with a gaming printer for less than 10,000 CZK. We have to wait a few years before we print a vase or the promised washing machine valve costing a few crowns at home ☺
Full-area printing of a whole page at astonishing speed? Yes, there are experiments, but they mostly come across simple physics. A page printed at high speed will not be able to dry in the case of ink. Yes, there are beautiful and really functional projects and printers for fans of fast printing. But honestly: do you really need 30 pages in 5 seconds?
New epochal changes in printing technology, such as the transition from the pin to the ink and then to the toner? So far, it doesn't seem to be a revolutionary change. There are occasional statements made by printer manufacturers that soon… But..? We have been keeping our fingers crossed for printer manufacturers for at least 5 years and been looking forward to new challenges ☺
And Our Journey to 2029?
We will follow trends, work on our development, increase the quality of our services and work on internal processes leading to higher efficiency.
We plan to invest in research and development of tens of percent profit, apply new measuring and manufacturing technologies, thus increasing the quality of our produced print cartridges.
We hope to capture new trends in advance and we will pass these informations to our customers, so that they are able to save even more printing costs.
We will literally pamper customers as much as we did last 30 years.
We believe that our personal care and human contact will be appreciated more than the customer's contact with the automatic e-shop – even with the possibility to press the number two for the helpline overloaded with complaints … And even in 10 years.
In this regard, we have a great team, exemplary customer care, and we are working on further development.
We believe this is the right way. We will see :o)
And if you put in your calendar the date 16. 1. 2029 and you will find the continuation of our history here, it will be clear that we have not missed the goal.☺