iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






SKY Media Manufacturing (Switzerland) SA

August 9, 2002

On the Plant in Switzerland and on the Company in general

SKY Media is one of the youngest players on the optical storage media market. The plant erected in Yverdon, Switzerland, possesses 6 lines working to their full capacity and giving up to 260,000 CD-R a day. 

It's still hard to say how strong the positions of SKY Media are going to be in the near future, given to its specific character and a high level of competition. Nevertheless, the management of the company doesn't crave for momentary profits. 

We are a serious company which conducts a serious business, - was the first phrase of Vladislav Khabliev, General Director of SKY Media Manufacturing (Switzerland) SA when we got acquainted. Well, this enterprise is headed by a Russian who has a great experience in interacting with such grands as Philip Morris, Nestle, Kodak and others. 


Why then the plant is built in Switzerland, not in Russia? At first glance, the Siberia with its vast expanses, a convenient position between Europe and Asia, with quite cheap labor force and technically competent people, or not less attractive Kuban with its mild climate must have attracted a lot of European and Asian manufacturers. 

The explanation is simple: the Russian government doesn't feel any desire to attract investments from the West. The SKY Media's plant was built with the help of the Swiss government that helped a lot in choosing the best place, training the staff and creating the tax policy favorable for the firm's development, because the government understands that the profit from such a deal is going to be big and soon. 

Vladislav mentioned that he was ready to start business in Russia. Moreover, there are buildings in Krasnodar able to house a great deal of lines for production of optical media. He doesn't even need any financial support from the Russian government; the only thing he really needs is not to be impeded. 

But it seems that it's much more advantageous to import media than to start business here. Certainly, there is promising Urals Electronic Plant which is taken by SKY Media with respect. Nevertheless, UEP is still unable to flood the whole Russian market with CD-Rs, though Russians would only benefit from it. 

Six production lines were purchased and mounted not so long ago, in 2001. The disc production was put right in spring 2002. 

It is expected that 9 new lines will soon be opened in Germany. SKY Media uses the CIBA Irgaphor Ultragreen Dye Process which allows for production of high-quality phthalocyanine CD-Rs with the maximum speed up to 48x. At present, the SKY Media discs are marked as 40x, but in autumn the speed will reach 48x. For this it's necessary to meet the requirements of the Orange Book, implement corresponding tests on high-speed recorders and resolve the problem with ATIP information. The matter is that most programs and drives identify SKY Media CD-Rs as based on the Digital Storage Technology matrix (the range reserved by this company is 97m27s01f - 97m27s09f), though they actually use Plasmon matrices and the ATIP 97m27s00f is free which allowed SKY Media to use it. 

A lot of our readers are well aware that production of CD-R and CD-ROM discs uses polycarbonate delivered into a press mold in liquid state. SKY Media uses General Electric and Bayer kinds of polycarbonate. 

Big hermetic tanks located outside are used to store it. One such reservoir contains GE and the other has Bayer. 

The rest stages do not change as well - cooling of the polycarbonate base, covering with an active phthalocyanine layer, metallization and covering with protective varnish (see the photo). 

Both the automatic control (by special testers) and visual control of certain samples are used at each stage. 

For CD-R production the plant comes with German equipment from Steag Hamatech; the lines are driven by the engineering equipment from the Swiss company ATP and Italian's Piovan. 

The newly pressed-out CD-Rs are put into a special tray and delivered to a special room where they wait to be printed and then packed. 

Printing is one of the final stages. The representatives of SKY Media mentioned that they are aimed at the European market which consumes mostly retail products, that is why the company doesn't produce bulk stuff without the SKY Media's logos. However, they can get orders for discs with a customer's logo. 

That is exactly why almost all discs proceed to the packing stage right after printing. 

The most part of this process is automatic. But it's impossible to eliminate the manual labor completely. However, taking into account that only two workers are needed to handle packing of all discs coming from 6 lines, I must admit that the level of automatic production is very high. 

The store the packed products are kept in before delivery is really huge, even as compared with similar rooms of the TDK plant in Luxembourg. 

Before a lot of discs are put into boxes and get onto the retail market several CD-Rs from each lot are tested in the special lab on the CDCATS SA3 stations. The experts, however, mention that there are more perfect test stations which SKY Media is going to purchase soon. It takes a lot of time for the CDCATS to test each disc carefully, which doesn't match the 6-line production at all. 

Sky Media products are currently imported to over 15 countries: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Hungary, Roumania, Poland, Jordan, Kuwait, Czechia, Lithuania, Latvia and Russia. 

The firmest positions are certainly won by Sky Media on the Swiss market. Its discs are available in all supermarkets of Geneva and its suburbs (Interdiscount, Coop, Conforama, Media Markt). 

In autumn this year the management of the company plans on starting production of DVD recordable discs. Whether it's going to be DVD-R or DVD+R is unknown, but the technical experts consider that positions of the DVD+RW Alliance keep on strengthening. The plant is also able to produce Audio CD-Rs, but their production is not said to be urgent. SKY Media mentions that production of Mini CD-R or CD-R business cards looks much more promising. 

SKY Media Manufacturing (Switzerland) SA is expanding its range of products, and it's possible that we will soon be able to buy CD-RW drives under the SKY's trade mark. No secret that it will be one of the major s but the official agreement is not concluded yet, that is why the name is not let out. 

However that may be, SKY Media is not going to be satisfied with what they have achieved. Taking into consideration that the plant unites Russians, Englishmen, Slovaks and Swiss, the potential of this international union is very promising. 

Alexander Vorobiev (vorobiev@ixbt.com)

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