See how the Zenit-brand roof gutter system is made, inside out.  

If any industrial facility can be said to be located in an enchanting place, it is definitely the ELEMENT manufacturing site, part of the Balex Metal Group. The ELEMENT manufacturing site lies between the two Slovakian mountain ranges of Greater Fatra and Lesser Fatra. Since 2011, ELEMENT has been producing modern roof gutter systems and sheet metal roofing accessories. 

We arrive by car at the ELEMENT site before six a.m. Away from the bustle of the big city, life in the mountains has a slower and easier pace. The mountain slopes are still veiled with mist on this March morning.

A phalanx of cars is forming slowly on the staff parking lot, with ZA or ZI prefixes on the registration plates. The arriving employees live in the nearby town of Žilina and its vicinity. Ľubomír Cibulka, the plant manager, explains that the site was carefully chosen.

“Processing and other mechanical engineering has a long tradition in the Žilina District. You could say it's something of a local speciality,” says Cibulka, while leading us into the ELEMENT building. “Have you heard of ZWL? Back in the Soviet era, ZWL was the largest bearing factory in this part of Europe.”



When the Communist Bloc collapsed, and ZWL followed suit, a great number of highly qualified professionals lost their jobs. Luckily, there were investors prepared to come and turn this tragedy into stories of success, with new industrial operations located near Žilina. KIA Motors, Colspedia — a paper products manufacturer; and ELEMENT, which is us, have enjoyed much success,” adds Cibulka.

A short briefing for the day is held, and the first processing machines come to life shortly after 6 a.m., with the first orders arriving from the Sales Department. In the high production season, ELEMENT makes up to 7,000 running metres of gutterwork, with 15 running metres coming off the lines every minute. 

The core product line of the plant is the Element series roof gutter system, a recent addition to which is ZENIT, positioned as a premium roof gutter product range. Cibulka could talk for hours about ZENIT... if not for his mobile interrupting him every minute. 

“What makes ZENIT different from competing products is its extreme corrosion resistance, a 25% higher water flow capacity than with standard gutter systems (at 200 m3 versus 150 m3), and the finish of the joining system, designed to make the work of roofers much easier. Now I'll show you the production floor.” He asks us to follow.



On our way down to the production floor, we pass the cafeteria. There is a menu for the whole week posted on its door. The employees at ELEMENT can choose from five different meals every day. We easily find the traditional Slovakian knedľa, or steamed dumplings, in the menu.

“Oh, they make them with meat or fruit. Want to try some? You're Polish, you're bound to like it!” he assures us, and invites us to try them. 

This delightful interlude is followed by a visit to the production floor. By 10 a.m. it is the middle of the first shift, with over a dozen people on the job. The manufacturing process is highly automated, with only the most complex operations left to manual processing.

Most of the staff are there to coordinate the processes and handle the quality control. The latter is very scrupulous. The mission of ELEMENT is to deliver superior products to customers, and the quality control process follows a number of steps.

The first quality control gate is the responsibility of the production line employee, followed by an engineering specialist, the warehouse staff, and the Chief Processing Engineer.



After each order passes through these quality control stages, it is kitted and prepared for outbound shipping. During the high production season, over 10 heavy trucks depart with shipments from the main warehouse every day. There is no room for slips here. 

ELEMENT operates a two shift system in the high production season. The last production staff leave the plant at 10 p.m. Every Friday, local tradition has them visiting one of the many establishments to enjoy fine beer — with the froth two fingers thick, of course.