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What to Know Before Opening a Manufacturing Plant in the European Union

Congratulations. You've decided to open up a manufacturing facility in the European Union. Before diving into the daily routine of running a factory or startup, however, you need to ensure that you have a good feel for how life works for business owners in the EU.

How will EU laws impact your legal obligations? Will you need to learn more about the distinctions between predictive vs. preventive maintenance to thrive in this environment? Brush up on these essentials prior to getting started.

Key Labor Laws to Understand

European Union labor laws are fairly exhaustive. Fortunately, there are a few stand-out topics that can help you get oriented:

The Right to Work and Move Freely

According to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, workers have the right to move and seek employment freely throughout the EU. As an employer, this means that you can't unfairly discriminate against people, set compensation rates or make employment offers based on nationality.

The Right to Time Off

EU workers are guaranteed

  • No less than four full weeks of paid holidays per year,
  • At least 20 minutes of paid rest per six-hour shift,
  • At least four months of unpaid leave to care for children under the age of eight,
  • The ability to take at least 14 paid weeks off as a pregnant or new mother, and
  • Restrictions on work involving
  • night shifts or dangerous conditions.

The Right to Safe Workplaces

EU Health and Safety regulations vary depending on the nature of your industry, and most member states exceed the bare minimum requirements. In addition to taking steps to prevent workplace mishaps, it's your responsibility to cover your facilities with valid insurance policies and keep workers educated about safe practices.

Other Workers' Rights

EU citizens also enjoy a range of legally mandated labor protections governing everything from public procurement and data privacy to social security and pensions. Since each member state is allowed to establish its own rules provided that they satisfy the EU baselines, it's critical to research your target country thoroughly. The EU's labor law portal is a good place to start doing your homework.

The Value of Staying Lean

Lean manufacturing principles are designed to minimize waste without restricting organizational productivity. Such philosophies prove critical in the EU's fast-paced professional environment.

Predictive vs. Preventive Maintenance

Plant maintenance is a great example of how adopting a lean approach might force you to reevaluate your practices for the better. Although preventive maintenance, such as following an equipment manufacturer's hardware service schedule, is a common practice, modern enterprises increasingly use data to become even more proactive.

Predictive maintenance practices let companies establish operating standards that reflect their unique requirements — They schedule teardowns, overhauls and other upkeep events using facility performance stats. For instance, you might use feedback from Internet of Things sensors in your plant to anticipate and sidestep potential breakdowns.

The EU is defined by its constant push for connectivity. As more companies seek to access Europe's diverse, highly talented workforces, you'll need to leverage lean technology effectively to keep up.

Where Should Your Enterprise Be Domiciled?

The EU isn't a monolith. Thanks to centuries of historical development and a massive immigration swell in the early 21st century, different countries may be better suited to specific industries and business models than others.

Where should you open up your manufacturing plant? It's wise to start by looking at current and projected trade trends. For instance, if your process depends on foreign-made parts, then you might pay more for shipping if you're in a landlocked nation. Political events, such as the UK's Brexit, can also send shockwaves through otherwise stable trade networks.

With factors like sustainability being highly valued by member states, your business needs to put its best foot forward. No matter where you decide to establish EU roots, you'll receive a warmer welcome if you run an environmentally sound, socially conscious, lean manufacturing enterprise.

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