Q&A Co-operation is key for Portuguese mould makers
Manuel Oliveira is general secretary at Cefamol, the Association for the Portuguese Moulds and Special Tools Industry. Among other activities, they represent the industry to the Government and other official organisations, and they organise training activities.
Founded in 1969 as a non-profit organisation, Cefamol supports its currently 152 members with the promotion and organisation of exhibitions and events.
Why do you think there is such a great interest in Portuguese tools and moulds from all over Europe?
The Portuguese mould-making Industry is recognised worldwide for its vast experience as well as the innovative and flexible solutions that it brings to the market.
Exporting approximately 90% of its production, our companies are used to working with the most demanding clients and industries on different latitudes and amidst different cultural environments. Success can only happen if you bring added value to them. We must always be different and more competitive to be attractive on the market and this creates awareness and interest among the most important customers in this field of activity.
What is the effect of so many companies existing so close to each other? Has this competition a positive or a negative effect on production?
Over the years, Portugal has developed a consistent strategy to consolidate its presence on the international market and one of its advantages is related with industry concentration in two main areas – Marinha Grande and Oliveira de Azeméis.
A close relationship between industry actors (companies, suppliers, knowledge centres, schools) created an “ecosystem” that allows our members to work together, support each others' needs and bring a broad-based offer to the market. You have companies dedicated to specific kinds of products that can complement an offer from other companies. You have companies offering specific services to others who are not able to perform them themselves. This helps our members to fulfil their commitments with clients, to maintain delivery times and increase our production capacity. Based on this experience and with investment in state-of-the-art technology and corporate co-operation, the Portuguese mould industry has created and participated in partnerships and projects with clients, suppliers, universities and knowledge centres. This has allowed the products and services of Portuguese companies to evolve in a qualitative manner, allowing them to find new and more competitive solutions.
Also, our companies are very active in our association's (Cefamol) daily life, attending seminars and workshops, participating in reunions to discuss the organisation of promotional activities, sharing ideas about challenges and opportunities for the industry, discussing strategies for development and what should be our activities to support their individual efforts. This regular participation allows members to share ideas and experiences, reinforce networking, personal and business relationships, gather market and technological information and develop common initiatives.
How do you think the Portuguese industry will develop in the coming years?
Critical factors for future competitiveness will depend on customers but in general, more and more, clients are looking for cost reduction and production strategies to reduce the time to market in the development of new products.
Portuguese toolmakers are facing challenges like finding faster and more efficient solutions for production, integrating new technologies and equipment that require extensive know-how but also experienced and qualified personnel.
Also, an emphasis on innovation, R&D and the recognition of the industry’s international image have brought new opportunities for Portuguese companies, more specifically in the development of new products and in the use of new materials and technologies (automation, robotics, industrialisation processes, laser, etc.). This makes it possible to find efficient solutions for broadening the industry's value chain, which in turn helps to develop new areas.
This is not an easy task for small SMEs that, in average, employ between 20 to 30 workers. Co-operation and collaboration are the keywords for success in Portugal and this (as in the past) will help and support our future development.