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You complete four decades working for Riopele this year. Can you still remember how it all began?
I started my professional career in the car industry, in the company "Salvador Caetano IMVT, SA", in 1980 and, since March 1981, I did my compulsory military service until August 1982. In that same month of August 1982, an offer came up to me to work at Riopele. During the hiring interview, I remember very well asking two questions to the company representatives, the then Financial Director and the then Accounting Manager.
What were the questions?
My first question and curiosity was to know how many employees with higher education qualifications in Accounting and Administration (my basic academic training) were in the company. I then asked these representatives how many years they had been working for the company. When they told me that they had been working for 8 and 7 years, respectively, I could not believe my eyes! How was it possible to work so long in the same company, I thought!
But it was, after all...
After all, it was and is, because I managed to motivate myself and now I complete 40 years of uninterrupted work at Riopele, always moving upwards.
Four decades in the service of the industry. In your opinion, what has changed in the textile and clothing industry in these 40 years?
Over the last 40 years, the textile industry has become a capital-intensive industry, has adapted to the global market, has evolved greatly in terms of innovation in materials and work processes, has become competitive and resilient, and has incorporated the values of corporate social responsibility into its culture.
You held various positions at Riopele until you became a Board Director. Would you be surprised if you were publicly presented as a source of inspiration for the company's more than 1000 employees?
I am very proud to have been the first employee in the history of Riopele to hold the position of Board Director, now having under my coordination different areas: Human Resources, Information Systems, Purchasing and Infrastructures, Quality, Environment and Safety, Financial and Industrial. I have always tried to broaden my professional horizons, preparing myself for new projects and challenges, but it has not been an easy path.
Would you like to give some examples?
As an example of the multiplicity of activities in my professional career, I implemented and made several visits at night and at weekends to the industrial areas, where I could see in loco the difficulties and hear suggestions for improving working conditions. My willingness to leave my comfort zone and embrace new challenges also took me on a mission to represent the company in various African countries, in various European cities, including Bucharest, Paris and Barcelona, and in New York. At the same time, I had the opportunity to launch some emblematic projects in the company, among which, the "RKPI(s)" and "RMind+" projects stand out for their topicality. One of the reasons for this professional success can be found in the way I live day-to-day life at Riopele, which I sought to express in the motto I proposed for the company, "90 years woven with passion", on the occasion of its ninety years of textile activity. Riopele is therefore a company that recognises merit and provides career opportunities and, as such, my path and example may serve as inspiration, particularly for the company's employees.
In the last decade, Riopele has made significant investments in R&D. In your opinion, what currently distinguishes Riopele from its competitors on the international competitive scene?
What distinguishes Riopele from its competitors is, in my opinion, its permanent will to innovate and to present proposals for new fabrics with new functionalities, which translate into different research programs and projects in partnership, specifically, with Universities and Technological Centres.
In parallel, there has been a repeated investment in human resources. Recently, a new investment of around three million euros was announced in this area. Is this an investment in continuity or in a new model of competitiveness?
Over the last decade, Riopele has implemented a strategy to rejuvenate its teams, and today the average age is 41. This has allowed it to invest in the development of its employees' skills through its "Horizontes" Program, which includes the "Product, Process and Control Workshop", aimed at all its workers, "Executive Training" and "Coaching" sessions for the management and heads of areas and departments.
But what does this new investment consist of?
The new investment of around three million euros aims to strengthen the company's competitive model, both through the continuity of the training activities referred to and in progress, and through the identification and selection of new training activities in the digital field and in departmental and resource management.
The shortage of labour, especially skilled labour, is one of the great weaknesses of the European industrial sector. What is Riopele doing to overcome this problem?
To overcome the shortage of labour, particularly qualified labour, the company has focused more on resource management and on merging processes, eliminating activities, digitising processes and selecting people whose individual skills portfolio allows them to be redirected towards more qualified activities, encouraging them to professional and/or career reconversion. Furthermore, for operator functions, the company tries to hire undifferentiated people who are integrated in accelerated on-the-job training programs with very interesting results, both for the workers and for the company.
More than 40% of Riopele managers are women. Is this a distinctive feature of the company?
I have never really approached issues with that perspective.
What do you mean?
I always prioritise choosing the most competent or appropriate person for the job, regardless of gender. I remember that I broke the paradigm that existed in the company that women were not admitted to the Accounts area. What motivates me are the results, and so trying to make workplaces reflect the composition of society will be a good indicator of rationality.
After two years of the pandemic, the international market now seems to be returning to normality. How has Riopele prepared itself for the "day after"?
In fact, Riopele prepared in good time for the post-pandemic, maintaining its strategy and investment plan, particularly in research, developing a digital platform for communication with customers, deepening the monitoring of its main customers and getting closer to their product needs, enhancing its assets and consequent asset and financial consolidation, and identifying new forms of support for its employees.
Riopele has the ambition to be an industrial reference in Europe. What investments are planned to meet this challenge?
I believe we are already an industrial benchmark in Europe and the world. The challenge will be to deepen this distinction. In this sense, Riopele has already identified a set of investments that may be supported under the "PRR", the "PT 2020" or the "PT 2030".
What will these new investments be?
These investments will be duly focused and selective, privileging "Digital" and "Business Sustainability" in its Social, Environmental and Economic dimensions. We will continue to be at the forefront, both from an industrial point of view and in the development of highly innovative products.