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When it comes to taking a company onto the international arena, good contacts are the hardest currency of all. Pere Girbau Pous, CEO of Girbau S.A. in Vic near Barcelona in Spain, talks about the successful expansion of his business.

By Rita Neumann

Pere Girbau Pous © GirbauMr. Girbau Pous, your family business manufactures and sells laundry systems in more than 100 countries. As an entrepreneur from Barcelona, why did you join VDMA and its European Textile Care Technology (ETCT) working group in 2013?

We joined primarily to give ourselves a voice in our industry on a European level, as VDMA enjoys an international reputation. Our participation in VDMA also enables us to enhance our network by establishing contact with players from our own industry, as well as others. These provide added value for our projects and also our customers. At Girbau we have always believed that good cooperation is the best path towards improvement and optimization.

You employ almost 1,000 members of staff and generate turnover of around EUR 170 million. What are the major challenges facing your company today?

We divide our tasks into three categories. On the first level, our top priority is to continuously improve the quality we provide for our customers over the short to medium term. On the second level, the major challenge is to find innovative solutions in order to adapt ourselves and our customers to developments as they progress and to support our customers in optimizing their businesses.

Where is the focus for the customers here?

We are concentrating on the cost-effectiveness of their processes. We ask ourselves how our customers can simplify them and save costs. At the same time, we want to discover how to utilize the digital transition in industry and the opportunities it holds in a beneficial way. On the third, long-term level, our challenge is sustainability: We want to be a lifelong partner for our customers. Our objective is to create a large community in which each member feels secure and in good hands and also makes a positive contribution for future generations when it comes to protecting the environment.

Has your membership in these (VDMA) networks helped you in mastering these challenges so far?

Yes, it's a great help. After all, the challenges are enormous. The complexity of the knowledge and skills required is incredible and changes on a daily basis with regard to technologies, business models and procedures. That’s why we need to talk to the external partners of our company about partnership, collaboration and common trade. VDMA can help us in building up the networks we need.

How do you see cooperation within this European network in the future?

Europe is just the first step: The network must grow into a global community. After all, boundaries only exist in an administrative and social sense. In business, we need to think beyond individual markets and market segments - as the world is the only place we are all at home.

Your company is one of three Spanish VDMA members. In total, the association has 182 members outside Germany. What activities of this VDMA network are most important for you?

Let me give you four points here. The most important point is to find out who has the knowledge and ability to confront every challenge. Subsequently, we will need support in establishing contact with them. Following this, we want to have a real say in Europe, which is something that we as an individual company cannot achieve. And finally, business support is highly important in our industry.

You are head of a Catalan company. In your view, how could the VDMA network become even more attractive for other companies in Europe, in particular those in Catalonia and Spain?

VDMA could run a network of local associations in order to link their various approaches. For this purpose, there needs to be more awareness of VDMA and closer communication. At the moment, VDMA is seen more as a German and not a European association. Publishing documents and magazines in English, as well as German, could be a first step here. Another possibility would be to take part in global events more frequently – events where not only German businessmen are present. Once managers outside Germany have also understood that VDMA offers added value for them, they will see it as a more attractive option.

Further Information

Girbau, S.A.   |   VDMA European Office

Rita Neumann, VDMA Textile Care, Fabric and Leather Technologies