Wienerberger Group is a global leader in ceramic blocks production, with a history of over 200 years and presence across 30 countries. The company has been present on the Romanian market since 1998 and has seven production factories and over 520 local employees.
What is your vision for Wienerberger in Romania, since leading the company for the past couple years?
I have been working within the construction materials industry since 1998, getting to know all facets of the business. My intentions are set on building an efficient management team and developing a strong presence for the company on the Romanian market. Wienerberger went from being a brick and masonry producer to becoming a well-rounded supplier of solutions and systems for the construction industry. At present, we have four divisions: brick masonry, ceramic roof tiles, paving solutions and ceramic tiles for facades. Our products are purposed predominantly for the residential market, but also well fitted to the offices and logistics sectors.
Given your extensive work in the residential sector, that thrived in 2020, how was this reflected on your performance, and how did you fare through the pandemic generally speaking?
In certain respects, 2020 was the best year in the history of Wienerberger Romania, thanks to an excellent conjecture between market demand and internal development projects, that helped us register turnover of over EUR 100 million. Unlike other industries, about 40% of our employees, myself included, continued working from the office, in shifts, because our cornerstone is teamwork.
What motivated the establishment of the company’s strong production footprint in Romania and has it been a smooth experience?
First and foremost, the market is in full development and this offers a lot of opportunities. Moreover, Romania is in need of innovative solutions and Wienerberger is the perfect player to offer them, since we were the very pioneers of ceramic blocks. Even now, we are importing Western technologies and implementing them in our seven factories in Romania, which is a highly receptive place thanks to its novelty avid market.
Some of your peers brought up finding and keeping qualified workforce as an important challenge - how is Wienerberger navigating this issue?
This is a very good question! And the answer lies in the fact that, so far, we were lucky enough to find the right people for the job. The market is rich in resources and if you know where to look, you can find the best professionals, which for us translates to people that are the right fit for the company culture. We train workers directly in our factories, as the needed skills are very specific. Contrary to what the market promotes, for us attitude trumps aptitudes because we are looking for proactive, hardworking and honest people. The rest can be learned.
You mentioned innovation and intelligent solutions - how do these concepts translate into nowadays’ construction materials industry, any examples?
Last year, we invested EUR 3 million in a polished brick prototype that is glued together with a special adhesive rather than the classical mortar aggregate. Using this new brick, we can increase construction speed, reduce workforce, and require a smaller storage space for adhesive tubes. This solution is especially fit for inner city sites, it’s cleaner and with a lower carbon footprint.
Insulated lintels for doors and windows are another concept that we introduced to the market helping with energy efficiency. Clients are interested to invest in overall more affordable, faster and ecological solutions, and this is what we are offering. The direction to going green is set clearly by the EU, and Romania is following it, but it’s still a long way ahead. Wienerberger is definitely an active part of this journey.
What are some of the most notable advantages, placed side by side with the challenges you bumped into on the Romanian real estate market?
Eastern European countries were introduced in Wienerberger's portfolio in the last 20-30 years, so the factories here are more up to date compared with other states. Romania was a pioneer regarding digitalization systems, and we are among the first markets embracing change and innovation because the online infrastructure is excellent.
For example, all the parameters measured in our Romanian factories can be instantly accessed in Vienna. The most important challenges are population decrease, the global rise in almost all raw material prices and risk associated with growing qualified workforce migration.
What are the main goals you want to achieve in the next two-three years?
We're planning to continue with the same level of energy, efficiency, and we are targeting an increasingly low carbon footprint. We also wish to increase our investments in Romania, enriching the product portfolio and introducing more digitalization solutions in offices, as well as factories. The strategy is planned at HQ level but decided upon and implemented at local level.
Do you have a final message about the Romanian real estate and construction materials market?
I believe the country is entering a new phase of production development, new production capacities will be built, allowing also for exports to grow in the next decade.
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