Julio Fernández, General Manager at SILAMInterview published in the official magazine of the Spanish Rubber Association.
SILAM is a company with more than 50 years of experience in silicone processing (HTV/HCR silicones) providing solutions and researching and developing products to cover the needs of the market and its customers. Julio Fernández (Donostia, San Sebastian, 1971), General Manager at SILAM, is in charge of leading this company located in the outskirts of Zumaia, in Gipuzkoa. It is from there that he talks to us about the daily activities in SILAM and its future.
After more than half a century of experience and with a staff composed of around 50 people, SILAM has become the sector leader at a national level and a European benchmark. How is this business project managed?
Our company is managed with great attention to detail, following a long term oriented strategy. The organization of SILAM’s activities is based on 3 lines of business. First: ready-to-use elastomers, additives and compounds. Second: technical products made of solid and sponge silicone (tubes, gaskets, profiles, etc.) And third: silicon wires resistant to high temperatures.
Three lines of business that are bringing positive results in the last years. How have you closed this year?
The progression of our business has been really positive during the last four years. We have managed to increase our revenue by more than 70%, our export figures have reached almost 4.5 million euros (which means that almost 30% of sales are made abroad) and we have obtained the best results in terms of company profits, doubling them as compared to previous years. All of this has been possible thanks our ability to achieve and materialize our long term projects.
International expansion is one of the main challenges for SILAM right now. What is the foundation of this positioning?
It’s based on a set of pillars established in the year 2000, after the inauguration of the new SILAM and a strategic partnership with the German multinational Wacker Chemie AG, the European leading silicone manufacturer. With this partnership we became the exclusive supplier and formulator of Wacker HCR silicones in Spain and Portugal; and it allows us be a benchmark in Europe for other business lines.
Besides, many of our customers own several production plants in different countries and we have specialized so that we are able to provide for them equally in any of their locations.
In the past fifteen years SILAM has also dealt with some critical situations with the financial crisis and as a result of accidents. How have you been able to survive these situations and come out stronger?
The first difficult situation occurred in 2005, when we had an accidental fire that completely destroyed our premises. We managed to get through it thanks to the determination of our staff, and the support of a group of people, entities and even some competing companies. We were able to respond to the orders of strategic clients and we could keep our business continuity thanks to their collaboration. The second crisis arrived in 2007, when the construction sector fell in Spain and the electric appliances sector was also affected. It was one of the most important sectors for us back then. The situation starts to improve in 2012 due to the commercial success in the automotive, lightning and distribution sectors, and also thanks to the first symptoms of economic recovery.
SILAM’s sector diversification would come two years later with the acquisition of a competing company located in Catalonia. How has this operation contributed to SILAM?
The acquisition of the Catalan company DICOINSA has provided us with three advantages: business diversification in sectors where we had limited presence (agro-food, pharmaceutical and health industries), the capability to grow our business to match our European competition and, last but not least, being able to optimize resources and plan manufacturing processes between our two plants.
The commitment to enhance the technological mastery and knowledge caused the creation of SILAM TECH CENTER. Does this mean the consolidation of R&D in SILAM?
In the past two years we have invested more than 1.3 million euros in incrementing the production capacity, in the automation/robotization of several manufacturing processes and in those facilities dedicated to R&D of products and processing. SILAM TECH CENTER opened in 2017, it is a space for creativity and innovation, designed in such a way that it enables teamwork and collaboration. This concept is key for the development of our own products.
How does the future of SILAM look like?
We have a top-tier list of customers and suppliers, which forces us to always be active and alert, and adapt to their new needs. We have also discovered new and exciting projects to collaborate with other companies, which will provide a huge growth in size and competitiveness.