A winning bet was the one carried out by the management of Vapesol, a company dedicated to the production of soles for footwear. A boom in the demand for EVA material, which is distinguished by its lightness, forced the company to invest around two million euros in a second production unit, also located in Revinhade, which is exclusively dedicated to the production of EVA soles. but the goal is set and will involve reintegrating, by 2025, all areas of Vapesol in a single Industrial Complex. Who says it is the CEO Décio Pereira.
RVJornal (RVJ) – Vapesol has just opened a new industrial unit. How did that happen?
Décio Pereira (DP) – Since 2018, Vapesol has been showing interest in diversifying production. At the moment, the material in vogue is EVA. At an early stage, we bought a small machine to experiment and survey the market to see our level of competitiveness in terms of price and quality/service. It was at the beginning of 2020, which coincided with the arrival of the pandemic, that everything we were sowing and advertising began to have an effect in terms of production. The small machine we had at our disposal was no longer responding. We had a year of considerable growth in this type of product, until the “boom” took place in January 2021. We were not expecting this demand, which has become huge. We had to choose between stopping or investing. We ended up investing two million euros in equipment, because the facilities are owned and, at the moment, we are the largest national company in the production of EVA. We even have plans to expand, but not in this pavilion, because it is already full. I am convinced that next year, we will be producing 4,000 pairs a day. We are not far from that, which will represent, in this unit alone, 1 million pairs per year. In both units, we are producing almost 5 million pairs. This year, that number will be exceeded. In these first four months alone, we already have a growth of around 26%.
RVJ – The creation of this second unit allowed new hires…
DP – About 50 people. It was a very difficult task because a year and three months ago we only had four people working with this material.
RVJ – Is there still an opening for other people to join the Vapesol team?
DP – At the moment, the Eva unit is completely filled and in these facilities, which have about 1300 square meters, there is no capacity for us to expand further. However, for our main unit we bought some more machines to produce another type of material and we still need to recruit about six people.
RVJ – What are the specifics of this material called EVA and which has been successful in the footwear market?
DP – It is a material that has been around for many years, but not in the footwear industry. It has imposed itself on the market more intensely in the last four years, because brands seek the lightness associated with fashion. If we look at our feet, we notice that we wear more and more sneakers.
RVJ – It is clear that the focus is on the production of traditional EVA, but your work goes further…
DP – Yes, in fact our focus is on traditional EVA, but whoever wants to go further and reach very important niches has to search to find new materials and the truth is that we are already working in this direction, namely for more renowned brands, which who appreciate lightness, but who also like a more flexible touch. That’s why we were able to develop a material in which we mix about 50% traditional EVA with 50% traditional latex rubber. That’s why we created our brand VP LightRUBBER for luxury brands that sell footwear in the range of 400 to 600 euros in stores. At the same time, there are also many environmental concerns and we have been looking for alternatives in the area of sustainability. EVA has the advantages mentioned above, but then it also has the disadvantage of being a non-recyclable thermoplastic.
RVJ – But, in the meantime, have they already managed to reincorporate EVA material into new products?
DP – It was in 2019 that we started to investigate, together with a supplier from Leiria, a company from Hong Kong and the Pole of Innovation in Polymer Engineering at the University of Minho, and we managed to adapt a technology that already existed on the market but was not applied. to the footwear sector, and which allows the reincorporation of around 20 percent of EVA material (waste) that we previously had to pay to go to the landfill – EVA Green. At least, in Europe, nobody does that yet.
RVJ – Vapesol has been synonymous with technology and innovation, certification, sustainability, having now, once again, invested in the production area. What’s next?
DP – Vapesol is in continuous investment. Right now, our focus is on improving all processes. We are even working with the Kaizen Institute, which was created with Toyota, in Japan, but which has a branch in Portugal, in everything that may mean improving production. We will proceed with the Energy Certification and the acquisition of automation equipment. In other words, this coming year we will invest around half a million euros to improve our dynamics. In addition, about four months ago we installed about 250 photovoltaic panels for energy production and now we will install 250 more, which is also due to the increase in energy costs. We are talking about a total investment of around 250 thousand euros. However, our energy cost, compared to other industries, is not significant. We have an invoice for the two units in the order of 20 thousand euros, which, at the moment, is around 50 thousand euros. We have three-year contracts. I won’t say that I’m not worried, but these increases had to be reflected in sales prices, which is also not positive, because customers don’t like it. We need to find solutions, it is not enough to go to the market and say that we want them to pay 10% more, because then there are the consequences.
In the future, our objective will clearly be to build an industrial unit, for which we are already acquiring a lot of land, about 50 thousand square meters, for later, for now it is difficult to say when, because we are talking about a very significant investment – in the order of 6 million euros – build a pavilion of 15 thousand square meters. We want to integrate all the units that, at the moment, are somewhat dispersed. My goal is to achieve it by 2025.
RVJ – How is the footwear sector? Is the pandemic already part of the past? And has the war in Eastern Europe already had consequences?
DP – Right now, footwear is passing in terms of [business] volume, since I’ve been in this sector, that is, for 16 years, the highest production peak. Effectively, the pandemic had a negative impact in the first few months. But then, the reality is that the sector grew in the year 2021 in the order of 11% and continues to grow in 2022. But we are talking in terms of volume, because of course Covid, the stoppage of units in Asia, the alteration of sea and air routes and the war in Ukraine have increased this speculation around the cost of raw materials and energy. This is to say that this could be the biggest year in terms of volume [of business] but it will certainly not be the best year in terms of results, because it is not easy to immediately reflect, with contracts, the increase in costs in the price sales of our products.