Wienerberger is Europe's largest manufacturer of bricks and ceramic tiles. Present in Romania since 1998, the company has four factories there and 197 factories in another 30 countries, being the largest manufacturer of ceramic blocks worldwide.
We talked to Mr. Iulian Mangalagiu, General Manager of Wienerberger Romania, about the integration of new technologies in the operational flow, the digitization of transport-related processes and the advantages obtained after initiating the collaboration with the CargoON Platform (Trans.eu Group).
What is the structure of the Romanian business at the moment?
Wienerberger has been present in Romania since 1998 and is one of the largest companies producing construction materials in the country. Our product portfolio is a diversified one, being present on the local market with 6 brands: POROTHERM for masonry brick, TONDACH and KORAMIC for ceramic tile, TERCA for facade brick and interior design, PENTER for ceramic paving, SEMMERLOCK for concrete paving. Wienerberger has in Romania 7 production units – 4 brick and 3 paving. We have over 520 employees and a national distribution network. We also export our products to Hungary, the Republic of Moldova and Bulgaria.
This year has brought many challenges to businesses in almost all sectors. How do things look in your company from this point of view? What were the main challenges you think this year brought?
We started the year off right and, despite the pandemic, Wienerberger ended the first semester with positive results. In the first three months, sales were as expected, but the effects of the pandemic began to be felt in April. But starting in May, the market began to return to an upward trend. In fact, the construction materials market is still in a positive trend, as the INS statistics and reports show.
All the players on the market have been forced to adapt to the new reality, in the working conditions at home, or in the hybrid working mode. Our factories have not stopped and this has been a major challenge – maintaining productivity in the context of the increasing probability of disease. We combined work from home with work from the office and thus we managed not to have cases of illness and to be able to continue our activity in a normal regime, following of course strictly the necessary protection rules. Work has continued on the construction sites, because in the external environment the protection rules can be observed more easily.
What is your opinion on digitalization and process automation? Can you tell us if and how you have implemented the new technologies in your business?
Digitization has been and is a priority for us. In fact, at the level of the entire business environment, one of the positive aspects of this challenging pandemic year was the acceleration of digitalization – much more present both in daily communication and in the way flows and operational processes. We have carried out several projects in parallel, an important one being the digitization of the order placement process. For this purpose, we have developed a platform dedicated to our partners, thus facilitating both the speed of transmission and the accuracy of the information. Accelerating digitization is a great advantage for the whole society because the speed and accuracy of communication are improved, thus allowing remote work and non-interruption of work processes.
How did you decide to collaborate with the CargoON platform? What concrete needs does this collaboration cover?
The implementation of this project came from the need to digitize the processes related to the placement of transport orders, respectively the confirmation of these orders by carriers in digital form. We found in Trans.eu the ideal partner with which to optimize these processes; we save time and at the same time increase the satisfaction of our employees.
How did the process of implementing the cooperation with CargoON go?
The implementation of the process started at the end of 2019. The settings were completed in April of this year, and the platform was launched and could be used in May. Along the way we identified the need to change certain things, but with maximum support from the Trans.eu team, we managed to implement a package of settings customized to our needs, which makes our work significantly easier.
What aspects and processes of the business do you consider to have improved as a result of the collaboration with the CargoON platform – both financially and operationally?
The platform is, without a doubt, easy to use; that is why the schooling of our employees, respectively of the transporters was done quickly and without difficulty.
Improvements were seen operationally, and the advantages of implementation were multiple: easy to store digital documents, accuracy and speed of communication with carriers, traceability and visibility of information, the ability to track an order in all its stages, CMR reception in digital form.
Wienerberger currently has a very large number of monthly uploads to the Platform. Do you estimate that this volume will increase?
We are approaching the off-season, so for us there will be a natural slowdown in sales in the next six months. Next year is still under the sign of uncertainty, because everything depends on the evolution of this pandemic. If a second wave of quarantine follows, it will certainly impact the activity of both producers and traders and, of course, developers in the construction market – so a market contraction is possible in this case.
There is another important factor that influences the business environment – the elections, which bring with them major changes in administration. We hope that the business environment will be encouraged to continue investing in Romania, and that the already existing programs – such as Noua Casa – will encourage lending for the purchase of housing.
How do you see the evolution of your business in the next period?
In case of a second wave of quarantine, we will put a stronger emphasis on the products intended for interior design projects – the TERCA range. Each of us can change a room, be it living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom or hallway and create a more pleasant environment in which to live.
We also have new products for gardens in the SEMMERLOCK range, meaning we are also talking about arrangements, this time around the house. We are convinced that people will continue to do such work.
At the same time, we thought about builders and developed a new product that makes their work easier. This is POROTHERM Profi, a polished brick that allows a joint of only 1 millimeter – so it is built much faster, cleaner and more efficient, at a very high level of quality. The product is unique on the market and is manufactured in Romania.
If you were to summarize some of the lessons learned in recent months, what would they be?
The adaptability of a company is essential in such periods of uncertainty. One measure we took was to diversify and enrich our current product portfolio, offering new, high-quality solutions for both interior and exterior design – exactly the market segments that were most dynamic during the pandemic.