Telework and new technologies
In the midst of the global crisis caused by the Covid19 pandemic, companies in the Spanish furnishing and design sector are testing the keys to the future. The ability to adapt to the new reality, coupled with the search for new opportunities and the pressure as a guarantor of change, are some of the hallmarks of companies seeking to overcome the crisis.
In this sense, several companies of the "Made in Spain" furniture, office, home textiles and lighting sectors, reaffirm their commitment to survival and try to adapt to the new reality. "What we have learned from this crisis is that we must always be ready to change, either by our own decision or by external factors," says the office equipment company Group Forma5.
An example of this change resulting from the difficulty is the firm Ondarreta, their managers say that the crisis has “helped” them to extend the teleworking system, which to date has only been carried out by administrative and commercial personnel. A similar situation has arisen at Point, they implemented the method of working remotely in all departments capable of carrying out their tasks in this way, which achieved a double objective: "protect the staff and keep their jobs," the company explains.
In addition, this situation has affected many other companies. This is the case of the firm RS Barcelona, their leaders confirm that they can continue to work "thanks to new technologies." In fact, they explain that the attention has increased considerably through the chat installed in their online store. "We must keep in mind that more and more, we can work from anywhere," they stress.
In this regard, those responsible for Point specified that, in addition, the crisis has allowed them to "place a big bet" to promote online sales also at an international level since they consider that this channel has "a great development and potential."
However, the adaptability of many companies does not hide the bitter side of the crisis. Companies such as Naturtex or Gancedo have had to close non-essential activities for two weeks, having to carry out, like so many others, closures and even partial Temporary Redundancy Plans (ERTE, in Spanish), although they have already taken the workforce back in. Due to the difficult situation, both companies have now jumped into the development of digital tools.
Overall, the global economic slowdown has led to a decline in sales and a plummeting of orders both domestically and internationally. As a momentary solution, online selling yields positive results, but not as much as everyone expected: "There's some online selling, but not as much as we might have expected at first," the lighting company Lzf expressed.
However, what all the companies agree on is that digitalization and the implementation of new technologies is going to be something essential for the entire Habitat sector if it is to survive. And in this mission, two types of companies stand out: those that have already transformed their processes towards digitalization, such as Andreu World or others such as Kriskadecor. They comment that they are adapting to the new reality through new ways, such as replacing commercial visits with online presentations.
Similarly, the cessation or suspension of the sector's trade shows has been a hard blow for some. "This type of event allows us to provide the brand with visibility, interact with our target audience, present news, gain exposure to the media... Now we must think how to perform these actions differently," points out Kriskadecor. For its part, iSimar explains that the non celebration or cancellation of the trade shows supposes "a great hindrance" to open new markets or to connect with new clients" and from Lzf, they express that, given the calendar, "it is not going to be easy to adapt to the new dates being considered."
New opportunities combined with sustainability and innovation
"We are taking advantage of this moment of pause to do other things, to communicate in a different way and to reach our universe also from another perspective,” Ondarreta points out. In fact, in the Basque Country company they are developing a much more virtual communication strategy using RRSS or Newsletters to connect with their clients.
This is also the situation for iSimar, who have set themselves the goal of exploring markets where they had no previous activity, or Vondom, the which brand is the development of "innovative or creative novelties.” They reveal that, by the end of the pandemic, they are going to implement virtual tools in their business.
In the case of Actiu the company is implementing solutions such as "flexible working," which involves working more flexibly from home or the office, but always advocating for health and well-being. Another commitment of the furniture and office brand is sustainability, trying "not to massify the spaces too much" and promoting the industry and the own production "in order not to depend so much on other countries."
Similarly, sustainability is one of the hallmarks of Andreu World, which is committed to "sustainable, timeless and universal" design that generates well-being for people in their environment, as do companies such as the Cosentino group, whose recipe for overcoming the crisis involves digital transformation coupled with sustainability, industry and innovation. Beltá & Frajumar is also working in this direction, using "good, natural" and "environmentally friendly" materials and promoting sustainable consumption. Grupo Forma 5 “will go more and more towards the human design of products, seeking for health, always respecting the environment.”
In short, the survival of the sector has many different axioms and points of view. All of them go through adaptation and take advantage of the changes and new working ways that the crisis brings to the sector. On the future and opportunities, the Valencian firm Gandía Blasco draws out a reflection: "we believe that the emotional factor in product design is going to be more decisive than ever," they say.
Solidarity as a mark of the Made in Spain Habitat
On the solidarity side, many companies have made their resources available for the common good. Specifically, to this joint effort of the housing sector, Grupo Forma5 has contributed by manufacturing NT fabric masks and donating them to nursing homes and law enforcement agencies.
For its part, the Cosentino company has given health care equipment to hospitals, health care centers and other organizations such as nursing homes or shops in its local community in the province of Almería. In total, they have donated more than 112,000 units of these protective materials including masks, disposable coveralls or gloves.
Another big one in the national habitat, Andreu World, has contributed to this wave of aid by manufacturing 12,000 approved masks made of repellent and waterproof fabrics to be distributed in the Valencia area among volunteers, local bodies, civil servants and health centers and nursing homes.
Also noteworthy is the activity of Yecla, in Murcia. In that town, the firm Beltá & Frajumar began to make solidarity material together with another 40 companies in the upholstery sector, many of them competitors, which coordinated to help their community beyond business objectives. Similarly, in the municipality of Gata de Gorgos, in Valencia, the company Point offered its fabric cutting facility to manufacture masks.
Some multinationals such as Actiu have been able to adapt by manufacturing, among other things, protective partitions for hospitals, health centers and shops. Others, such as iSimar have offered their services by providing hospitals with mattresses. Similarly, they have contributed to the production of medical masks by donating materials for their manufacture. For its part, Naturtex has done the same by altruistically providing 80,000 meters of elastic bands and cords for the manufacture of masks.
Finally, other companies such as Vondom collaborated with the Chinese division of the Chamber of Commerce and the Spanish embassy by means of an endowment of sanitary material Gancedo is going to start manufacturing medical equipment in spite of the difficulty due to the materials they use, Moradillo manufactured mattresses for the Fuenlabrada hospital in Madrid despite having ceased all production RS Barcelona made masks with waterproof fabrics and Ondarreta collaborated with the Maker community in the Basque Country by manufacturing visors for health personnel, using 3D printers for this purpose. At the same time, its upholstery section has collaborated in making masks for nearby towns.