BERALMAR NEWSLETTER: “50 years at BERALMAR” rolls right off the tongue. What was the company like when you started in 1966?
MANUEL MARTÍNEZ: Well, we were a group of four or five people that manufactured fuel-oil injectors for Hoffmann kilns in Spain, in a small workshop in Terrassa. I started at the workshop and didn’t see a ceramics plant until about two or three years later, when I started my training as a technologist. This consisted in month-long stages in, mostly, two ceramics plants in Sant Cugat (Barcelona) that no longer exist, SUCERAM and ALMAR. There I learned about the entire manufacturing process in detail, from clay preparation and moulding to drying and firing, both in Hoffmann kilns (the majority, back then) and tunnel kilns. Back then people weren’t in such a rush. It would be unthinkable to have such long training nowadays. But it went very well for me. I learned a lot and became trapped in the world of ceramics forever.
B.N.: Thanks to your superiors as well.
M.M.: Of course. I must say that when the world of ceramics traps you, it never lets you go.
B.N.: You’ve witnessed major technological evolution first hand. In what areas of the manufacturing process do you think the next innovations will happen?
M.M.: Mostly in the field of automation, I think. When I started firing, we took measurements by observing the colour of the fire. Nowadays, I use my mobile to connect to our clients’ drying and firing controls. I can change the settings on a kiln in Mexico from a café at a hotel in Malaysia just with a device that fits in my pocket. Automatic controls in the production process let us manage all the aspects and settings of the process from a given point of control. I think that the big change that has yet to arrive, however, is that in the future the very control systems should be able to make the right decisions on their own. I can also imagine the use of renewable energy sources, like photovoltaic energy, in the drying process. It’s more difficult to foresee changes in the firing process, but I’m sure they too will come.
B.N.: Malaysia, Mexico... ceramics has taken you all around the world.
M.M.: BERALMAR has been selling all over the world for many years, but it’s true that I’ve had to travel even more due to the housing crisis in Spain these past 10 years. I’ve been in South America, India, all of the North Africa, Latin America, the United States, Russia, the Balkans, etc. I’ve seen every kind of technology and different ceramics cultures; but when I walk into a ceramics plant, in any country, we understand each other even if I can’t speak the language. And when you say you’re from Barcelona, it opens a lot of doors. It’s like a business card. Though I always make it clear that I’m Real Madrid fan, make no mistake...
B.N.: Hahaha... I don’t know if we can print that... So, what do you think about the crisis in Spain? It seems like there may be a light at the end of a tunnel.
M.M.: It’s a shame because the crisis has wiped out dozens of factories, many belonging to people I consider friends. We’ve never seen a crisis like this before. The factories that have resisted the most are the smallest ones, generally. It seems like now they’re starting to consider investing again, there seems to be more confidence. I have personally received more inquiries from our clients this year than during the past five years together.
B.N.: And what do you think the future of BERALMAR will be like?
M.M.: I think that BERALMAR is a very brave company. It has done a great job opening markets all over the world, even before the crisis began in Spain. We have a very good staff and technical team. The company is also very good at adapting to the various technological levels required by the markets. BERALMAR has a great future ahead of it.
B.N.: Does this great future include Manolo Martínez?
M.M.: Like I said, when the world of ceramics traps you, it’s forever. Now that nobody’s listening, I’ll admit that I really like my job. I don’t work: I enjoy my work. I enjoy walking into a ceramics plant, talking to clients, discussing solutions with other technologists. And I feel very young. I can’t imagine staying at home any time soon, even though I do have my hobbies, friends and family.
B.N.: So you’ve still got plenty of steam left in you.
M.M.: As long as I enjoy my work and interacting with clients, I’ll have steam left. I also enjoy innovating, testing improvements in our equipment. Right now I’m very busy with an innovation project for a combustion chamber...
B.N.: ...maybe we’ll be able to talk about it in our Newsletter soon!
M.M.: There’s no doubt about it. When I get down to innovating I always come up with something.