António Moreira Gonçalves
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Inarbel has made around 400 thousand medical gowns, of which 90% were exported. An alternative that the company followed when faced with the sharp drop in orders for their core business, children’s clothing. José Armindo Ferraz, CEO of the group, now sets his eyes on the health sector as a business with a future, and this June he expects to fully automate an internal unit with new machinery. An effort that carries a warning: “Portugal and the EU must stimulate their industry in order to reduce Asian dependency”.
“When I realized the downfall in orders, and that some customers even stopped buying altogether, I went through a few sleepless nights, always thinking about alternatives”, reveals the entrepreneur. He then contacted some international partners and started raising an industrial operation oriented for the great demand of the moment: personal protection equipment, mostly for health professionals.
He got a hold of the fabric and certified it, then started manufacturing the gowns and certified them too, having right now two models on the list of equipment validated by CITEVE. The plan is to keep going down this path, and for that the company undertook an investment in new machinery.
The goal is to have a new internal production unit this June, exclusively dedicated to the health sector, allocating approximately 40 workers at Inarbel. “I see this as a business with a future. We have the knowledge, we have the quality, and we have certification. We can stay in this market. I hope that Europe promotes its industry while becoming less dependent on Asia”, discloses the CEO of Inarbel.
The company employs 240 workers, and during the last few months has made over 400 thousand reusable medical gowns, at a pace of 60 to 70 thousand per week. More than 90% of the production was exported to Spain and France, but José Armindo Ferraz wishes he could sell more in Portugal: “In Portugal, bureaucracy is heavy and single-use gowns are prioritized, which can be more expensive at times. Our gowns withstand from 40 to 50 washing cycles, which ends up being cheaper and doesn’t generate as much waste”, he comments.