erman textile machinery manufacturers have been at the top of the worldwide producer list
asked Johann Philipp Dilo, chairman of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) Textile
Machinery Association’s Executive Board, how he masters his work as chairman in addition to the
daily routine as CEO of the Dilo Group. A prominent personality in the German textile machinery
industry, Dilo has successfully led the Dilo Group for many years. He also has been a member of the
VDMA Textile Machinery Association’s Executive Board for many years, and for the last two years has
served as its chairman.
TW: What were the reasons to accept the VDMA position?
Johann Philipp Dilo (JPD): At first, one must notice that these honorary jobs are
also suitable to look beyond one’s own nose, to work and to take on responsibility not least for
the members and the entire Executive Board. This has primarily arisen from the sense of duty.
Everybody knows that it’s not always easy to find people in politics or trade associations to
accept an honorary post. However, it is also an asset with an information platform, as well as the
exchange of thoughts and strategies.
TW: What are your personal challenges with this chairmanship?
JPD: Everyone suffers from a shortage of time in a position of corporate
management, isn’t it so? Providing time for this activity is the greatest challenge. However, it is
also so that the stress is even bigger during the time as a CEMATEX delegate. [The European
Committee of Textile Machinery Manufacturers (CEMATEX) designated VDMA to organize ITMA 2007.]
TW: Does this extra work also bring some advantages?
JPD: It brings the advantage that I also deal with and have a good look at the
strategy of the German textile machinery manufacturers. In terms of exhibitions, many things are
moving. In this respect, it brought me firsthand information as a member of the Executive Board for
many years. And as chairman, I am in very direct contact with the office of Thomas Waldmann
[managing director, VDMA Textile Machinery Association] and his staff. And there, too, there is
firsthand information to be processed.
TW: The VDMA Textile Machinery Association is one of the largest textile machinery
associations in the world and has been for many years. Why do you think this is still the case?
JPD: I think that has primarily to do with the manifold structure of the German
textile machinery market. The situation is characterized by large companies with group structure on
one side. On the other hand, there are a large number of medium-sized, family-run enterprises with
long traditions and strong reputations that are handed down from generation to generation. And
then, I have to mention again the continuity. Today, one can hardly achieve ad hoc successes in the
textile machinery industry. All new developments are processes prepared in the long run. If all
this occurs in the family-owned enterprise, one has continuity in the development work. And this is
the prerequisite for success.
TW: So a company can’t buy a history?
JPD: Exactly, and it’s hard to accelerate it. Of course, one can delay history,
but it is very difficult to suddenly make a great leap in research and development. One always
wants this as a machinery builder, and searches for revolutionary solutions.
At the end of the day, one notices, however, that these were mostly modest jumps making the
next step forward. However, the number of smaller jumps is decisive.
TW: And how do you reconcile all this?
JPD: The profession of an independent entrepreneur presupposes that one does not
have too many interests alongside his job. I even think that one should be a little more reserved
with his hobbies. Today’s challenges are so manifold that one must concentrate all personal
strengths to be successful. The person who is willing to have success must remember his own
strengths, have a concept, and — to be more precise — a long-term, lasting concept. At all joyful
development work, one must set on continuity and be confident himself.
There are some 130 enterprises in the
German textile machinery industry, and they achieve a turnover of approximately 3.5 billion euros
(US$4.78 billion) per year. Ninety percent of this turnover is generated by VMDA members.
TW: What are the advantages of VDMA membership?
JPD: The VDMA makes a big effort to promote the German textile machinery industry
worldwide. It is in this respect that it watches also very strongly our markets and provides the
members with information about market trends, business cycle data and statistics. However, it also
watches and documents the industry-specific results in the textile machinery industry with export
data. Statistics play a very important role.
The second point is the show information policy. One watches numerous fairs worldwide, and
is also present. Regarding advertising, purchase guides are distributed to present the German
textile machinery industry itself. The exhibitions, design, participation and the support in the
organization play an important role. Of course, the VDMA is represented prominently in the CEMATEX
committees and contributes its ideas.
TW: What does the VDMA think about education?
JPD: This is a great topic. The VDMA, of course, also cares about the young blood,
for example, with grants for engineering training. In connection with this, the VDMA is also
organizing global-scale symposia, in markets where it makes sense. In this respect, it is also
helpful for the members to find programs. Furthermore, one has to deal with technical questions,
contract forms, standards, safety techniques and so on, as well as have contact with the leading
TW: You mentioned the keyword “exhibitions.” This is the hot topic, because there
are apparently too many fairs. Do you agree?
JPD: I don’t belong to the group of people who say there are too many fairs. One
simply must choose the right ones, and everybody has the freedom to do so. But the choice of too
many fairs is not that bad at all. And it is not only about machinery shows, but also about
smaller, local fairs or events without machinery — like Techtextil, where there are many customers
with whom one can talk about new products. The already mentioned symposia give even more events to
choose from, again where one meets the customers. And all this choice of where one can meet his
customers in one place is a very efficient opportunity to do marketing and saves various journeys.
In this respect, I suggest to everybody not to complain but to select the appropriate exhibitions
for their business.
Approximately 35 VDMA textile member enterprises are working in the area of nonwovens. Many
of them are also machinery manufacturers for spinning equipment. This sector is very progressive
and shows stable growth of 10 percent per year, sometimes even more. The classic textile machinery
industry can only dream of this growth rate. However, this applies not only to nonwovens, but also
to technical textiles, which have just as big a future potential. This development also will find
its expression at ITMA if one sees what kinds of products are shown for these areas.
Dilo considers the current market
situation quite positive. “The figures speak a considerable language,” he said. “The German textile
machinery industry expects an increase in sales of about 13 percent this year. This applies to the
entire textile machinery industry including accessories. The incoming orders still are developing
positively. It looks like a successful ITMA 2007 and a promising year for European textile
machinery manufacturers. As is well-known, the textile machinery industry is always the subject of
strong fluctuations. In 2005 and at the beginning of 2006, we all had below-average capacity rates.
This has improved so that we have arrived in the top midfield now.”
TW: How do you see the short- and medium-term future for the European textile
machinery industry? Will it be able to withstand the global competition, or will this industry
slowly migrate to Asia?
JPD: With all cautiousness, I am very positive for the reasons that I have already
mentioned. When one can contribute as a member of the Executive Board of the VDMA and also in his
peer group, one also needs to have a certain stability in his point of view. One also needs
self-motivation and self-conviction. One also must have faith — without faith nobody can be
successful. People who only live with fear can’t survive as businessmen. Having our own company
success in mind, I am very confident about the future.