“We are proud to know that our tube bending machines are used in almost all existing sectors.”
Interview with Manuel Barros, CEO of AMOB. (By Luisa Santos, InterMetal)
“One day I will have friends in the four corners of the world, friends whom others call customers”.
The phrase, uttered by António Martins Oliveira Barros when, in 1960, he founded AMOB, was actually a prophecy. Today, celebrating 60 years of existence, the Louro company, Vila Nova de Famalicão, is the fourth largest manufacturer of tubebending machines in the world and is proud to have more than 12 thousand machines installed on five continents. All of them manufactured according to the needs of each client, or rather, each friend.
To mark the company’s anniversary, we spoke with Manuel Barros, the founder’s son, who today directs the fate of metalworking.
I begin by asking you to tell us a little about the history of AMOB. What led Mr. António Barros, your father, to start manufacturing tube benders?
In the 1950´s, my father worked in a small workshop that manufactured small agricultural machines and, in his spare time, occupied it by making small arrangements.
Occasionally, at one of the raw material suppliers for his arrangements, my father came across the poor quality of the tube bending machines and told the owner of that store, that was experiencing this problem through feedback from his customers, that he would be able to make a tube bending machine and even with better quality than the one the store supplier was offering.
The store owner then challenged him to build this machine and he, of course, accepted it. Thus, in 1960, the AMOB project (initials of his name – António Martins Oliveira Barros) was born, with the transformation of his garage into a workshop. Over the years, the space dedicated to its activity has grown to its current facilities, with around 20,000 m2 of covered area equipped with the most up-to-date production equipment, including machining centers, lathes, CNC milling machines, as well as cutting, punching, bending, etc. to guarantee the highest standards of manufacture existing today.
Today, AMOB is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of this type of equipment. What factors contributed to the company’s success?
Undoubtedly, the passion, conviction, dedication and entrepreneurship that laid the foundation for AMOB were, and are, the main drivers for the success of this company. From an early age, my father gave me all these values, which made it grow since I was young, the ambition of one day to be able to embrace this project with him. Fortunately it happened and, during these years, I have lived this journey with the same ideals that he left us. Always do more, more perfect, more tailored to our client and tailored to the needs of the future.
My father once uttered a phrase, which is the current basis of AMOB’s work and relationship with customers: “One day I will have friends in the four corners of the world, friends that others tend to call customers”. Today, I convey this motto to my children, who embraced this project with me, in constant learning and professional growth, and we are convinced that the path that AMOB has followed and that it has projected for the future will be increasingly a strong reason for recognition and pride for all over the world.
Manuel Barros with his two sons, Manuel António Barros and Inês Barros, who are now part of the company’s management.
Sixty years later, is the idea of having a friend in each client still your motto?
No doubt. At AMOB we place great value on the relationships that are created with our customers because we believe that with this relationship, the entire process of negotiation, sale and after-sale works much better. We always choose to do our best so that we can start considering that customer, also our friend.
Can you give us an idea of AMOB’s current production capacity and turnover?
AMOB has been increasing its productive capacity over the years, not only through the increase of human resources, but also in high investments in machines to increase productivity. We currently have a turnover of around 20 million euros, which we expect to increase significantly in the coming years.
What weight do exports have in the company’s production?
The average export rate in recent years is close to 90%. AMOB undoubtedly has an export profile, with machines nowadays installed in more than 90 countries.
What are the main target markets for your machines?
The Iberian market is very relevant for AMOB, it was where we started sixty years ago and we never lost the focus of being there with all our dedication. Over the years, we have gradually entered other countries such as the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Italy, France. In the last few years we have seen an increasing evolution in the USA, which is, without a doubt, a market with a huge potential.
And what are the main customer sectors?
Fortunately, AMOB is very well distributed in geography and sectors. We do not depend on just one or two sectors, and we are proud to know that our machines are used in almost all existing sectors. Taking the alphabet and going through all the letters, I can undoubtedly list at least one sector per letter. Thus, we can say that our machines are transversal to all sectors, automobile, naval, aerospace, metallic furniture, civil construction and metallic structures, among others.
Have any of these sectors gained special weight in recent years?
Perhaps the automobile, as it is a sector that requires a lot of capacity and a lot of technology, aspects in which AMOB has bet a lot in recent years.
In its current facilities, with about 20,000 m2 of covered area, AMOB has high-tech production equipment.
How many people does AMOB employ at the moment?
We currently employ about 160 people.
Is the Covid-19 pandemic affecting your activity? In what way?
Fortunately, we are being little affected by what we see around us, both in Portuguese companies and in the rest of the world. The fact that we produce a wide range of products, and that we sell to so many countries and to so many different sectors, has allowed us to maintain our activity at almost the same pace.
Before the pandemic, the majority of European machine tool manufacturers were already experiencing declining orders, as a result of the slowdown in the automotive industry and geopolitical factors such as Brexit or the trade war between China and the United States. Did AMOB also feel this break?
Once again, we overlook the consequences of all these factors, which allowed us to close 2019 with very positive results.
In technological terms, how have your equipment evolved in recent years?
At AMOB, there is a strong concern in constantly updating our products using the latest technology. In this way, we have invested in recent years mainly in 100% electric machines, which, like many other models, are under constant analysis to guarantee the integration of the maximum technology that the market offers. This improvement is continuous and, in 2021, we will present more than ten new models of machines.
In recent years, AMOB has invested in the production of 100% electric machines.
Are your machines prepared to meet the requirements of industry 4.0?
Yes, in recent times we have made strong investments to integrate our machines in industry 4.0. Today, our equipment is capable of communicating with the most varied ERP software, which allows our customers to manage their equipment and production more and more efficiently.
To conclude, what projects do you have for the future?
The projects we have for the future are increasingly being able to incorporate more technology into our products to meet the growing needs of the market, which are increasingly complex and challenging.
As I said, we are constantly improving, and we will soon be presenting totally innovative solutions.
We are convinced that the strong team that makes up the AMOB family will lead us to quickly reach the leadership of the sector.