Reporter REGIO: episode 13
A business back on its feet with the help of REGIO
Success stories, possible with the support of Regio Nord-Est 2014-2020
„We move on!” These words have become a motto over time for the main character of this episode’s success story. At 65 years old, he has a lot of energy, he is a recent graduate of the theology faculty and believes that you have to train your brain continues to not lose it. Cornel Iftime founded Dimold Impex SRL, with his wife, 25 years ago, in Bacău City and wanted to do manufacturing. He chose the manufacturing of shoe accessories because it was closer to their first job and soul. With the help of a non-refundable financing of 200k euros from the 2014-2020 ROP, he managed the personnel crisis he was facing and managed to respond favorably to the orders received, acquiring 4 state-of-the-art pieces of equipment in the field of footwear components.
Lack of labor and the need for technology
Engineers by profession – his wife in the tannery at the former Partizanul shoe factory in Bacău, and he, a mechanical engineer in the field of machinery – decided in `98 to start a shoe accessory production workshop on their own: insoles, cleats, and more. Today, they collaborate with shoe factories from all over the region of Moldova, but their biggest customers come from Italy. „We started working with an Italian for a large company about 10 years ago. For two years they only sent us trial orders, until we gained their trust. They work with a big name in this industry in Germany, a company that makes over a million pairs of shoes per season. A season, in the footwear industry, means about 5 months of work in a year, for the next season. We, for example, work with them for the winter season, the summer season being partially covered internally„, explains Cornel Iftime. This customer from Italy prefers accessories to be made by hand, with people. Satisfied with the quality he received, after a while he began to increase the number of orders. This was a problem for the Iftime`s because the labor market in Moldova was quite unstable and no people were willing to work. They had jobs listed at the County Employment Agency in Bacău for many years, but those who came did so only to obtain a denial of work. None came to work. „Many of my friends, who have shoe factories, asked me why I don`t get European funding. They were taking funds and I was actually helping them choose their machines. At the time, I didn’t want to because the Italian company I had been working with for so long insisted we do the work manually. They thought that with the automatic machines was a higher risk of mistakes. Mistakes that can`t be seen, a whole batch of shoes can be compromised, and the damage are enormous. But as they asked me to increase production, to offer them more, I told them that without automatic machines I cannot respond to their orders because there are no more people to work with. 6, 7 women worked for two thousand pairs a day, and the orders were for 3-4 thousand pairs a day. That was the moment when I asked him if I can work with machines„, Cornel Iftime recounts.
``If a house has a foundation, a shoe has an insole``
So, two years ago, they decided it was time to go to the next level with the help of European funds. They submitted a project and purchased 4 high-performance machines and heat pumps. If they used iron knives to cut the insoles, now they use the automatic machine and they have almost doubled the production in a working day with fewer people. „For a shoe model, with the whole range of numbers, you need 16 knives of special steel, knives that cost money. Last year we scrapped 10 tons of knives because every year we used over a thousand knives to cut. Now we only work like this if we have a small order. We now have a machine that cuts automatically. We needed 10-12 people to place the blade very precisely. Now the machine does it. The third machine is for mounting the insoles. The automatic stamping machine is also very useful. 15 people work for us now, in manufacturing. Before, more than 20 people were needed. It helps us a lot.„
Automation of production flow
The operations performed by the purchased equipment are highly precise, and with its help, any human error is eliminated. If, for example, the metal glen is not placed in a technically well-defined position, then in a high-heeled shoe the heel will step in a different direction. Or, if other parts do not overlap perfectly, the leather will suffer internal stresses in the structure and the shoe will come out crooked. Even if the Italians demanded for a long time that the accessories should be made by hand, now they are convinced that the technology is also good, and they can make a big order with no risk that the order cannot be honored.
And the heat pumps purchased through the project brought a real benefit to the accessories workshop. „I recommend them to anyone. Now, with heat pumps, we pay about 60% of the amount of wood we would have paid in a month. Someone came to make the fire early in the morning and it took a long time to heat up before, and now it heats up in 15 minutes after I press the button. These types of equipment and heat pumps are the best things„, says Cornel Iftime, smiling.
``Funding helps us survive``
They already have a lot of work for the upcoming season and, for the first time, the Iftime`s are not afraid that they will not be able to honor the incoming orders. „You won’t see a sudden increase in turnover now, with this financing. These machines help us survive. Maybe we will rise a little, having continuity in the work. This year we will see what happens. This is how we have oscillated so far, between minus and plus. We have some very cheap semi-finished products, 0.4 euro. If I propose a price increase of 0.42 euros, the customer will find another supplier. And there’s something else, if we have less than a thousand pairs a day, we’re at a loss, at all costs, we end up below zero. If it’s over a thousand, we also start to earn a little, because that’s how you earn in the shoe accessories industry. And with all that, I say it will be fine. By the end of this year, maybe the gain will explode. Now we have something to produce, we have these machines that we are very proud of„.
``Thanks to this funding, we are moving forward``
For 20 years, Cornel Iftime has been going to international trade fairs and keeping up to date with all the news in the field. He’s already made a name in this business, but he hopes others will get to know him, especially now that he can handle bigger orders. „Until now, I was afraid to tell them how much I can produce per day. I told them that I can’t do more than that. But now I’m not afraid anymore. It is very important to respect the delivery times when you pick up an order. If you are not looking to modernize production, raise the level of the product, and be able to answer a customer’s question about whether or not you can increase the number of products delivered, you will not survive. Thanks to this funding, we are moving forward. Otherwise, we were limiting ourselves or maybe, slowly, going down. If we don’t modernize, we stop. If you limit yourself to what you know and learned a long time ago, you have no chance. You have to come up with the latest technique„.
Student at 60 years old
Although he finished college in the 80s, Cornel Iftime felt the need for a new challenge at 60 years old. He wanted to study for a doctorate in his field, but somehow life directed him to theology. He had some questions, he was looking for answers and wanted to study further. „Study keeps you going, keeps you alive. You don’t know how good studying is at 60. From a certain age, you start to forget, and the untrained brain dies. In the first session, I cried. I wanted to quit about 20 times during the 4 years of college, but my family always encouraged me to keep going. And I studied like never. I was a grandfather to my college mates. I started the Faculty of Theology in Iași, I did it day by day, I also stayed in the student dorm 3 nights a week, last year I got my license and took the oath at the Cathedral. I didn’t go to college for a degree, and although I’m proud of it, I want to understand some things. After I finished college, I found the answer to my questions, but a thousand more questions arose. So… we move on, both with school and with production, we don’t stop„. Or, as we would say, the journey continues!
Reporter REGIO is a new North-East RDA initiative, which focuses on promoting the successful projects of our beneficiaries, projects that have managed to stand out by bringing added value and impact to the community. At a time when negative news predominates, we offer you beautiful but true stories for reading, meant to strengthen the belief that „it is possible”! Be part of the story!
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