The Spanish Railway Association, MAFEX, is a private and nonprofit organization whose goal si to serve the Spanish railway sector in all aspects of its internationalization, as well as the defense of general interests of its affiliates.
Mafex belongs to AGEX Group, existing for more than 35 years, formed by three other associations of many other industrial sectors, all at a national level and with a strong element of internationalization support. Victor Ruiz Piñeiro, President of Mafex, discusses in this interview the key points of the railway sector and the Association which he presides.
Victor, what is the main purpose of the Association?
The Spanish Railway Association (Mafex) was established in 2004 with the main aim of supporting companies in the Spanish railway industry to internationalize and to defend the general interests of the sector. During these ten years, we have wanted to help the Spanish sector to promote and enhance its national and international recognition and prestige.
What do you think have been your major achievements over the years?
As President of Mafex, I feel really proud to have contributed to consolidate a partnership which today is recognized nationally and internationally. Gone are those days when sixteen founding companies joined in a coordinated way to address the work of promoting the Spanish international rail sector. After a decade, today Mafex consists of the most important companies in the Spanish railway industry, representing more than 85% of the Spanish export sector, with a presence in over 80 countries. In general we can say that the Spanish railway industry has managed to be known and respected internationally.
The internationalization of our industry is the main objective of Mafex and therefore our greatest achievement is to have contributed to our work towards achieving high international presence, increased dramatically in recent years.
What kind of companies are affiliated to the Association?
Mafex consists of all kinds of companies that manufacture or provide any service related to the railway sector. The companies cover all the range of products and services that include the string value of the sector: engineering and consultants; rolling stock companies, not only including the manufacture of this material, but also everything relating to the attraction, control, security, maintenance, interiorism, onboard equipment and components; equipment and machinery for the manufacture of rolling stock; In addition to companies that engage in signaling, traffic management and control, ticketing, telecommunications; and companies dedicated to infrastructure such as large constructors, electrification companies, stations, maintenance, and permanent material and safety.
Why do you think it is necessary for the Spanish industry to be part of Mafex?
Experience has told us that both large and small companies are associated to Mafex because they benefit from the services we offer in order to improve their international visibility. We offer information regarding services, broadcasting, key contacts, networking within industry promotional activities abroad fairs, trade delegations, etc. to all the partners. All activities and actions we take are based on the fundamental goal that moves us, that is none other than getting, increasingly, a greater international presence of the Spanish railways. I faced this last challenge from a sectorial point of view, ie, rail, including all companies in the industry value chain and address the needs of our customer is the smart way to tackle them. This view of sectioned value chain, coupled with the primary objective of internationalization, helps us be an association, in my humble opinion, with clear and defined objectives.
With all this, and although in the railway field we start from a positive image concerning our industry, we must continue to get known. Partnering with organizations like ours is a way of having a support tool when going outside, to being promoted.
Where is Mafex heading to?
In 2013, along with the associates, the Strategic Plan 2014-2016 was defined, which has been a quantum leap in the way we work, maintaining the primary objective of supporting the internationalization of the Spanish railway industry. With this new plan, we want to further strengthen communication and sectorial strategy for companies to improve their competitiveness.
In order to encourage greater collaboration from partners and increase their participation in decisions of the shares, various committees have been created (Internationalization, Strategy and Communication, etc.), with which we intend to provide more services specially destined to our members’ needs. We are also developing several studies to help companies in their internationalization efforts, we continue to work with different agencies beyond internationalization in order to see how Mafex can help improve business competitiveness. In terms of institutional relations, we continue to seek a greater presence in national and international forums and organizations.
What are your goals for the near future?
Supporting companies in their internationalization, offering services that help them improve competitiveness and also improving factors such as representativeness, all subject to that great goal of internationalization support.
Collaboration with and between companies is a challenge we have set ourselves to design with our partners the objectives that we will develop and, this way, try to generate projects involving all of them. An example is this new publication, which has been launched after months of close collaboration with 12 companies that make up the Committee for Strategy and Communication, launched earlier this year.
Again this year, Mafex will be present at InnoTrans with a combined presence of the Spanish industry. What do you want to achieve with your presence in international fairs?
InnoTrans is the leading trade fair worldwide and the assistance to it is unquestionable. Again, our goal is to introduce to a greater number of people the Spanish rail sector. For fairs with a more specific subject or a specific geographical area, the objectives are the same but more concrete, such as fairs/conferences on high-speed, urban transport, etc.
The fairs are an important relational component that allow us to access for a few days a lot of people and expand our contact agenda with personalized meetings that might otherwise be nearly impossible to accomplish.
Being the President of Mafex and knowledgeable of the railway sector, at what point do you think the Spanish industry is?
Obviously we can’t ignore that the crisis is affecting the rail industry in our country. Going abroad for our companies has been imposed as an obligation and not an option, although it is true that our companies had a high degree of internationalization before the crisis, especially those associated with Mafex. Therefore, we can say that our companies are global and have a high capacity to adapt to local markets.
But despite that companies are globalized and adapted to this internationalization, it is of vital importance for Spain to continue investing in railway infrastructure, purchase and acquisition of new rolling stock, maintenance of the existing, network upgrade, etc. This will maintain and enhance current levels of technological expertise and innovation that our industry has. Key to this is to have a public policy of investment in rail material and infrastructure in the long term that will allow the companies to plan and measure their own companies in a stable and sustainable way. This policy also can be extrapolated to any country wishing to acquire good rail infrastructure.
What do you think can be the contribution of Spanish companies?
We can provide very high knowledge and capabilities from the technological point of view, training of people, innovation, etc. We have experience in complex projects such as the high-speed line Mecca-Medina, connecting Europe and Asia with the Marmaray project, the participation of Spanish companies in urban transport systems in many Latin American countries and the participation of Spanish companies in the construction of the underground of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia … in all these projects we contribute with knowledge about engineering and Spanish consultants with extensive national and international experience; experience from constructors, many of them world leaders; knowledge of technology companies that provide solutions with high technological content management and railway traffic control, signage, etc; known worldwide companies in terms of rolling stock manufacturing concerns (high speed, medium and long distance, trams, locomotives …); as well as a large number of manufacturers of all types of components, systems and equipment for infrastructure and rolling stock.
As a common feature to all of them, I would highlight the human potential of our businesses, hard to beat by others. A great training for our professional cultural aspects that define us as is our adaptability and flexibility to our customers is added. We have learned many lessons from the experiments carried out in our country in the past two decades in the development of infrastructure and rail transport systems and where once we thought we were good improvising, today we realize that we are even better at management and project planning. Our international presence, together with the references for projects we have, supports our business and work ability.