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Executive Forum: Made In Germany

An interview with Johann Philipp Dilo, CEO of the Dilo Group, and chairman of the VDMA Textile Machinery Association

diloG erman textile machinery manufacturers have been at the top of the worldwide producer list for decades. Textile World 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 textile institutes.

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.

Market Situation

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.

September/October 2007