Erika Bernardino Aprá, 41, is the new president of the Latin American Composite Materials Association (Almaco). Elected last February, she is the first woman to lead the Association. Basalt.Today asked Erika Bernardino about her vision of the market and her objectives for the Association.
Basalt.Today: What is your background within Almaco and before?
Erika Bernardino: After graduating with a degree in marketing and journalism, I held the positions of marketing manager and general manager of the Latin American Composite Materials Association (Almaco) over the past eleven years. My term will last three years, renewable for three more. I am the first woman to preside over the Association, which was founded in 1981.
The choice of an independent executive, which is not linked to a specific company in the composite sector, reinforces the increasingly professional profile of Almaco. Rodrigo Braga (Owens Corning) and Marcelo Aguiar (Tecnofibras) assume the positions of first and second vice presidents, respectively.
Basalt.Today: Can you tell us more about Almaco and its mission?
Erika Bernardino: Almaco’s mission is to represent, promote and strengthen the sustainable development of the composite market. With headquarters in Brazil and regional headquarters in Chile, Argentina and Colombia, the Association has around 400 associates (companies, entities and students) and, in conjunction with the Technological Research Institute (IPT), maintains the Center for Technology in Composites (CETECOM), the largest of its kind in Latin America.
The dissemination of knowledge about composite materials is at the heart of my new management. The strategy includes courses, workshops, technical conferences and in-company training. It is also worth highlighting the strengthening and expansion of the number of sectoral committees, with the aim of searching for new business opportunities for all the members of the composite production chain.
Basalt.Today: What do you intend to focus on?
Erika Bernardino: In parallel, I wish the new administration will act actively as an interlocutor between the associates and government agencies. The idea is to respond as broadly as possible to the demands that arise.
Basalt.Today: What is the weight of composites in Brazil and Latin America?
Erika Bernardino: The Brazilian composite sector ended 2018 with a turnover close to US$ 685 million, 3.8% higher compared to the previous year. It is estimated that the consumption of raw materials in the period reached 202,000 tons, a volume 3.1% higher than that recorded in 2017. Projections are from Maxiquim, a consultancy contracted by Almaco.
The year started promisingly, but we felt a decline in business over the months, especially in the second quarter. In any case, despite intense exchange rate fluctuations and political turmoil, we will have the second consecutive year of growth since 2014.
The transportation industry, especially agricultural vehicle assemblers, and the infrastructure sector, with a focus on the expansion of electric grids, continued to respond to most of the demand. They also helped to increase by 5% the number of jobs created in 2018, totalling 63,000 jobs.
In 2019, the other sectors leading consumption are expected to resume growth, especially civil construction, with Brazil being number one in the demand for composite materials. With political stability and an improved economic scenario, construction tends to be one of the first beneficiaries.
Basalt.Today: What is your feeling about the development of the market over the next 3-5 years?
Erika Bernardino: I believe in the growth of composites consumption in applications where the combination of strength and lightness is favoured, as is the case of the automotive industry. Investments in construction, infrastructure and wind power generation should also boost the demand for composite materials in the coming years.
Basalt.Today: What would you like to say to the composites industry as a woman?
Erika Bernardino: That women understand composite materials just like men (laughs). Joking aside, women are fully capable of acting in all areas and their contribution is vital for business success.