Through its program Eco Cinco, Vilbomex has helped Mexico’s 100 million citizens save over 10 million liters of water each year as it distributes state-of-the-art ceramic tiles and bathroom fixtures to the country’s newly built households. Rachel Hartman reports.
In Mexico, one company’s efforts have saved the country over 10 million liters of water per year. The program Eco Cinco, developed by Vilbomex, S.A. de C.V., has resulted in high-efficiency bathroom equipment distributed to homes throughout the country. “Eco” for ecology and economy, and “Cinco” for five liters, this program represents a significant force in Mexico’s water conservation endeavors. It provides the same efficiency, hygiene, and speed in toilet bowls, while using a considerably less amount of water – only five liters.
Water-saving toilets are among the numerous bathroom supplies manufactured by Vilbomex. The company makes all types of ceramic products for bathrooms, including toilets, urinals, sinks, and accessories for both residential and commercial sectors. In Mexico, its brand Vitromex holds firm as an industrial leader. Vilbomex also produces ceramic materials for St. Thomas Creations, a brand it distributes in the United States.
Providing quality bathroom items that are eco-friendly is a welcomed business in Mexico, where water is not taken lightly. “It’s an important issue in many regions of Mexico; it can’t be taken for granted here like it might be in other countries,” says Constantin von Boch, marketing director of America for Vilbomex. Places such as Mexico City, home to an estimated 20 million people, depend heavily on outside water sources. The metropolis draws from rivers that are up to 80 miles away. Head to certain northern areas o Mexico, and the search for water can be even greater. In the state of Coahuila, the Rio Nazas, a once free-flowing river, has been dammed to better distribute the scarce resource to the desert region. With so many areas straining for water, a product that uses it sparingly is a key player in the construction sector.
Vilbomex recognizes the strong influence it has in Mexico with its brand Vitromex. And the company takes its leadership responsibility to heart. “With the volume of production that we have, we can promote the conservation of water,” says von Boch.
A SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE HISTORY
Vilbomex was formed in 2006, but the environment-friendly attitude it holds today began years ago. It was originally founded as Muebles para Baño Vitromex in 1967 in Saltillo, Coahuila, as a business branch of Grupo Industrial Saltillo, one of Mexico’s leading industrial companies. It began manufacturing ceramic floor and wall tiles, as well as bathroom fixtures and accessories.
Nearly 40 years later, in 2006, Villeroy & Boch acquired Muebles para Baño Vitromex in its entirety. The agreement resulted in the company that is today known as Vilbomex. It currently focuses on ceramic products for bathrooms.
When Villeroy & Boch, a German ceramics manufacturer and supplier of lifestyle products, entered the scene, it brought with it an eco-friendly culture. “Social responsibility comes from our history as a family business,” says von Boch. He notes that the previous owners of Grupo Saltillo Industrial, also a family-run business, focused on conservation efforts as well. “It’s always more important when a family can identify with the business,” says von Boch.
The German company also added more than 250 years of experience to operations. First established in 1748, von Boch says, “It’s a family-run business, now in its ninth generation.” Over the years, the company has established itself as a global leader in its field, with a current presence in 125 countries throughout the world. “We have 19 plants in 12 different countries, and employ around 10,000 people,” notes von Boch. “Our global sales total close to one billion euros annually.” Villeroy & Boch became a public limited company in 1987. Since 1990, it has been listed on the stock exchange.
Along with its leadership, Villeroy & Boch has brought its knowhow and technology to Mexico. Its goal is to make Vilbomex a leader in North America. In some areas, that has already happened. “In Mexico, we’re a very established company,” says von Boch. Its brand Vitromex, distributed in Mexico, has topped the charts. According to von Boch, “We’re the national leader in pieces sold. With close to two million large pieces sold annually, we’re number one.”
And the company is working to establish that same leadership in the United States. In 1994, the company (then Grupo Industrial Saltillo) took over St. Thomas Creations. This helped it to boost its international presence. Today, Vilbomex manufactures parts for this brand in Mexico, and then distributes and sells these north of the border.
Vilbomex has 1,000 employees in Mexico. Its ceramics are produced in three different plants: one in Saltillo, another approximately 20 kilometers away in Ramos Arizpe, and a third in Lerma, which is near Toluca. “We sell at a national level, with five sales offices distributed throughout the country. Each one manages the business in its zone,” says von Boch.
STRONG MEXICAN HOUSING MARKET
While it may take some time to develop in the U.S. market, the future in Mexico is as bright as the sun that shines there. “There’s still strong development in Mexico, and the market is not as saturated as the one in the United States,” notes von Boch. “We see opportunities here for strong growth.”
Perhaps the biggest reason for this lies in INFONAVIT, which stands for “National Workers Housing Fund Institute.” This government program was developed to help Mexican workers purchase homes. Employees invest part of their salaries in return for a 30-year home mortgage loan at a reasonably low interest rate. The government backs this financing. In a country where, historically speaking, credit is hard to come by, this program has opened new doors for millions of Mexican families.
Under Vicente Fox, who was president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, INFONAVIT set sail. Rows and rows of new homes began to fill subdivisions throughout the country. As many workers grabbed the chance to buy their first home, the demand for Mexican-based construction companies increased exponentially.
The program has developed even more under Mexico’s current president, Felipe Calderón, who came into power in 2006. Von Boch says, “During his six-year term, Calderón plans to build six million more homes, which is an almost 30 percent increase over what Fox did.” The increase in construction creates an even higher need for manufacturers, including Vilbomex.
While recognizing these opportunities, von Boch observes that the company does not focus on instant profits. Rather than looking at what’s most convenient for the moment, the firm “makes decisions based on long-term results,” say von Boch. The company does not shift plants to cheaper regions on a whim; instead, it focuses on keeping factories where they are and using them for lasting benefits.
Regarding the future of Vilbomex in Mexico, von Boch comments, “We want to continue to be the leader in innovation, service and quality.” At the same time, he emphasizes the importance of balanced growth. “On the one hand, we want to develop our economic activities, together with our collaborators.” He also cites that the company is concerned with ethics in both work and business, as well as the environment.
Overall, von Boch emphasizes balanced growth. “We want to make decisions that will benefit not only our shareholders, but that will benefit all involved,” he says. Through these strategies, von Boch feels the company can be taken to the next level: to be a leader in North America when it comes to bathroom products and accessories. By living up to these standards, Vilbomex will continue to be a stronghold not only in Mexico, but in other parts of North America also.