FEIBP Online General Assembly 2021 Report

For the second year running, this year’s FEIBP (European Brushware Federation) General Assembly, which took place on Thursday 21st October 2021, was held online due to the ongoing concerns relating to COVID-19 and international travel restrictions. 

The meeting was officially opened by FEIBP President, Andrew McIlroy of Perlon, who commented upon what has been a turbulent year for the European brush industry which saw an increase in demand post-COVID. This, said Andrew, “has led to many issues in the supply chain: raw materials, shipping issues and shortages of more or less every product we need to make the brushes that we sell.”

However, despite the obstacles faced, the Board has remained active throughout the year, concentrating on activities capable of being conducted online such as initiating a new quarterly market survey, redesigning the association’s website and forging ahead with the regular meetings of the various committees and working groups.

ABMA Update

Each year, members of the USA’s equivalent brush association, the ABMA (American Brush Manufacturers Association), are invited to attend the Congress. On this occasion it was the turn of Greg Miller (The Mill-Rose Co.), current ABMA President, who joined the General Assembly and was warmly welcomed by delegates.

Echoing Andrew’s summary of factors affecting the European industry over the past year, Greg remarked that “like most industries and businesses throughout the world, our community of brush makers here in the Unites States have been plagued with supply issues, labour shortages, increasing costs, inflations and more.”

He also commented on the strength of the industry, saying that “as brush makers all of us are resilient bunch. No matter what type of brush your company produces, no matter where you are in the world, brush manufacturers have been and always will be needed long after this pandemic flushes itself out. I am confident that as a collective worldwide industry we will come out stronger and wiser in the years and months ahead.”

The 105th ABMA Annual Convention will take place from 02 to 04 March 2022 at the Hyatt Coconut Point hotel in Bonita Springs, Florida. This is situated just a short drive from Tampa’s international airport, and the association will be taking all necessary precautions to run a safe, effective and fun convention, and Greg extended the invite to all FEIBP members to consider attending. Most of the programme information has now been established and is available on the ABMA website.

Finally, Greg gave an update on the search for a replacement for David Parr, current ABMA Executive Director, who announced his retirement recently following 20 years of dedicated service to the Association. A search committee has been assembled and provisions have been made for a seamless transition once the process of identifying a suitable candidate is completed.

Keynote Speakers

Adding value to the General Assembly, the FEIBP invited 3 keynote speakers from outside of the brush industry: 2 coming from the relevant sectors of wood packaging and freight with the aim of gaining some perspective of the current situation in those markets, along with one from the world of marketing. Follow the links below to read what they had to say:

FEIBP Quarterly Market Research

For a while now, the ABMA has been conducting market surveys amongst its members to gain an overview of the state of the US brush industry. Due to its success, the FEIBP decided to follow suit to determine the status of the European counterpart. This is currently of particular importance, with little chance of meeting in person and the survey offering a channel through which to share information between peers, find out how things are going and identify any common issues.

The quarterly report allows for a period-on-period comparison of data. Now in the third quarter of 2021, both home and export market data, when analysed, show a positive trend across all sections of the industry (finished, raw materials etc), with only a minority of respondents predicting a dip in performance.

Sales forecasts suggest that the momentum, whilst slightly less than in the previous 2 quarters, remains stable to positive. This is anticipated to be true for the next 6 months also, accounting for the fact that suppliers will still need longer lead times to furnish orders and other factors affecting supply and demand as outlined previously. Overall, the information received indicates satisfactory economic circumstances for the near future.

With only 38 out of the 292 surveys issued having been completed, the FEIBP Board has appealed to all companies to find the time to participate, as the greater the response, the better the quality of the summary produced, giving a more accurate overview of the market, and adding to its credibility.

This is a living document, so suggestions for improvements or additional questions can be put forward to the FEIBP: See link at the bottom of this article.

FEIBP Website Revision

Another of the projects that the FEIBP has undertaken over the past 12 months is the revision of the association’s website. The current website was introduced in 2015 and was itself was a great improvement on the previous version. At present, the Annual Congress and the Professional Hygiene Brushware (PHB) Working Group both have websites that operate as offshoots of the main site. Not only that, but it is felt that it’s difficult to navigate to these, as their presence isn’t sufficiently highlighted on the main site’s homepage and maintenance of the 3 separate entities is difficult.

A Dutch company has been engaged to create a more user-friendly, streamlined version with enhanced visual appeal and additional content. The site is still under construction and is around 80% complete but should be finished shortly in time for the opening of registration for the 2022 Congress.

Market Reports: Raw Materials

A regular on the Congress schedule are the reports into the situation of raw materials delivered by representatives of companies involved in each sector who kindly provide overviews of trends over the last 12 months. Raw materials discussed were as follows:
Click to read the full reports.

Working Groups

Next on the agenda came feedback on the outcome on the current activities of the FEIBP working groups:
Please click the links to read the updates from each of the Working Groups.

FEIBP Annual Report – Fons Ceelaert, FEIBP General Manager

Due to COVID restrictions which have had a big impact on our lives, said Fons, it was impossible to organise a traditional physical congress in 2020. Therefore, a virtual General Assembly was held with good online attendance, enabling the discussion of the impact of COVID on the companies within the brush industry. Questions were raised as to whether the pandemic would lead to new opportunities for the European manufacturing industry and enhance global competitiveness.

The General Assembly review survey showed that whilst the virtual meeting was appreciated, the in-person format was very much needed as it is the great annual platform for the FEIBP community to exchange views and network. Sadly, with a trend of rising new cases it was deemed still too vulnerable, and the Congress was again postponed.

Since last year’s General Assembly, the pandemic returned along with widespread lockdowns. Despite this, the FEIBP continued to communicate, and virtual meetings were held.

The turmoil across the board in the raw materials markets and exploding transport freight costs are a major concern, said Fons, and it is still to early to predict what will happen in the coming 6 months.

Fons identified the 3 key priorities for discussion next year:

Reshoring of manufacturing to Europe – temporary or structural? – Will the practice of producing and buying locally become more appealing as transport/freight costs and trade disruptions as recently witnessed may result in shorter lead times should customers engage suppliers nearer to their location?

Sustainability – linked to climate change - How can we achieve our environmental goals which support the credibility of our industry and our quality products? The carbon footprint of products can be enhanced, and global competitiveness improved. This, stated Fons, requires a common European industry approach and he hopes that the FEIBP can be instrumental in combining expertise and willingness, for example in the field of research and PR. It will, however, take time to get customers on board to adapt to this new mentality.

Workforce – how to make industry more attractive for young and qualified people. Manpower availability has been a concern and it has been observed that companies are experiencing difficulties in finding good personnel.

As previously remarked upon, Fons then recapped the Quarterly Market Share Survey and the revisions to the website which is near completion.

Fons closed his report by saying on behalf of the whole association “It is the right moment to show our gratitude to Andrea Acquaderni He served for so many years as our FEIBP Treasurer; accurate and supportive – a great financial captain for our federation”. We all look forward to raising a glass to Andrea next year in Prague!

Andrea Acquaderni – Treasurer's Report

Next, Andrea Acquaderni delivered his final treasury report. With 2021 having incurred lower costs due to COVID and additional factors, the FEIBP finances remain in good shape. He passed his thanks to all concerned and reflected that it is a good time for change, and he is happy to be passing the baton to the new Treasurer, Peter Brunner. Andrea said that he of course remains at the disposal of the association should his assistance be required at any time.

Election of FEIBP Officers 2022-23

Looking towards the 2022/23 period, Fons disclosed the proposal of the following officers who were then confirmed as elected:
  • Andrew McIlroy (Germany/UK), President. Andrew will remain in the position of President until end of Belfast Congress in 2023, extending current period for a further year.
  • Peter Langenegger (Switzerland), Past President.
  • Alessandro Acquaderni – Vice President. Alessandro has made himself available as President for the period 2024 to 2026.
  • Peter Brunner (Switzerland) – Treasurer.
Peter Brunner is an expert in financial control with 16 years’ experience in finance + HR at Ebnat of Switzerland. He also has 10 years’ experience of governing the finances of the Swiss Federation and has previously been instrumental in helping to organise the St Gallen & Lucerne Congresses.

FEIBP Congress 2022 – Prague, Czech Republic – 21 to 23 September 2022

The final point on the agenda was raised by President, Andrew McIlroy, who confirmed that the arrangements for the twice-postponed Prague Congress to be held next year have been secured, with the costs and logistics remaining the same. The Congress will be being held in Eastern Europe for the first time and it is hoped that this will encourage participation from brushmakers from this part of the world.

The Congress hotel, the recently renovated 4* Grandior Hotel Prague, is situated a short walk from the city centre and is easy to get to from the airport.

In addition to the programme of business meetings and educational events, there will be a welcome drink and dinner reception hosted in the hotel on the first night, followed by a river cruise including dinner on the Thursday evening and the final evening’s gala dinner which will be held at the Franczouska restaurant and will feature a rock band!

For partners there will be a full day programme on the Thursday and a half day on the Friday. There should also be a tour of the city for all delegates at some point during the event.

Congress registration is not yet open, but FEIBP members will be notified when the online portal is open.

President McIlroy then closed the meeting by thanking all delegates for their participation. With a count of more than 65 attendees, the event was well-attended and proved to be a great success nonetheless, with more content on offer than seen in last year’s curtailed event. We all look forward to meeting in Prague in 2022!
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