Panda e Epaflex, the power of collaboration

Panda Safety® and Epaflex Polyurethanes® form a strategic partnership to create synergy, achieve common goals and improve their respective business performances.

The partnership between companies is many things at the same time: trust, understanding, respect, sharing of values and objectives, just to name a few. Choosing the right partner means accelerating growth and achieving ambitious goals, as in this case. In this interview, Dr. Lugi Gargiullo, Chief Executive Officer of Panda Safety®, and Mr. Federico Brusa, Chief Executive Officer of Epaflex Polyurethanes®, both professionals boasting decades of experience in the footwear sector, mutually open up to a constructive discussion on the future and actions to be implemented in terms of sustainability and circular economy.
Epaflex Polyurethanes® was founded in 1991 as a system house specialized in the production of polyurethane systems for the footwear industry and, thanks to its history, today it is internationally renowned as a market leader, featuring an annual production of 90,000 tons and counting satisfied business partners all over the world. world. Over the years, Epaflex’s business has further expanded and diversified, primarily with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) granules and then with the production of Polyureas, Polyaspartates, Prepolymers and spray foams for insulation. Together with Elachem® SpA, Epaflex Polyurethanes® is part of an industrial group that has recently built an important chemical plant for the production of resins.
Panda Safety®, founded in 1979 by Luigi Gargiullo, was, in the early 1990s, the first company based in the Puglia region to produce safety and professional footwear certified according to European standards. By focusing its product development on improving the morpho-anatomical characteristics and enhancing the protective function of footwear, Panda Safety® has always been a byword of work shoes whose durability is guaranteed over time, thanks to the very high- quality standards, in line with Italian excellence, which let the production process stand out. Thus, over the years, Panda Safety® has won over numerous PPE distributors, and even more end users, both nationally and internationally, and it’s marketed in more than 70 countries worldwide.
Welcome, Dr. Gargiullo. Can you tell us something about your recent experience with Epaflex Polyurethanes®?
“Panda Safety® has been on the world market for safety and professional footwear for many years – a market that is constantly evolving. In recent years, demand has raised, with a focus on lighter models, featuring exceptional performance and characterized by a more captivating stylistic appeal than in the past. Panda Safety® ensures all of this! …but no one can achieve these results without the right human relationships. Trust, understanding and prompt responsiveness are the basis for achieving any goal. Historically, our company has never sought simple suppliers, but rather those who define themselves as key partners, real “allies” with whom to work side by side to create value propositions, increase the value perceived externally but also to reduce business costs, and consequently their impact on customers. Fortunately for us this is what we have found in Epaflex Polyurethanes®. Both our companies are made up of people, not numbers, and therefore it is very easy to understand each other’s needs. I’ll give you just one example: Panda recently launched the new line of ultra-light footwear in which the overall weight has been reduced by 14% compared to the equivalent models in the previous collections. This represents an important added value for our customers, and we could not have achieved this without being able to count on the collaboration of the entire Epaflex Polyurethanes® team. Starting from the CEO up to the laboratory technicians, everyone provided their support, allowing us to start industrial production in less than three months from the request for the new compound. Now the new ultralight shoes are ready to be shipped all over the world, to the great satisfaction of our commercial partners! We are proud of what has already been done but we will keep on collaborating with Epaflex Polyurethanes® to develop a new type of polyurethane that can guarantee even better performance.”
Mr. Brusa, how do you see the new challenge of the safety shoes market today?
“Thank you for asking me this question. The last few years have taught us that one of the driving forces of our business is speed in delivery times and effective collaboration with partners, as well as the constant increase in quality and innovation. I have found all these benefits working with Panda Safety® since I first met Dr. Gargiullo a few years ago. Panda promotes advanced products in the new world of security, always future-oriented. I firmly believe that this is only possible thanks to their open mindedness, always ready to experiment and challenge their partners to the fullest. As a result, even the employees of the Epaflex Polyurethanes® and Elachem group, thanks to this collaboration, are now gladly wearing the latest creations by Panda Safety®.”
Doctor Gargiullo, how do you see the future in the next few years?
“The world wishes to remain ‘green’, as it was at the beginning: the younger generations are asking us to give them the opportunity to live in a sustainable environment. I feel it is important to remind ourselves of the love we have for this planet and for our work. And our customers require the same care. In the near future, the circular economy will also be a driving force for the footwear sector which generates tons of production waste every year. The circular economy affirms precisely this: a production model that recovers processing waste to generate new raw materials. It is mandatory to start reusing and reducing these residues at least until the complete transition to organic products takes place, starting with the polyurethanes for the sole, to then replace the leather of the uppers with highly performing microfibres. All this represents the true future of this sector, a thought that we fully share with Epaflex Polyurethanes®. And the target does not belong only to us: even my four children, who already work in the company, share the same vision. They are the future of Panda Safety®.”
Mr. Brusa, how is Epaflex Polyurethanes® getting ready to face these new market challenges?
“In particular, with long-term investments, without however forgetting the constant development of production, the progressive improvement of the entire chain and a strong customer orientation. This is our core, this is us! Since the foundation of Epaflex Polyurethanes® in 1991, and Elachem S.p.a., in 2002, we have always focused on the quality and improvement of each stage of the process which, today, results into the largest polyester polyol plant in Europe. We serve most of the international players in the footwear sector, and beyond. We keep on investing in developing laboratories equipped with the latest technology and much more. This has taken us away from the small business we originally were! But these results could never be achieved without the efforts of our team, at all levels, of people working in production, R&D, or in the technical department (most boasting decades of experience in the field), and teammates like Panda Safety®. We are happy with what we are today, but we are enthusiastically preparing for tomorrow’s challenges with new projects, including the megatrends described by Dr. Gargiullo.”



One of Panda Safety® production departments

Epaflex Polyurethanes® plants

Luigi Gargiullo, Panda Safety®

Federico Brusa, Epaflex Polyurethanes®