World Footwear


New Generation: meet Ricardo Pinto from Combocal

Apr 17, 2023 Portugal
New Generation: meet Ricardo Pinto from Combocal
Ricardo Pinto has been working for the family company of footwear components for three years. He brought to Combocal the knowledge acquired in his Master’s in Polymer Engineering, as well as the insights from an intensive management course taken at Católica Porto Business School

Was working at the company a natural choice?

Yes. I can say that I am “connected” to Combocal from birth, since my father, José Cunha, was one of the company's founders in 1985, and is its current owner. So, I grew up very close to this industrial environment. After I finished high school, I realized that my choice of the academic field to pursue would have to include polymers and the rubber industry because it is an area of great interest to me.

I also feel that my career choice was influenced by my father, who is an inspiration to me, and over the years I have seen all his dedication and knowledge in the rubber industry, which motivated me from an early age to want to follow his legacy.

Your Master's thesis already had as a goal to investigate something within this sector. Tell me a bit more about it…

Yes. I was already aiming to investigate a topic within the soles sector, so I focused my dissertation on the creation of rubber biocomposites for the manufacture of more sustainable soles. Reducing the environmental impact of a shoe at its end of life and also valuing the natural exploitation residues were key factors for the choice of the theme.

Thus, one of the main challenges was to test the maximum percentage of incorporation of farm biomass without compromising the ideal mechanical and chemical properties of the products. A durable sole is also a sustainable product. Out of this research emerged some innovations, such as natural rubber soles with banana tree fibres (bananatreefiber_Rubber) and soles incorporated with coffee husks from coffee roasting (Coffeehusk_Rubber), among other products that will soon be launched in the market.

What fascinates you the most about the components' sector?

What fascinates me the most is the persistence and flexibility of people. Times change, trends change, and with that comes the need to change business strategies, so the way companies adapt is exceptional, from people working in production to the top management.

Companies increasingly reorganize, modernize, and automate to create more innovative and higher-quality products, thus achieving greater international prominence within the footwear and components manufacturing sector. This is something that fascinates me.

How is Combocal working on the issue of sustainability?

Nowadays, companies have to ensure that their production processes ensure the least environmental impact on our planet. This is one of the pillars on which Combocal is based, and one of the reasons for our investment in sustainability. In recent years, we have been developing more and more sustainable products, such as the rubber biocomposites already mentioned, and our latest product, launched at the last edition of Lineapelle in Milan, “Latex_rubber”. This is a bio-based product with a polymeric constitution of 100% natural rubber.

Concerning environmental certifications, the company recently achieved certification for its Environmental Management System according to ISO 14001, which validates the company's good practices towards the environment. In 2022, Combocal also implemented the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) in its organization, thus guaranteeing that it uses recycled materials in products. With this, we ensure customers the existence of recycled material in the final product, since this is one of the regulatory requirements, as well as a thorough control throughout the production process, from the origin of raw materials, their segregation, and processing until shipment.

What does this new generation entering now into the sector has to offer?

The new generation was born and raised during the technological revolution. Besides, it has more academic education. I believe that the entry of this “new blood” into the footwear and components' industry will be quite enriching. Nevertheless, this theoretical and academic knowledge ought to be combined with the practical knowledge and know-how acquired over the years by the people who work daily in the industry. I feel that the union of the different generations' skills can potentiate a synergistic effect, triggering even more success for the sector.

What advice would you give to a young person starting in the industry?

The advice I would give to a young person who is starting out would be to initially dedicate oneself to the knowledge of the product itself and the different sectors and processes associated with it. I believe that the most important thing is to first have a thorough knowledge of the product and only then concentrate on the rest of the business, namely the management of the company.

For more information about the company, please refer to Combocal's wesbite.

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