Road transportation of goods and cargo is a competitive business in Brazil, but for one of the country's leaders, the client is in the driving seat. Reuben Ford takes a closer look at this trailer and chassis manufacturer that teams technology with market demand.
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As it approaches 30 years of business, Rodovale Implementos Rodoviários maintains steady growth. The company manufactures a range of trailers: semi-trailers, roll-on roll-off and lifting trailers and containers for diverse industry sectors from agriculture to waste disposal.
Brazilian transportation infrastructure faces many challenges. Roads and ports need to be upgraded, but trucks hauling cargo on roads are still the most common method of transportation.
Road transportation corresponds to 58 percent of national logistics and the growing need for efficient trucks and trailers has created a highly competitive industry. Rodovale has remained on track through investment in transport technology and meeting clients’ requirements.
“When we began business, we focused 100 percent on technical assistance for 88 municipalities. In recent years we have started to produce a road-transport equipment line based on demand,” confirms General Director of Rodovale, Rudi Becker.
Moving with the Times
With 1.3 thousand manufacturers of road transport equipment, 89 percent of which comprises small to medium-sized companies, Brazilian logistics companies are faced with tough statistics. Completing sales and maintaining clients is not easy – especially with a strong network of franchises and workshops in on the act.
Rodovale adopts a different approach. The company based in Lajeado, Rio Grande do Sul, shifts the focus from sales to customer. It concerns itself with providing solutions and offering excellent customer service, which includes after-sales and maintenance assistance.
Technical support is in Rodovale’s DNA. Founded in 1985 in a mechanics workshop, the company began by servicing trailers and chassis. Ten years later, operations were moved to the existing facility in Lajeado and Rodovale started producing its own equipment line.
“Rodovale managed to do what few others of its size have done: open up the national market. Growth was a result of the strategy to focus on the specific demands of agribusiness at the time, to offer better productivity and cost reduction to clients,” Becker explains.
This concept is characteristic of the company and according to Becker, who co-founded Rodovale with Ernani Luersen, is the primary reason for its success. Accompanying demand is a strategy that continues to define the company’s development and success.
In 2013, Rodovale invested in a new division to produce metallic tanks. The new facility, based in Estrela (Rio Grande do Sul) exclusively manufactures cylindrical stainless steel and aluminum tanks.
“Clients were questioning why we hadn’t invested in a line of fuel and liquid transportation tanks. It was an idea that we had been studying and when opportunity arose in 2013, we grabbed it,” says Becker. “In the first semester of 2014 we invested almost $700 thousand in a new plant producing aluminum tanks for fuel and foods. We are currently in the stages of completing a further $1.4 million of investments assumed in 2013,” he continues.
In the last two years, Rodovale’s research and development team has been working on the advanced stages of five design patents.
The volume of investments in improvement of processes, machinery and infrastructure in the last three years reached $4.5 million. At the end of 2012, the company invested in a new welding robot, which increased production by 50 percent and improved the quality of the soldering.
In 2013 the company acquired three geometric laser machines and equipment for chassis alignment. The technology works with high precision, using digital lasers to verify the exact degree and positioning of axles and bearings for trailers of light to heavy loads.
Truck and trailer chassis alignment machinery adjusts the vehicle without using heat. Instead, a powerful hydraulic system of lateral traction aligns the components and confers by laser beam. Trailers that have suffered accidents or seriously damaged can be completely repaired at the Rodovale plant.
Products and Places
The company manufactures semi-trailers and trailers for trucks. The complete range includes 50 different models and 16 product lines.
Among the varieties are tipping, lifting, hydraulic, closed and half trailers as well as dollies and tanks. The ‘All Load’ (Carrega Tudo) model is available on different chassis, with removable, articulated loading neck – ideal for harvesting and agricultural applications.
Rodovale has developed technologies that facilitate implementation of its equipment, such as the rolling floor, which reduces loading times by up to 50 percent and is used mainly for sugar cane, recycled material and coal. Another innovation eliminates leakage from trailers for safe and environmentally-friendly transportation of high volumes of waste.
The complete range of vehicles is projected, manufactured and maintained using latest generation 3D technology at Rodovale’s six production facilities. The 10,500-square-meter headquarters in Lajeado is supported by an after-sales subsidiary and three further facilities in the same city and the recently constructed tank production plant in Estrela. The company has 310 employees.
Rodovale is proud of the relationships it has formed with collaborators and suppliers. Since its foundation partnerships and customer service have been rigorously maintained and today form a part of the company culture. “70 percent of our suppliers have been with us since we began business almost 30 years ago,” Becker confirms.
Despite the high number of competitors, Rodovale is ranked in the top 30 in Brazil. Growth in annual revenue oscillates between 12 and 20 percent and marks an upward trend.
“One of our strongest differentials is our personalized products – built according to client requirements,” Becker affirms. He also cites product quality as an overriding factor in Rodovale’s longstanding success:
- Structures are made from steel, which affords lightweight solutions that can carry heavy loads;
- Submerged arc welding and robot-operated finishing also ensure the highest quality;
- Abrasive jet-washing is applied before painting the trailers and chassis;
- Paint is applied in two layers and for higher resistance, and clients have the options of personalizing equipment.
Quality comes in spite of a lack of qualified labor in the market. Rodovale’s access to state-of-the-art technology gives the company a competitive edge in satisfying clients’ needs.
As the company plans continued growth, the well-structured engineering department is an important part of the future. Together with relationship focus, technology is behind Rodovale’s well developed, market tested and approved transport equipment.