Festo is the global leader in automation components and industrial training programs and has been present in Brazil for more than 40 years. As Brazilian industry turns up the volume on technology, more and more customers are listening to the company’s electronic, mechanical and software solutions every year. Reuben Ford logs on to the latest at Festo.
The easiest way to understand what we do is to think of the human body,” begins Waldomiro Modena Filho President of FESTO Brasil Ltda, the country’s leading manufacturer of electric and pneumatic commands. “The brain is the control center, the senses are the sensors, the bones are actuators and muscles are our valves.” FESTO produces all four of these components for industrial applications. “Understanding automation products is not easy because of the amplitude, but basically we create machines to do what people did. The human body is the best base for study; there is no technology more advanced than the human hand,” Modena explains.
The bio-scientific studies carried out by FESTO, based on bioengineering have produced some of the world’s most advanced automation technology. Among the company’s main products are; electronic controls; proximity, inductive, position, pressure flow and optical sensors; pneumatic actuators; and directional control valves, manually and mechanically actuated valves, shutoff, pressure control and flow control valves.
BEST IN BRAZIL
FESTO broke into the Brazilian market in 1968. Initially a commercial representative of the German company, the small enterprise based in Santo André, São Paulo sold 73 different products. Today, FESTO Brasil Ltda produces more than 8,000 components and is listed in the 150 best companies in the country.
To read the history of such impressive development in one of the fastest growing economies in the world is to scan the evolution of automation in Brazil. In 1973, just five years after its launch, FESTO Brasil Ltda began manufacturing parts and a hungry market demanded subsidiaries in Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro. With such complex and innovative products, FESTO quickly discovered that it was feeding the future of industry. As well as supplying automation solutions, the company began producing educational equipment for important universities and technical training schools in Brazil such as SENAI (for Industrial Apprenticeships), PUC (Catholic University) and USP (São Paulo University).
The educational area opened an important opportunity not only for the nation’s budding engineers and technicians, but for FESTO, which is now also the leading producer of didactic laboratory equipment that simulates entire factory situations, storage challenges, production lines and automation processes.
In 1993, FESTO was the first in the sector to be ISO certified. The certificate confirmed the work and recognition from the industry and the company moved from its location in Santo André to a new 60,000-square-meter facility in São Paulo state capital. The plant is ISO 14000 and ISO TS (automotive) certified and also has the OHSAS 18001 (for health, safety and hygiene standards). As well as the main facility, FESTO Brasil Ltda has a network of subsidiaries all over Brazil, which have opened over the last 17 years from north to south in the company’s constant effort to provide a fast and efficient service for all of its customers’ automation needs.
FESTO supplies systems and automation components for manufacturing lines in a variety of industries. White goods, food, drink, pharmaceutical and automotive companies, as well as giants such as Proctor and Gamble and Unilever invest in FESTO’s solutions. “Our robotic technology for soldering, painting and assembling can be used in practically all industry segments,” explains Modena. The diversity and scale of the applications are vast. The Brazilian oil company Petrobras and mining giant Vale are also loyal customers and FESTO’s products are applied in more than 40,000 different working situations, between mechanical, electromechanical and electronic options.
The success of FESTO Brasil has played an important role in the global position of the company. With clients like Petrobras and Vale increasingly more powerful on an international level, Brazilian technology is stepping up its participation. FESTO has more than 2,900 patents worldwide, for automated solutions that have been developed by the skilled engineers and research teams, seven of these patents are from Brazil. “We patent designs, production methods and technology depending on each case,” Modena says.
The parts that are produced in Brazil are manufactured to international quality standards and to specific design requirements. “Our technical specifications are extremely rigid, and processes are carefully monitored to ensure quality,” he continues. FESTO Brasil has one of the country’s most complete industrial production configurations at its facility in São Paulo.
The strategy for research and development is separated into two levels. The first of these areas concentrates on the existing technology and its applications in current industry. The second level focuses on the distant future. According to Modena, research teams study possibilities and opportunities for at least ten years in the future. Company policy is to spend 7.5 percent of profits on research and development in Germany, which in its segmented areas has generated revolutionary technology. FESTO Brasil reported annual revenue of US$150 million in 2010, testament to a healthy investment in its products.
SIMPLE SUCCESS STRATEGY
“We lead the market because we provide more than a product. We know that our components are a part of an intricate system that is not easy to maintain, so consultancy is an integral part of our sales process,” says Modena. Learning to use FESTO’s products requires a professional and qualified sales team that is experienced in explaining the complex applications in order to maximize productivity. “We go beyond simple sales – we install working solutions and supply the knowledge and after sales service to keep those solutions in place,” Modena explains.
The successful approach to commercializing its components has won clients not only in Brazil, but also in Latin America and further afield. FESTO Brasil exports to South and Central America as well as Asia, China and India. However, with only 8 percent of production volume currently headed for overseas, the Brazilian company is still heavily focused on the domestic market.
The low proportion of exports was a benefit in the 2009 financial crisis. The FESTO Group is present in 176 countries worldwide and the reduction in spending had obvious repercussions on an international scale. “North America and Europe suffered more from the difficulties. In Brazil, the strength of the currency and fall in the market abroad increased our focus on domestic sales,” Modena recalls.
As Brazil moves from strength to strength, the country is entering the most important decade in the last 500 years in terms of economic growth and automation. A stable economy and strong Brazilian Real have maintained a steady and controllable level of inflation in a climate with a turbulent and unpredictable history. As Modena says, “the prospect of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 presents even more potential. The updating of Brazil’s infrastructure and increased consumer power will raise automation further still.”
The outlook is the best possible for the leading producer of automated parts. Not only an extremely qualified and dedicated partner, FESTO Brasil is 100 percent equipped to provide for all its customer needs. For a nation that has sprung into the world’s industrial foreground, constantly thirsty for automated solutions in every sector, the future is FESTO.