With more than two decades of experience, Mecanorte Construções e Empreendimentos Ltda is a benchmark for the provision of engineering services to the heavy duty construction industry. Reuben Ford discovers how Mecanorte successfully balances social needs and the weight of industrial evolution.
Mecanorte was founded in Minas Gerais state in October 1986 and originally contracted machinery such as diggers, tractors and trucks out to construction companies. Minas Gerais is renowned for its natural mineral reserves, including iron and gold, and the state’s mining industry was the focus of Mecanorte’s activities. As the company’s portfolio of prestigious clients such as Vale do Rio Doce and Samarco grew, so did its thirst for new business opportunities. The consolidation of the brand led to Mecanorte providing engineering services, such as planning and construction, to additional venues that included road construction.
In 2003 the two founding brothers parted ways, and Mecanorte concentrated on its development, firmly based on the trust associated with its name in the market. The company focused on human resources, technology and equipment, paying careful attention to meeting the expectations of its clients, while showing the necessary concern for the social impact of its projects.
Today, the company is still family run, and specializes in a broad range of mid-size engineering projects. The expansion of Mecanorte’s services has built up the experience, equipment and technology to become a valued partner in a variety of industries from mining to sanitation.
DEVELOPING A COUNTRY
“We started our business in the mining industry, and as we grew, and embarked on new territory, we also developed our scope of mining services,” explains Administrative Director José Miguel Frauche. Mecanorte works in partnership with several companies, actively participating in mining operations, and environmental management. “Mecanorte has evolved with the mining sector, and the result of this hard work has contributed to the development of the country,” he continues.
The company is also responsible for thousands of kilometers of roads and highways, and the construction of airports in many of Brazil’s major cities. From the laying of the tarmac to the road signs, Mecanorte offers a complete service. Such projects have paved the way to progress for many remote regions. Airports have been built in accordance with the strictest technical criteria and quality, observing all requirements for aircraft take-off and landing.
Safety at the various stages of construction and operation is also a priority in dam building; another of Mecanorte’s activities. The dams are planned to minimize the effects of obstructing the natural course of the water and are vital in producing hydro-electric power for industry and irrigation programs. The dams are built with the intention of producing an ecologically friendly power source, and sustainable development to the region.
Reconciling urbanization with safety and concern for the environment is a challenge that Mecanorte faces with confidence. The company also improves the quality of community life through building sanitation systems, creating drinking water supplies as well as effective and safe sewage networks. The planning of such developments involves complex procedures, which must consider the pressure of demographic growth and attend the needs of an increasing population. Mecanorte also participates in the development of cities, providing services such as planning, architecture, engineering and construction, which draw on its knowledge of ecology, geology, social sciences and geography.
Careful planning is essential in an emerging economy, and Mecanorte assists diverse companies in re-managing internal operations. The projects include effective use of raw materials, resources and equipment in factories, mines and other industrial facilities. Mecanorte expands its clients’ factories using sustainable materials and adapting these to the present and future demands of the market.
Quality is key in all of Mecanorte’s services. In 2006 the company installed an integrated management system, in accordance with ISO: 9001:2000, OHSAS 18001 and ISO: 14001; it also has received Bureau Veritas Certification. “We are concerned not only with the environment, but also the well-being of our employees: both are linked to the quality of our services,” explains Frauche.
The work carried out by Mecanorte relies on the company’s state-of-the-art equipment and technology. The fleet of tractors, trucks, bulldozers, diggers, rollers and other construction machinery is constantly renewed and updated. “We have the most economic, productive, safe and modern equipment that the market offers,” says Frauche. In order to guarantee the best possible performance, Mecanorte uses three types of maintenance programs, which operate on the principles of prevention, repair and analysis. Problems are prevented by frequent checks and services to the fleet and corrected through fast and efficient repairs. The third technique, of analysis, involves taking a sample of the machine’s oil and testing for dust particles and other irregularities. The results of the tests afford a more exact monitoring of the machine’s performance and condition.
Partnerships with manufacturers like Caterpillar, Mercedes, Liebherr, Scania and Dynapac ensure that Mecanorte has the best construction machinery in the market. “Caterpillar has requested our opinion before launching new products in the past, and at the moment Scania is testing a new truck with us,” says Frauche. Although Mecanorte’s projects are not as large as some competitors, it is a reference in the industry and was listed this year in Exame Magazine’s top 100 Brazilian companies.
POTENTIAL FOR PROGRESS
It is no secret that in a country in the throws of rapid development, engineering and construction services are highly sought after. Despite the downturn in Brazil’s construction industry in 2008, Frauche is confident about results for 2009. “Around 70 percent of Brazil’s towns and cities do not have basic sanitation and the authorities are investing heavily in this area,” he explains. The government’s PAC project (Programa de Aceleração de Crescimento, for the acceleration of growth and development of the country) targets the improvement of roads, housing, energy supplies, airports, ports, urban planning and sanitation systems, all of which fall into Mecanorte’s area of expertise. The project is part of the efforts to improve the country’s infrastructure in time for the 2012 Soccer World Cup. It is also the reason for the company’s projected $75 million annual revenue for 2009 (up from $58 million in 2008). The figure is a result of the nationwide government incentives.
The fact that Mecanorte operates in the private and public sectors has also been instrumental in its growth. “Although private companies have been hard hit by the problems, government investments to maintain progress have continued,” says Frauche. The company works with private giants such as Petrobras as well as on state highway construction projects. These two areas, together with the broad range of projects that Mecanorte undertakes, have supported the company through tougher times. “If the mining industry is not doing well, the other projects compensate for this,” he says.
The importance of sustainable energy sources and environmentally friendly practices are fast becoming a priority for all companies that think about the future of modern industry. Mecanorte’s uncompromising approach to preserving the planet places it at the forefront of planning and building a better future.
Mecanorte’s potential also lies in its performance and structure. Punctuality, quality, concern for the environment and trust are keys to its success. Operations are managed from the 380-squaremeter head office in Belo Horizonte, state capital of Minas Gerais. Just 20 kilometers away is the equipment storage facility. With over 10,000 square meters of space, the unit houses machinery as well as maintenance, painting and testing departments, accounting, finance, purchasing and human resources. The commercial and accounts teams are also based at the plant. Mecanorte also has its own asphalt factory. As an essential component in all of the company’s construction works, the manufacture of asphalt streamlines operations and is another quality guarantee.
Characterized by high quality, Mecanorte is not just a brand but a concept in the industry. Key in the implementation of economic and social development in Brazil, the company has accompanied its nation’s growth, offering sustainable and environmentally friendly engineering solutions. Mecanorte promises to continue planning and carrying out successful projects well into the future. Adds Frauche, “Brazil has enormous potential and we still have a lot to build.”