Marel Industria de Moveis S.A. began as a family business in 1967. Based in Francisco Beltrão, in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, the company now employs 300 people directly and has a network of representatives all over Brazil. With products sold both nationally and internationally, Marel is one of the largest fitted-furniture manufacturers in Brazil. Reuben Ford tells the story of how this company has become a Brazilian market leader.
In its latest advertising campaign, Marel states that “there is just one thing better than dreaming of the home you always wanted and that is making that dream a reality. And to make this important moment even more special, there is Marel.” The brand offers a broad range of designed and fitted furniture, which is modern and of superior quality, guaranteed through the use of premium raw materials and the latest production technology.
The concept of personalized service has always been important to Marel, even though 30 years ago its business focus was quite different. “In fact,” explains Chief Financial Officer Edgar Behne, “at first Marel did not manufacture furniture at all; it made cement products.” The two-man company manufactured sinks out of granilite – a burned form of cement from a granite derivative. “The production of kitchen sinks and then kitchen workbenches,” Behne continues, “opened the door to the manufacture of fitted-kitchens, which was just the beginning.”
Family-run Marel has grown and expanded its product range following this very same concept: using experience in both production processes and the market to identify gaps in the industry and continually modify existing lines while at the same time developing new products. Marel now produces not only fitted kitchens, but also fitted furniture for bedrooms, home offices, home theaters, bathrooms and living rooms. Depending on the size of the room or the space available, the company manufactures cupboards and wardrobes planned down to the last millimeter, concealed drawers, shelving and doors. Whether the customer’s intention is to create a piece of fitted furniture for an unusual space, or fully fit an entire room, Marel provides the solution. The company also has two subsidiaries: Dimare and Duranox. Dimare Moveis Modulados is a more economical fitted-furniture producer, which upholds the same quality and expertise, and offers alternative product lines in the same areas as Marel. Whereas the Marel lines are sold in exclusive stores, the Dimare ranges are sold in independent furniture stores. Marel works with the wood derivatives MDF (medium density fiberboard) and MDP (medium density particleboard) and all of the furniture is produced at the facility in Paraná. A range of laminate finishes can be applied to these products, resulting in durable and aesthetically pleasing units. Unlike many competitors, Marel also incorporates a facility that produces sinks. Located at the same site, Duranox produces metal sinks for Marel and Dimare fitted kitchens, as well as metal kitchenware, such as bowls, plates and trays.
The intention of every project is to make the best possible use of all the available space, in accordance with the requirements of the customer and regardless of the size of the room. Whether working with a small apartment or a spacious house, the concept of good planning is fundamental in reaching successful solutions. Although certain components can be repeated, each and every finished project is different, combining the individual features and various finishes as well as accessories supplied by Marel. Today the company provides exclusively designed and manufactured fitted furniture with totally guaranteed delivery and installation. “The growing popularity of fashionable fitted furniture, particularly over the past eight years has certainly helped business,” says Behne. “Every project is unique.”
Increase in demand and the success of Marel’s ‘personalized’ furniture together with the innovation and expansion of product lines has resulted in dramatic growth. The company’s headquarters has more than doubled in size over the last five years to incorporate an interlinking, neighboring site. Heavy investment has turned the once 6,800-square-meter business premises into a total of 19,600 square meters that house offices, warehouses, packaging and manufacturing plants for Marel, Dimare and Duranox. Company sales also show no sign of slowing down as the steady average 5–7 percent growth in revenue in recent years increased to 17 percent in 2007 and is expected to increase further to a projected 22 percent in 2008. “The Brazilian economy has also helped,” says Behne. The strength and stability of the currency has given the boost that many Brazilian companies are experiencing.
Production processes are constantly updated and, according to Behne, investment in the latest technology as well as the development of new techniques have helped Marel maintain its position among the market leaders. Rigorous testing of the design and quality of the furniture contributes to the modification of these processes. The various designs and measurements of each personalized project demand flexible and adaptable manufacturing technology, which is constantly evolving with the continued development of the industry. Marel has developed specific parts and tools as well as unique packaging, ensuring safe and efficient transportation of the finished products and increasing cost effectiveness of production.
OVERCOMING A CHALLENGE
Naturally, the company faces many challenges. Located in the state of Paraná in Southern Brazil, Marel is approximately 500 miles from financial center São Paulo, where the majority of the raw materials are purchased. Behne describes this as one of the company’s greatest challenges, competing with companies whose locations, closer to São Paulo, would seem more advantageous. In fact, Marel maintains a firm grip on the market, even bringing materials from São Paulo, and not only competes on quality and price but also delivery times. One of the factors that has greatly helped the business are its firm partnerships. Management and logistics consultants are important in the study of internal processes for maximizing effectiveness and service. The Marel fleet works in partnership with outsourced transport companies and a solid distribution network covering all areas of the country allows fast and well-managed installation and replacement in the stores. The efficiency of this service is assisted by the specially designed packaging that also allows a greater volume of furniture to be transported at one time.
A firm believer in the concept and culture of the family business ethic, Marel has been careful to hold on to these family values, investing not only in expansion, technology and partnerships but also the skilled workforce. Management training programs and leadership courses as well as a sponsorship program for undergraduates ensure a highly professional and dedicated staff. Investment in IT training and industry related courses improve projects, production, products, and installation. As well as participating in cultural and community organizations, the company runs a number of social programs, such as the subsidizing of school materials for employees’ children who complete eighth grade, encouraging them to receive a better education. But it’s not all work. Aerobics classes are available every day before work and company leisure facilities, including football pitches and woodland, not only offer a variety of alternatives to employees but also install a personal feeling of family, which is central to Marel.
Marel Industria de Móveis has developed from a small company to a market leader in the Brazilian furniture industry. It has the structure, technology and competitiveness that one would expect from one of the largest producers in the industry yet continues to be a family business, upholding the values of a small traditional company. For Edgar Behne, it is precisely this that plays a major role in the continued success of Marel – “personalized products and a personalized service.”