Over the past half century, Grupo Condor has become a respected provider of machinery for the movement and handling of bulk solids. Vice President André Meyer da Silva tells Lee Weingast about this Brazilian company’s path to prosperity.
Máquinas Condor got its start in 1959 when Ferdinand Kisslinger, who had recently migrated from Germany to southern Brazil, began developing and manufacturing grain mills. That business grew into the manufacture of grain silos and with this foundation in bulk solids, it was a natural progression for him to expand his activities into port machinery to move bulk solids between port and ship. In the early 1980s, Máquinas Condor’s acquisition of Isomonte S.A. brought it into the mining and the steel sectors. Grupo Condor is the informal name for the companies Máquinas Condor and Isomonte, operated separately but accountable to the same stockholders and upper management.
HEAVY AND LIGHT LOADS
With a workforce of 1,000 employees, Grupo Condor’s earnings reached $20 million in 2008. The machinery made by Grupo Condor is manufactured to order, according to the specifications of its clients in the mining, metallurgy, shipping and grain sectors. Over its 50-year history, the company’s focus has broadened along with its reach. It has extended its operations from Brazil, to South America and now boasts clients on three continents. Máquinas Condor S.A. builds machinery and designs and produces integrated systems for storage, processing and handling of bulk solids, for mining equipment and systems for electric-electronic control. Máquinas Condor makes equipment for the handling of lighter bulk solids, especially grains while Isomonte constructs and maintains machinery used to move heavier bulk solids, mainly for the mining industry.
Máquinas Condor, which has been based in Porto Alegre in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul since 1963, designs, manufactures, installs and maintains mechanical and pneumatic equipment for the handling of bulk solids in sea and river ports, road and rail terminals, factories, warehouses and silos. Thanks to a partnership with Neuero in the United States and Germany, Máquinas Condor employs cutting edge technology in its solutions for loading and unloading ships and barges and recovery of bulk solids in warehouses and storage batteries. Belt conveyers, ship loaders and unloaders and portal scrapers are some of the machinery that Máquinas Condor makes and maintains for its clients in the shipping sector. It provides belt conveyers and specialized machinery for washing, separating and crushing coal for the mining industry and manufactures equipment for use with fertilizer and alumina, the raw material used to make aluminum. Máquina Condor’s equipment can handle up to 3,000 tons of bulk solids per hour and the company is always striving to utilize improved technology as a way of increasing this number.
Isomonte S.A. was founded in 1974 in Contagem, near Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. Its facilities, covering 34,000 square meters on 56,000 square meters of land, produce port equipment, mobile cranes on rails and other machinery for the handling and transport of heavier bulk solids, such as iron. It predominately serves the mining and metallurgy industries and operates with 100 percent domestic capital. The belt conveyers, ship loaders and unloaders, stockers and reclaimers produced by Isomonte can handle 15,000 to 20,000 tons of heavy bulk solids per hour. André Meyer da Silva, son-in-law of the company’s founder and Grupo Condor’s vice president, reports that Isomonte will be playing a greater role in the energy sector. “Nowadays we work with coal, which goes to thermo-electric plants.”
Da Silva explains that in terms of clients, Grupo Condor does more with less. “We have relatively few clients because we work consistently with some very large companies.” But Grupo Condor also serves some small-scale companies and can even produce machinery with capacity to handle as little as 100 tons per hour, depending on client needs. Vale do Rio Doce, the biggest mining company in Brazil, is among its clients. And Máquinas Condor serves such important players in the grain industry as Bunge, Archer Daniels Midland and Itamaraty.
Máquinas Condor first ventured outside the borders of Brazil in the 1970s, when two ship unloaders were purchased by a client in Chile. Since then the word of Grupo Condor’s excellent quality machinery and service got out and in the early 1980s, exports accounted for as much as 80 percent of Grupo Condor’s business. Da Silva says that the activity in exports varies with the number and size of contracts. He notes that the world economic crisis has affected investment in capital goods and that exports have recently been hurt by unfavorable exchange rates. But thanks to improved exchange rates, the beginning of 2009 saw an upswing in foreign sales. Now pneumatic ship loaders and unloaders, belt conveyers and other machinery for handling bulk solids is sold by Grupo Condor to clients in Asia and South America.
“Although there are generally no inventions in our area, we are always improving electric and electronic aspects of our equipment with the help of our team of engineers that researches this area. We make use of new components developed by our suppliers to create better, stronger, more efficient electric motors, for example,” Da Silva says. Máquinas Condor has recently branched out into producing machinery for metal lamination with a partnership with the American company, Azamec.
In addition to having a good business sense, Grupo Condor is socially aware. Da Silva outlines the company’s belief that “in Brazil it’s important to take care of the youth so they stay out of crime.” Sponsoring a youth soccer training program is one way that Grupo Condor reaches out to the community. The natural environment is also a concern for Grupo Condor. “We are concerned and take precautions to diminish the environmental impact of our business,” says Da Silva. “Thankfully, we don’t have a significant environmental impact and we’ve been actively working for years to reduce this. For example, we don’t use water in our processes. Our factory is across from the airport and concern about dust and dirt damaging the airplanes has been an impetus for us to be extra careful about our emissions for over 40 years. For us, environmental friendliness is as much a necessity as a matter of good citizenship.”
Grupo Condor’s outlook for the future is, as Da Silva puts it, “a bit complicated due to the current unstable economic situation. But,” he adds, “because materials must be handled and moved from one place to another, there will always be demand for our goods and services. We are going to work on how to best position ourselves for the changing economic climate.” He says that the company is prepared to accommodate clients’ needs in order to maintain strong ties and cites the example of a client who recently requested that equipment be specially painted to blend in with the colors of the Amazon forest, where it was engaged in mining. While the equipment is normally painted orange or yellow, Isomonte gladly obliged the special request.