Brazil's second largest manufacturer of refractory materials focuses on the most complete range of 100 percent turn-key solutions in South America. Reuben Ford analyzes the integration and innovation of an industry leader.
Generally, any process involving high temperatures depends on the performance of refractories. The need to improve processes, increase efficiency and productivity result in constant investment and application of refractory materials in diverse industries is growing.
IBAR – Indústrias Brasileiras de Artigos Refratárias Ltda (Brazilian Refractory Materials Industry Ltd) produces an exhaustive portfolio of dense, insulating refractories, chemically divided into molded or monolithic categories depending on properties and physical state.
IBAR’s products are used in the steel, mining and aluminum industries as well as other areas where excellent thermal properties and resistance to abrasive corrosion are required. The specific IBAR refractory material depends, among other factors, on the application (temperature, physical conditions and chemical aggressiveness).
Sales Manager Jean Cléber de Oliveira affirms: “The big difference of IBAR is the diversity of the industry segments it supplies.”
IBAR was founded in 1942 by the Votorantim Group and has since dedicated efforts to following the tendencies and challenges of the refractory market. This included finding technical solutions for all types of industries.
Constant improvements in performance and increase in productivity in all sectors was achieved through direct contact and cooperation with the clients. “Our research department is continuously up-dated and works with institutes and universities to find innovative and viable solutions,” says Oliveira. High quality of products and services and technological development are universal characteristics of IBAR.
In addition to diversity, IBAR distinguishes itself through vertical integration. In all industry segments, the company is able to provide the input materials and processes necessary for assembling equipment and products.
“The growth of our company in recent years has been organic. Development of products and services has permitted advances in segments where our participation was very small,” Oliveira continues.
Almost 45 percent of revenue currently stems from steel, mining and aluminum, but IBAR also has significant shares in the cement, foundry, engineering, paper and cellulose, glass, petrochemical, ceramics, forging and food and drink industries.
The Votorantim Group, Arcelor Mittal and Albrás Alumínio Brasileiro SA are among IBAR’s most important clients.
To cater for the needs of the markets IBAR, beyond the unit of production of refractory products, IBAR has five more companies. In 2001, IBAR Service, specializing in demolition services and refractory material application was founded.
Four years later a joint venture with the Mexican group Nutec created IBAR Nutec, producing ceramic fiber-based materials and in 2006, the Group received ISO 9001 certification for IBAR Nordeste (in Brazil’s north-eastern state of Bahia).
In 2010, IBAR implanted Biolã, responsible for the production of mineral wool fiber-based refractory products.
In April 2011 Global Heat Transfer was acquired by IBAR – adding expertise in heating and cooling services and making up the fifth arm of the group.
Details of investment in improving technology are extensive. Oliveira lists numerous machinery and installation updates over the last 23 years that have dramatically increased quality. In particular, state-of-the-art presses and robot-operated machinery have optimized processes and reduced pollutants.
A recent example is the 2010 purchase of a Laeis/Riedhammer tunnel kiln, capable of temperatures up to 1750ºC added technology, which simultaneously increased the temperature of the company’s existing ovens and reduced energy consumption.
“Automation and system monitoring are instrumental in the preparation of new parts,” Oliveira adds, referring to software and technology acquired in 2011.
IBAR produces five categories of molded and monolithic materials: silica, silica-alumina, alumina, basic and special. “Each industry makes different demands regarding the specific resistance of the components and temperatures,” Oliveria explains. As well as refractories, IBAR manufactures metal anchorage fixtures and supports.
IBAR is the only South American company to offer complete turn-key systems thanks to its excellent engineering project structure, including companies dedicated to production of refractory material and metal supports, thermal insulation material, product application and controlled heating and drying services.
“We presently work with various supply technologies and techniques. Among them the CPP – Custo Por Performance (Cost by Performance) model, in which clients pay by quantity of refractories applied and labor incurred per ton of material.
In January 2013 IBAR concluded the installation of the MICROSIGA system, which will integrate all departments and companies of the group. A code system, used from the start of production to delivery, has also been added increasing security through tracking technology and avoiding human error.
“In the coming months, we will be finishing the automation of all the mixtures (automatic liquid measurement and dosing and timing control). This will computerize all operational controls,” Oliveira says. In 2014 a new 60-meter rolling bridge will eliminate the use of lifting equipment in the mixing division.
Growth & Infrastructure
IBAR has several facilities in Brazil. The three main ones are in São Paulo state (Poá and Suzano) and Bahia state (Brumado). In Poá, the factory building area is 70,000 square-meter and in Suzano the building area is 27,000 square-meter. Also, IBAR has 45 mining units throughout Brazil, that gives them a great advantage in terms of raw materials.
The technology and development department is made up of 14 staff and fulfills physical and chemical testing and quality assessment. Three of these professionals are dedicated exclusively to the development of new products and product support.
“The department enlists the help of a Doctor in science and material engineering, quality Engineer and Chemist specialized in ceramics. It is also equipped with the technology necessary for testing and producing modern refractories, having a close working relationship with the University of São Paulo (USP) and the São Carlos Federal University (UFSCar) to develop new products,” Oliveira says.
Revenue figures show an upward trend, despite a notable fall from 182.859,285 tons in 2008 to 166.437,246 tons in 2009 due to international economic crisis. 2012 saw revenue rise to $154 million and company reports predict positive forecasts for 2013.
IBAR is the second largest refractory materials company in Brazil – financial results are influenced by exchange rates, import duty and energy (oil, gas and electricity).
The group has maintained its position, not only through quality, which is clearly a constant focus of investment, but also through strategic steps to secure its existing and new markets. With its own mineral and clay-rich mines, IBAR has easy access to raw materials. Vertical integration provides the confidence and security that the clients need and together with efficient and flexible service, the company stands out from the rest.
As the group broadens its horizons, work for continuous improvement, based on analysis and client needs is underway. IBAR understands that effectiveness and efficiency provides scope for expansion.