OTAM has been manufacturing industrial fans in Brazil since 1979. Today, the company has a broad spectrum of clients and an enviable position in the market. Reuben Ford speaks to company President Carlos Ferreira Ehlerss about how OTAM has kept Brazil cool for almost 30 years.
OTAM began as a small engineering office in 1963. Located in Porto Alegre, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, OTAM stood for “Technical Assistance and Maintenance Organization.” Initially, the company designed ventilation, electric and hydraulic systems and offered maintenance services and technical assistance. As knowledge and understanding of the market grew, the small enterprise rented a larger building and began to manufacture equipment such as filters, washers and ventilation systems for pollution control and fans for industrial use. It was the latter that proved to be the biggest success, and in 1979 the company focused its attention on the design and manufacture of heavy duty fans.
OTAM now develops products for the most varied applications. As a manufacturer of sophisticated industrial fans, OTAM supplies a complete range to diverse markets developed within the highest international quality standards. “The business can be divided into three main areas: large systems fans, agricultural fans and industrial process fans,” explains President Carlos Ehlerss. The large fans are used in centralized air conditioning systems, in locations such as shopping malls. They are also supplied to the naval industry and used in large ventilation and refrigeration systems. OTAM also supplies fans to the agricultural sector, for grain dryers and silos. Cement production and pollution control as well as the chemical, metal, textile, mining, and paper industries all require industrial purpose fans at some stage of their production processes. “Fans are necessary for effective exhaust, cooling, air-conditioning, refrigeration, filtering, condensers and dryers,” continues Ehlers. “The applications are extremely varied.”
OTAM manufactures three different lines of centrifugal fans, cabinet fans or duct blowers, axial fans, roof and wall fans and also a special range of fans in specific sizes and materials. In fact, each project is unique. “The fans are not sold off-the-shelf,” says Ehlers. “Each is pieced together based on a specific order.” He adds that OTAM’s engineers assess the specifications of each project. “Every market has very precise specifications, and the equipment must satisfy these needs.” In this way, no one project is the same. OTAM produces special lines in non-corrosive, non-abrasive materials that can withstand high temperatures, particularly important in the naval and petroleum industries.
The individuality of these products has led to the development of machinery that can produce extremely sophisticated parts. Among OTAM’s factory capabilities is a range of imported equipment and newly purchased laser cutting tools.
Products are manufactured at the company’s 6,400-square-meter plant in Porto Alegre, which also houses the head office. A second 800-square-meter unit in Curitiba, also in the south of Brazil, acts as an assembly plant for air conditioning fans, receiving parts from Porto Alegre. “Our production process is well integrated. Almost all raw materials, primarily, aluminum, stainless steel and cast iron, are treated at the plant,” explains Ehlerss. The motors for the fans are purchased from an external source and the fans are painted on site.
FANS OF GROWTH
The steady growth of the company has driven it a long way from its humble beginnings in the 1960s. Today, OTAM employs a total of 300 people and has an annual turnover of approximately $20 million. In 2007 business grew by 17 percent and Ehlerss predicts similar numbers for 2008. “The fan industry is very sensitive to the growth of the economy,” says the company president. “Increased consumer power means new businesses and investment in establishments such as
shopping malls. This also means more business for us.”
Supplying construction companies such as Odebrecht and Camargo Corrêia, the company is answering the need for cooling systems stemming from a surge in new commercial buildings. However, it is not just the air conditioning market that is growing rapidly. “The agricultural industry in Brazil is very highly valued. More and more farmers are investing in machinery and industrializing processes; again more business for us.” As the two largest areas for OTAM are agriculture and air conditioning, activity in these sectors has meant a rise in the company’s sales.