What began as a small steel furniture company has become a leader in storage and industrial furniture. Helen Larkin reports on how Brazilian pioneer W3 has capitalized on family values to earn itself a reputation of integrity and quality in this competitive sector.
Active in the market for over 15 years, W3 Metallurgic Industry is one of Brazil’s largest furniture manufacturers, offering a wide range of steel and wood furniture for office, supermarkets, retail stores, and warehouses. The company also produces liquid paint and powder coating in its newly developed chemical department.
“Our company was founded by my father, Wilson Gelaki, in 1989,” says Jason Gelaki, the company’s CEO. “We are located in Southern Brazil, in the town my father relocated to in the 1960s. Currently, we are quickly approaching our much-anticipated 20th anniversary. The company has come a long way. We opened with
six employees, and now have over 500. When my father opened W3, the company operated at a very limited capacity. It produced just a small range of steel furniture, shelves and file cabinets.”
The seasoned company today now produces dozens of product lines in many forms, geared towards the office stores, and warehouses. The products range far beyond the traditional steel file cabinets, and extend into the realm of wood furniture for industrial use, as well as a powder paint product line. The company’s involvement in the paint sector began gradually, from buying powder paint to producing and distributing its own in 1995. The paint is now sold all throughout Brazil.
A NEW ENDEAVOR
Powder paint emerged in America and subsequently on the world market in the 1970s, and was soon employed in a number of systems. Since 2001, when W3 ventured into the paint sector, it has become a leader in the field in its home state of Parana. The company’s chemical department was the first in the state to produce
powder paint, and today has expanded from producing the paint for exteriors of its products, including lockers, wardrobes, filing cabinets, shelves, safes and gondolas, but also distributes to other companies nationwide. W3 uses an epoxy substance, which is unique in its chemical resistance properties, making it ideal for
Powder-epoxy technology also has minimal ecological impact. The paint produced does not require additional solvents or other harmful additions.
“Our extended product line and ventures into the wooden furniture and powder paint segments have been natural progressions,” says Gelaki. “We began in steel because that’s what my father knew. He was accustomed to working with it and he was good at it, so he incorporated this knowledge into a business. For about 10 years W3 focused only on steel product production. But gradually, he could see that the market was beginning to demand new product development and new technology.”
“Steel furniture doesn’t have much room for growth or development,” Gelaki continues. “You can make small improvements and adjustments, and adapt how the product is used and, to an extent, produced, but the products themselves do not change much. Wooden furniture, on the other hand, has more room for growth and change. There are innumerable changes that can be applied to any product, from the general design to the smallest details of final textures and patterns. This key difference between the two materials allows for great market diversity for W3 products.”
After one year of operations, W3 moved to the suburbs to facilitate expansion. The main headquarters now covers 2,500 square meters, in addition to another remote facility.
W3 serves a Brazilian customer base exclusively, and does not currently export any of its products. “The Brazilian market has responded extremely favorably to our staple products,” says Gelaki. “We are currently trying to build on this reputation in steel and garner the same support and demand for our wood and paint products. Our growth has followed natural progressions, and I expect international expansion will follow this same trend of market demand. Our current structure is very well suited for the domestic market, but of course we will begin to consider international exportation and expansion as the market dictates.”
“Our clients are spread across all of Brazil,” says Gelaki. “We sell mainly to other major furniture stores and distributors. We do sometimes sell directly to final customers; however, the great majority of our commerce is conducted directly with major companies.”
“My father opened W3 as a family company and it is still run as a family company to this day,” says Gelaki. “Personally, this is my 11th year working for W3 and I am in the process of learning how to one day take the reins when it comes my father’s turn to retire.
“The family ethic is present in all of our corporate dealings,” explains Gelaki. “We treat everyone here on the W3 team as family. This philosophy has been well noted among our partners, distributors, and customers throughout the country, and we consistently receive positive feedback on our corporate relations as much as on our products. We emphasize respect and attention to detail, and encourage all employees at all levels to submit feedback. We have no formal hierarchy, and all positions are open to feedback and suggestions from other positions and departments. This allows for a very fluid exchange of ideas and information sharing.
This family atmosphere is increasingly harder to maintain as Brazil continues to modernize and W3 continues to expand, notes Gelaki. At the same time, it is this aspect that is most important to W3. Distributors have said time and again that W3 is the best company to do business with. Hopes to maintain this family ethic and integrity through future expansion.
“Our products are not the absolute cheapest,” begins Gelaki, “but they are by far and away the best. Our primary goal is to satisfy our customers, and to feel confident that the client will want to buy from us again and again. We aim to do this every day, and history has proven that we have continually attained this goal.”
W3 has certainly made a name for itself in the Brazilian furniture segment. With core values of integrity and attention to detail, there’s no telling what heights the company may reach in years to come.