Brazil’s leading transporter of cement in bulk, Rodolatina has become a driving force in its segment whose trucks can be seen at all major engineering projects in which cement plays a role. CEO Agostinho Bruno Zibetti tells Michael Sommers how far the company has come and in which directions it is headed.
In a vast country such as Brazil, where over 75 percent of all goods are transported over land, trucking is big business. However, when Agostinho Bruno Zibetti decided to launch the transportation firm that he currently presides over as CEO, it wasn’t just about business, but pleasure; quite simply, he and his partners loved trucks.
“Actually, at the very beginning, in 1996, there was only one truck,” recalls Zibetti, with a laugh. Originally, the start-up based in Cascavel, a small town in the southern state of Paraná transported small volumes of cargo. But one day, the company received an order from a hydro-electric dam that was being built in the interior of Paraná. “They needed cement and since we had just purchased a silo trailer, we delivered it to them. That was our first major contract,” says Zibetti. “From there, we really took off.”
“Take off ” is somewhat of an understatement, considering that today Rodolatina is the market leader in its segment. Specializing in logistics and transportation of bulk cement, the company, which since 1998 has been based in Paraná’s capital of Curitiba, currently controls around 23 percent of Brazil’s market. And when it comes to cement, Brazil’s needs are seemingly insatiable. Between the civil construction industry, the mining segment, roadworks and the hydro-electric sector, there is no shortage of projects. Not even the current global economic crisis has succeeding in significantly curbing the enthusiasm for large-scale public and private ventures.
According to Zibetti, over the last decade, the company has participated in all of Brazil’s major construction projects involving bulk cement. Rodolatina was there when the 2007 Panamerican Games complex was built in Rio de Janeiro and when the Rodoanel beltway that will eventually encircle the megalopolis of São Paulo was being constructed. It has supplied cement to the famed breweries of Santa Catarina and to the equally well-known iron mines of Minas Gerais. And when it was decided that Brazil’s longest and most famous highway, the BR-101 that runs from north to south along Atlantic coastline, needed to double its width, Rodolatina trucks were involved every step of the way.
“Today, we have 13 affiliates covering all regions of the country,” points out Zibetti. “We have clients throughout Brazil.” In fact, at the moment, the company is supplying cement to the three largest engineering projects currently underway in Brazil: a hydroelectric plant located in the Northeastern state of Maranhão and two others in the Northern state of Rondonia. In all three cases, Rodolatina is supplying 100 percent of the cement needed.
That the company’s services are so highly in demand is a testament to its commitment to providing clients with specialized services that boast more added value than any of its competitors can offer. Developing and adopting high-tech solutions that give the company – and its clients – an extra edge has been a driving strategy from the outset. “In 1998, we were the first in Brazil to launch silo trucks with double compartment trailers and, immediately after, we experienced big gains in productivity,” reveals Zibetti. “With the double compartments – which we developed in partnership with Randon, the leading manufacturer of road equipment in Brazil – we were able to increase the volume of cargo carried in each truck by 48 percent. This meant we could transport cement for very large projects. As a result, we became very competitive.”
Indeed, Brazil’s leading cement manufacturers came flocking. Holcim, a major player in the South and Southeast of Brazil, became an important supplier and, as it expanded throughout the region, so did Rodolatina. Another important early client was Camargo Correa, maker of Cauê cement. Possessing cement plants throughout the country, its partnership with Rodolatina gave the transport company national exposure. From then on, Rodolatina kept moving forward at a brisk pace, accompanying the rapidly expanding market, until it had nabbed every major cement manufacturer in the country, among them giants such as Votarantim, Lafarge, Itambé, Cimentos Liz, and Cimpor.
Along the way, Rodolatina worked hard to perfect its logistics. It invested heavily in technology in order to better manage stock as well as clients’ orders and specifications. A satellite stock tracking system, AutoTrac, monitors quality control, permitting both the company and its clients to accompany transportation of cargo via satellite, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days a week. More recently, the company outfitted its entire fleet of trucks with air compressors that allow for pressurized discharge of cement upon the trucks’ arrival on-site. “We added this feature so that our clients don’t have to be concerned about having decompressors of their own,” points out Zibetti. “Not only does this make discharging cement quicker and more efficient, but it’s a less polluting process that translates into a reduction of diesel and cleaner air.”
EYES ON THE HORIZON
Currrently, all 440 of Rodolatina’s trucks – 80 percent of which sport double compartment trailers – are outfitted with air compressors. Each year, the entire fleet is updated and 20 percent of old vehicles are replaced with new ones. Presently, the average age of a truck is two years. If the investments required seem considerable, the company’s profits reveal that they have certainly paid off. “Last year was fantastic: we experienced 93 percent growth in terms of revenues,” confesses Zibretti. “These impressive results were due to a combination of the market heating up coupled with our ability to adequately plan to meet the new demand. The fact that we were well prepared opened up a lot of new opportunities for us.”
Of the 200,000 tons of cargo Rodalatina transports every month, 98 percent consists of cement. Already, however, the company is looking for ways to increase its market share to 25 or even 30 percent. Immediate plans include expanding its fleet as well as going deeper into markets where it already has a strong foothold.
“Our high level of specialization in terms of the bulk cement segment is a big advantage and has really helped us to earn clients’ loyalty,” says Zibetti. “Moreover, we’re always looking for ways to make the quality of our services better by customizing them to our clients’ needs. For instance, we always try to take the particular nature of a given project into account, making sure the product arrives at a certain temperature or possessing a specific weight. Ultimately, we aren’t content to just meet clients’ requirements – we strive to introduce innovations that go beyond their normal expectations. Our clients live this segment 24 hours a day, and so do we.”