With over 4,700 products and a production capacity of 300,000 pots of paint a day, Acrilex is Latin America’s leading manufacturer of acrylic paints for schools and handicrafts. As investment, growth and productivity continue to rise, the company is no stranger to impressive numbers. President Kobashi paints the bigger picture for Reuben Ford, explaining why more and more clients are counting on Acrilex.
Since its inauguration in 1964, Acrilex, now based in São Bernardo in São Paulo state, Brazil, has focused on quality and innovation to conquer the acrylic paints market. “Our raw materials for each and every one of our product lines are carefully selected to guarantee the final products, which never fall short of excellent,” begins company President Kobashi. Although most commonly recognized for its handicraft paints used for application on fabrics and silks, Acrilex now supplies many different sectors and has transferred its know-how and innovation to every one.
AN EXTENSIVE PALETTE
“In addition to our fabrics and silks line, we have six more product ranges, which have furthered our success,” Kobashi continues. He is referring to the Decorative Painting line that has been especially developed for the creative customer, who likes to create their own designs on wood, plaster, ceramic or glass either professionally or as a hobby. The line includes varnishes and wax as well as paints and water colors. Similar paints are produced under the Artistic range that provides oil and polymer based paints for the professional artist.
The company also manufactures paints and accessories for school pupils and teenagers. The School range includes educational finger paints, modeling clays, crayons, washable paints, pencils and markers aimed at developing children’s artistic and coordination skills. The Art Teen products are newer and target teenagers, seeking to encourage fashionable and creative designs among adolescents; including three dimensional paints, textured acrylic paints and confetti paints.
The remaining 15 percent of sales originate from Writing Products, such as ballpoint pens, permanent markers, pencils, highlighters, and propelling pencils, and Accessories, which include screens, panels, stencils and brushes.
“Sales of each of the lines depend on the time of the year,” explains Kobashi. “The scholastic products are much more popular at the end of the year, when students are stocking up for the start of the new semester.” The seasonal nature of the sales means that productivity at the 78,000-square-meter plant must match demand. In contrast, the handicrafts lines maintain constant sales throughout the year and stocks must therefore remain a constant. “On average we produce 1,200 tons of paint in the first semester and 800 tons in the second,” explains Kobashi. Production averages 300,000 pots of tempera gouache paint per day. Tempera gouache is an important tool in the development of children’s motor coordination and perception of colors. It is available in 15 intermixable colors and can be applied to paper, cardboard, plaster, wood and ceramics.
Keeping up with demand without compromising quality standards is a continuous challenge. Acrilex works on increasing its productivity by investing in state-of-the-art technology and improvements to its production methods.
One of the investments is the new Microbiology Laboratory. Unlike the Quality Laboratory, which handles packaging and processes and the Control Laboratory that regulates the inspection and production of materials, this new department operates in the monitoring of raw materials. “Bacteria can affect the final quality of our products, changing smell and appearance,” comments Kobashi. With this new laboratory, Acrilex ensures that the quality of its products is constantly improving to meet the satisfaction and respect of its clients.
New packaging technology has also been purchased, which replaced the traditional pots with transparent polypropylene equivalents. “We have two of the machines that produce the new, lighter pots. Due to the transparency the color of the paint is more clearly visible and the injection equipment also efficiently fills each vessel with the same volume of paint,” Kobashi confirms. The machines have the capacity to produce 600,000 pots per day and there are plans to use them to manufacture PET (polyethylene terephthalate) packaging in the future.
In total, Acrilex has 11 packaging machines for its extensive range of products. “Our high production capacity and the vertical integration afforded by our own machinery means that we can not only control the speed of production to meet demand, but also cope with our increasing markets,” explains Kobashi. He is referring to the 42 countries, to which Acrilex currently exports. South America and Europe are the leading international markets. “We are studying proposals to start exports to the US,” Kobashi adds.
Research and development at Acrilex is also based on technological advances. Kobashi explains that finding and testing new raw materials and chemicals are as important as the manufacture of the products themselves. “We are generally the first to bring new materials from Europe, in particular from Germany, and our market leadership stems from our pioneering spirit in the industry,” he says.
Another challenge that Acrilex faces is the environmental and social implications of working with chemicals. “The main focus of our investment is in adhering to industry standards and growing our product lines and customer base in accordance with safety standards,” Kobashi points out. The company is INMETRO certified; the Brazilian national institute of metrology, quality and technology, which increases productivity while improving quality of life for the ordinary citizen.
Water used at the plant is cleaned, purified and recycled and waste is suitably treated before disposal. In addition to respecting environmental concerns, Acrilex also works in partnership with charities and organizations, which promote ethical practices, transparency and social responsibility.
The concerns and investment translate into healthy growth figures as Brazil’s leading manufacturer of handicraft and educational paints continues to dominate the South American market. Acrilex reported growth in 2010 and Kobashi estimates that 2011 will see a further 5 percent increase in revenue. “Our growth has been purely organic, and although we have received many offers from interested buyers, we are happy to continue our success,” he says.
Growth has come in spite of the obstacles created by the economic crisis of 2008/2009. The fall in the value of the American dollar jeopardized exports by inevitably increasing prices. “The quality and value attached to our brand helped us through, and the increasing domestic market helped compensate for sales,” Kobashi explains. Other market trends, such as the growing interest in handicrafts and in particular of wood painting also supported healthy sales figures. “There are always trends and fashions that influence sales, and it is our job to stay abreast of these and continue to offer the best to our clients,” he continues.
As one of the most important names associated with fabric and silk painting and the first choice for the majority of South America’s handicrafts stores, Acrilex has created a strong brand. The company’s statistics are more and more impressive year after year and retailers and wholesalers worldwide are realizing the superior quality offered by the company. “Every product line is produced to the highest possible standards and all our departments work hand in hand testing painting performance for the best application and results,” concludes Kobashi. With another successful year drawing to a close, artists, craftsman and students alike know that with Acrilex, their work is in safe hands.