Founded 38 years ago the Vipal Group steered towards success from the start. Now Brazil’s leading producer of retreads and repair components of all types of rubber tubes and tires, the company exports to more than 90 countries. From bicycles to heavy duty trucks, there isn’t a tire that doesn’t rely on Vipal’s quality. Reuben Ford gets to grips with the provider of resourceful repairs that keep customers on the road.
As industry’s greener conscience gets the better of the ‘throwaway’ society, companies and consumers alike are thinking twice before tossing broken products in the trash. Manufacturers show growing concern for phenomena such as reducing the carbon footprint and are taking more and more steps toward sustainable design. Leading thinkers in the field of sustainable design believe that a radical re-think in the way we consume products is required if we want to halt the growing mountain of waste piling up on the world’s refuse dumps.
Aiming to decrease the impact on climate change and the depletion of the world’s resources, sustainable design is a reaction to the global environmental crisis. While many companies are beginning to think of ways in which they can reduce their environmental impact now, for Brazilian-born Vipal sustainable solutions are no secret. Supplying rubber repair solutions for tires and tubes since 1973, Vipal was ahead of its game. Today, the group also operates in different segments, but always with the same essence: to value people, respect the environment and constantly invest in technology.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Forward thinking has been vital to the development of Vipal, which was a pioneer from the start in providing cold vulcanized rubber repair solutions in a market that was accustomed to heat processes. The rubber patches allowed the customer to repair existing rubber components at a more accessible cost than replacement. “To keep abreast of the market’s needs, we began to diversify our product line with commercial pastes and Vulk glue, and in 1986 we introduced the Camelback on the market. This stage saw the beginning of a complete product line for tire retreads,” recalls Eduardo Sacco, Marketing Manager. The Camelback is a repair carried out by the client and was produced together with the development of specific products for the industrial and agricultural areas.
The company’s history is punctuated with industry achievements that constantly reinforce the awareness of the future. In 1990, it launched Vipamold pre-molded treads, which feature molding and vulcanization during the productive process. In 1995 the company was the first to be ISO 9002 certified and two years later Vipal launched its national network of authorized distributors and sales outlets to service customer fleets and maintain their tires. With over 300 retreaders in Brazil and in the Americas, and the introduction of the Retread Qualified Guarantee, this was a pioneer initiative that offered a warranty for the retread and used tire. Based on the standard of quality of its products, services and structure to attend its clients, Vipal consolidated its image as an innovative and modern company.
By the turn of the century the success of the company, Vipal Borrachas (Vipal Rubber), resulted in the restructuring of the product lines into divisions; namely Vipal Repairs and Tires, Vipal Flooring Division and Vipal Compounds. The latter covered the demand for rubber compounds, whether a ready-made product or project, or upon order, Vipal provided the ideal solution.
With an ever watchful eye on the social and environmental implications of its products and processes, Vipal’s corporate culture aims to improve quality of life and offer a solid structure of strong relationships both with clients and government organizations. Supporting education, health initiatives, arts and cultural activities, Vipal does much more than promote the economic development of the communities in which it operates.
Never letting eco-concerns out of its sight, Vipal was a highlight of the German trade fair, Reifen 2010, with its new range of treads. Branded Vipal Eco, they form part of the company’s ‘Transport Sustainability Project’. “These products go far beyond the savings from retreading: they also contribute to a cleaner environment and benefit the transport industry. Eco treads are designed to decrease rolling resistance, thereby decreasing fuel consumption, and raising mileage performance,” explains Sacco.
However, planning for the future has extended Vipal’s production beyond automotive rubber repairs and a partnership with Argentinean tire manufacturer Fate has opened the road to tire production for the company. An agreement signed in March 2009 made Vipal the main distributor in Brazil of Fate products.
“In 2010 the agreement became a partnership, when Vipal purchased a 51 percent share of Fate in Brazil,” Sacco says. The two companies have recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Rio Grande do Sul State of Southern Brazil to set up a new tire factory. The first bi-national industrial collaboration in the state, the Vipal/Fate project sees the companies invest around $250 million in building a new facility, due to begin construction this year.
The plant will join Vipal’s highly advanced infrastructure network, which already includes two factories in Nova Prata (Rio Grande do Sul), of 25,000 and 66,000 square meters respectively, and one in Feira de Santana (Bahia) of 62,000 square meters. Each location has a complete range of tires, repair equipment and distribution services. The group employs 3,000 people.
Today, the Vipal Group also comprises Plásticos Vipal, a company specialized in the development and manufacturing of PVC products for construction purposes, created from the thermoplastic division by Vipal in 2004. The company is present in all of Brazil as well as in the external market, and exports today to 14 countries. A third sector of the group, Banco Vipal (Vipal Bank) was created to better serve the financial needs of the Group’s clients. The bank is based in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, where Vipal has its central administration offices, and offers products and financial services with agility, transparency and efficiency, improving the relationships between the companies and clients.
DEVELOPING A DIFFERENCE
Vipal’s competitive difference is in the quality of its services. The machinery at the plants comprises mainly rubber extenders and calenders (for impregnating fabric with rubber) and is generally of public domain. One of the important differences is a new testing laboratory, which has been built in Nova Prata. “Our products are tried and tested to ensure the quality that our clients expect,” confirms Sacco.
Investment in technology and infrastructure is paramount at Vipal. With the new Vipal Fate factory due to be launched this year and the facility in Bahia constructed in 2008, the company is continually pushing the boundaries and extending it production to meet demand. The testing laboratory that Sacco calls “the Innovation Center” is a recent investment that is running in parallel to others. It simulates processes that guarantee the durability of the tires and treads, and works closely with customer feedback to achieve optimum results.
Vipal’s difference has made the company the market leader not only in Brazil, but in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. “We have offices in the US and have made a very satisfactory entrance into the European market,” Sacco continues. The facilities in Brazil export worldwide to over 90 countries including Australia. “Our products are unified by our attention to quality and high trading standards. The factories control 100 percent of the production process and our testing procedures are extremely rigorous,” says Sacco. In addition, Vipal offers full technical support and after-sales service and is recommended by many transport companies.
Vipal’s international presence caused strategic adaptations during the crisis of 2009/2010, but Sacco quickly points out that the difficulties are behind them. “The advantage of our products is that a refurbished tire uses 60 percent less material than a new tire. A truck tire typically uses 57 liters of petroleum in its manufacture,” explains Sacco.
There is even more good news for Vipal around the corner. Safety regulations due to be enforced in 2012 require that refurbished tires, treads and inner tubes meet higher quality standards. The change will not only increase general sales but filter out competitors whose products do not reach the same level as Vipal.
With a firm and friendly hold on the road to success, Vipal has always been ahead of competitors. Enjoying steady growth year after year, the company is accelerating with confidence into the new decade, investing in new partnerships and providing the very best in safety and durability to its consumers. With no need to re-invent the wheel, Vipal has concentrated on maintaining it in a resourceful way fit for the future.