Brazil’s Furlan spent the first two decades of its existence repairing and manufacturing grinding and crushing machinery before it purchased a foundry. Over time, the production of alloys became the company’s principal activity, but as Michael Sommers discovered, in its quest to sell itself as a provider of innovative solutions, the company is now once again placing new focus on its machine division.
On March 14, 1962, Geraldo Furlan founded Furlan to render machining services to companies in Limeira City and the surrounding region. An enterprising spirit, dedication and the quality services, in a short time, resulted in quick growth in recovering crushing and grinding ore equipment.
In 1975 the company became officially known as Máquinas Furlan Ltda. and commenced production of small crushing and grinding ore equipment and in 1976 moved to its own facilities at Rod. Mogi-Mirim/Limeira, km 104, in Limeira, São Paulo. The production line was enlarged, and new projects were developed to compete as a foundry of gray and nodular iron. Growth continued in 1979 with the acquisition of Italian company Rosenzveig S/A, through which it gained a steel foundry and technologies. When Luporini S/A, a foundry in Rio de Janeiro stopped its activities, Furlan acquired, by auction, a large amount of wood patterns, for casting spare parts in manganese and carbon steel to crushing and grinding equipment. Also by auction, Furlan acquired, in 1991, from Premesa S/A, several wood patterns, further increasing its production line of spare parts.
Today, Furlan is proud to supply more than 1,300 customers in Brazil, South America, Europe and Africa. With the production line turned to mining, Furlan offers about 120 different equipment models, adapted for each need and approximately 12,000 patterns of spare part, in all models and makes.
A TALE OF TWO DIVISIONS
The move allowed Furlan to significantly expand its customer base; aside from mining, it began producing alloys as well as crushing and grinding machines and spare parts for clients in areas ranging from commercial quarries and civil construction to cement, chemical, steel, and mechanical industries. In fact, Furlan’s foundry division grew at such a rate that within a few years it had eclipsed the equipment division.
“Two years ago, our foundry division represented 85 percent of our business, while equipment only accounted for 15 percent. Recently, however, we made it our goal to focus more on equipment,” explains Gilberto Sencioles, Furlan’s commercial director. While superficially, this strategy marks a return to Furlan’s mechanical roots, Sencioles is quick to point out that, this time around, the company’s approach is in keeping with more demanding times. “We don’t want to be known as suppliers of parts and machinery, but as providers of global solutions for our clients. It just so happens that an integral part of these solutions relies upon the development of cutting-edge machinery.”
Cases in point are two new items that Furlan launched in June 2009. Both are variations of pieces that already exist in the company’s stable of over 120 equipment models, yet each adds something fresh to the mix. High expectations surround the introduction of the JC1300, a heavy-duty jaw crusher with a capacity that surpasses that of Furlan’s other crushers, which are already highly reputed in the marketplace. Also eagerly awaited is the XP conical crusher, which incorporates innovative new hydraulic technology. “There is a basic universality to all of these items,” admits Sencioles. “What sets apart our machines and parts from those of our competitors are the processes involved – the details, in particular, are different because everyone has their own special secrets. Ours translate into high-quality products that are known for their durability. In this business, the longer your parts and equipment last, the better they are. And, on average, the lives of our products are between 25 and 30 percent longer than those of our competitors.”
Even with Furlan’s share of industrial secrets up its sleeve, competition is stiff when you’re a medium-sized company of 300 workers going head-to-head with global giants whose Brazilian factories boast more than 2,000 employees. Currently, the top ranked firms in the Brazilian market are Metso, the Finland-based world leader, and Sandvik of Sweden. Boasting the industry’s largest foundry financed with Brazilian capital, Furlan controls around 35 percent of the market for smelted alloys and 20 percent of the market for crushing and grinding machinery and spare parts (it currently produces over 12,000 models of the latter). “Of course, we strive to be competitive in terms of quality and cost,” says Sencioles “But where we really have an edge is in terms of our structure. The fact that we are so small also makes us very agile. When rapid decisions have to be made, we don’t have to consult first with an international board of directors.”
According to Sencioles, along with Furlan’s small scale and personalized approach, its considerable history in the marketplace has been key to cultivating long-term relationships with clients. And yet, despite the importance of its past, the company has a strong commitment to the future and whatever transformations it may bring. “One of the biggest issues in the market right now, both globally and in Brazil, is the importance of protecting the environment,” says Sencioles “We’re trying to develop new equipment lines that have a positive effect on the environment and, to this end we’ve entered into several research and development partnerships with Brazilian and international companies that involve technology transfers.”
One specific area on which Furlan has been concentrating is the production of artificial sand. In Europe and North America, where natural sand supplies are low, artificial sand is already the norm. Meanwhile, Brazil’s abundance of rivers mean that between 70 and 80 percent of domestic industries still rely on natural sand. “It’s only a matter of time though before these stocks run out or legislations ban the use of natural sand,” says Sencioles. “When the civil construction segment is forced to seek alternatives, we’ll be in a position to supply them.”
Furlan has also taken a green approach with respect to its infrastructure and production processes. At the company’s 262,000-square-foot site, the foundry, which along with equipment factories currently add up to 59,000 square feet of constructed area, was renovated six years ago, so that all material residues are now completely recycled. Having taken this initiative, the company can now, with a clear conscience, move forward with its ambitious plans to ramp up production capacity from its present monthly output levels of 700 tons to 1,200 tons by 2011, a goal it plans to achieve by expanding its pre-existing plants and acquiring new furnaces and equipment.
Judging by its recent performance, between 2006 and 2009, the company’s revenues jumped by 50 to 60 percent, Furlan’s planned growth will be accompanied by robust profits. But although profits are important, as Sencioles points out, “Our ultimate desire is to be universally recognized as an innovative company with solid principles and values.”