Albras is a leading hardware company in Brazil whose products have reached a growing number of households. Fabio Silva explains how it screws tight the bolts of this business.
It would be hard to precisely estimate how many families in Brazil have benefited from the products that Albras has put on the market during its roughly 35 years of existence.
Created at a time when metallurgy was a burgeoning business in Brazil, due to a delayed but decisive industrialization process the country was then experiencing, Albras originally operated as a supplier for the automobile sector. Soon after, however, the company shifted its target to the hardware sector.
Several structural transformations taking place in the Brazilian economy in the meantime suggests that the move towards the hardware business was the right decision. Not only does Albras enjoy uncontested leadership in this market niche, but it is also proud to be the only hardware company in Latin America that has resisted the wave of Chinese imports, employing solely domestically made components in its production. And when one of its chief executive officers is asked to catalog the company’s major suppliers and he begins the response by mentioning Cosipa and Votorantim – two big metallurgic conglomerates with global presence – it becomes clear that he is really talking about a largescale enterprise.
The leading product by Albras is hinges, with a production range that reaches more than 18 million units per year. Girofix – a special type of screw system largely used by the furniture sector – is the next on the list, with another 18 million units per year. The company also produces sliders and drawers, at four million and 0.5 million units per year, respectively. Other products include sleeves, screw nuts, angles, hanger brackets, and shelf brackets.
From the company’s 30,000-square-meter plant conveniently located in Sao Paulo, those and other hardware products flow right away to some of the most popular firms in the furniture sector in Brazil, such as Bartira, Casas Bahia, and Moval, and from there to mid-to-lower-class households spread across the country. Thanks to the economic growth that Brazil has recently experienced, those folks have transformed the furniture market into a vibrant and promising one, with amazing revenues for well-settled suppliers such as Albras.
“People from the C, D and E classes may still not have enough money to buy a brand-new car every year,” says Stefano Carita, marketing director. “They may still have not enough money to even own a car. But they are more and more able to buy new stuff for their houses, and we can tell that this is something they are channeling their money for.”
MAKING INNOVATION MATCH RESPONSIBILITY
With a production line that is totally automated, Albras has been awarded successive and important quality certifications such as ISO: 9001, NBR ISO: 14001, and OHSAS 18001.
Furthermore, Albras has shown that tradition and leadership in the market is not incompatible with the search for continuous updating. The company keeps innovating by both improving current products and coming up with new ones, such as its AL6 Modul hinges system.
To keep on top of its market, Albras has instituted a program that is especially dedicated to doing research and development to advance the quality of both its products and its manufacturing processes. Employees attend hardware fairs taking place all over the world, seeking to assess the trends in the sector and to bring some of the global novelties to Brazil. It is hard to deny how important such initiative is. Specialists from Albras estimate that the country is about five years delayed in relation to its counterparts in Europe when it comes to the design of new products. Filling this gap and flooding the domestic industry with a new series of ground-breaking hardware pieces is the main goal of Albras for the coming future.
There is, however, a distinctive factor in the approach that Albras is taking towards innovation. It is the concern with the environment, not only for the manufacturing process but also for the discard of used products. This kind of attitude may sound strange in the landscape of a hardware company, but if by any coincidence you are reading this feature from the window of your office in the downtown area of a big city, just look down to the sidewalk and you will get the meaning.
This is because of the large amounts of furniture often found in urban garbage. Among the few people who are already engaged in facing the consequences of this incredible change in our society is the staff of Albras. “As far as I know, we are the first company operating in the Brazilian hardware market, and maybe one of the first in the global market, to tackle this issue,” says Carita. “Our products do not use heavy metals, do not generate residues, and are 100 percent recyclable.”
A UNIQUE CORPORATE STRATEGY
Albras has also a unique corporate strategy, becoming the leader of a broader business group that entirely gravitates around hardware. In addition to its major plant in Sao Paulo, the company maintains Fermobil – with plants in Sao Paulo and Bento Goncalves, state of Rio Grande do Sul – and Ferquite – with a plant in Uba, state of Minas Gerais. Fermobil produces all the containers and wrapping materials that are used by Albras for packing and shipping its products to the clients. Ferquite produces all the basic accessories that are used to attach hardware to the furniture such as micro-screws, glue, and a variety of small tools that reach the final customer as part of the furniture package.
The final outcome of this business configuration is that the Albras group has mastered its market strategy. With the capabilities and expertise in place, Albras will no doubt continue to help bring new and distinct styles of furniture to market.