As the largest and most traditional manufacturer of digital and acoustic signal products in South America, Rontan Eletro Metalúrgica will soon be celebrating 40 years of successful trading. The company has developed its product range to include personal and vehicle safety equipment and is characterized by its flexibility and adaptation to the business needs of modern times. Reuben Ford finds out how Rontan is increasing and protecting its market share.
Rontan Eletro Metalúrgica is part of a group that includes FBA (Brazilian Aluminum Foundry), Global Service (offering technical assistance for visual acoustic signaling products), Rovcan (helmet manufacturers), Rontan North America and Rontan Telecom (an authorized distributor of Motorola radios). Together the companies offer a complete range of services that stemmed from the founders Orlando Bolzan and João Alberto Bolzan’s vision to establish a strong brand in the industrial and automotive signal industry.
The immediate success of the company led to growth, and shortly after its inauguration, Rontan began construction of its facility in Tatuí, São Paulo. The new factory allowed plenty of space for increased productivity and development of new products. In 1989, Rontan produced a prototype of the Opala car for São Paulo’s military police force. This was an important step, as it marked not only the expansion of the business, but also a new division for the company: signaling for specialized vehicles.
Constant development and pursuit of excellence in the signal sector has resulted in Rontan becoming recognized not only as the largest, but also one of the most innovative companies of its type in Latin America. In 2008, important investments in technological advances were responsible for the manufacture of surface mounted light technology (SMT), used for emergency services and industrial vehicles. The light bars provide a modern solution comprised of digital warning lights and the ‘S’ technology is superior to previous models in style, performance, reliability and ease of installation. The aerodynamic design offers a 360º luminous covering, with three visible light devices. Rontan uses LED technology in this and other products. SMT has produced a range of more than 40 models available in Brazil, Latin America and the U.S. and is the main reason for the company’s 30 percent projected growth rate for 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Important advances have not only been made in the area of signaling products. Producing light bars for emergency and police vehicles had opened new markets for Rontan, and initiated the installation of its own aluminum foundry for the manufacture of parts, which was to become FBA. Involvement with the emergency services inspired personal safety and protection products and in 2000 the company began manufacturing bullet proof vests and this year opened Rovcan, which produces motorcycle helmets.
Growth of the product lines was fueled by the group’s concern for customer satisfaction that has created a network of regional offices, commercial representatives and technical assistants all over Brazil. The offices not only offer consultancy and information services to clients, but also fulfill product guarantees.
Thanks to the close relationship that the network affords with Rontan’s clients, the company has become the authorized representative for other products that they require. Founded in the 1990s, Rontan Telecom is an official distributor of Motorola two-way radio systems. At the end of the same decade, in partnership with one of the biggest firefighting vehicle manufacturers, Rontan became the authorized representative of Oshkosh Pierce in Brazil.
The majority of Rontan’s operations are centralized at the 230,000-square-meter industrial park in Tatuí. Around 135 kilometers from São Paulo city, the group’s facilities cover a total of 35,000 square meters and house the vehicle adaptation, firefighting, signaling products, bullet-proof vests, telecom, helmet, aluminum foundry and Global Service units (located in Osasco). In addition, Rontan has sales showrooms in São Paulo capital and a branch in Minas Gerais state, as well as plans to open a Miami branch in November 2009.
INVESTING IN GROWTH
As well as the new subsidiary in Miami, Rontan has directed investment at expanding its product lines. Rovcan and Rontan North America have recently been the target of complete organizational restructuring, with the intention of improving customer service. “At Rontan we have a research and development program that is aimed at bringing innovation to all our areas of business and is the focus of considerable investment,” says Executive Director Nelson Pio. A part of such programs is to present new products at international trade fairs. In November 2009, Rontan will participate in MILIPOL in Paris, one of the most important exhibitions for international law enforcement, security and military communities. “It is investment in new techniques and exhibition of our developments that are responsible for the company’s growth,” he notes.
Among the company’s recent innovations is the manufacture of new materials for its products, and these revolutionary discoveries include recycled metals for use in SMT units and the latest generation of high-power LED lights. The new, environmentally friendly materials are used to construct products that consume less of the vehicle’s energy while maximizing optical efficiency.
Such advances have greatly increased the quality of Rontan’s equipment and made the company even more competitive. “Rontan has always been a flexible company with regards to attending our clients and adapting to their requirements, as well as the demands of an ever-changing market,” explains Nelson. The company is an impermeable barrier for competition and the secret is simple: with the client as the central focus of business, service, sales, products, quality, price, technical assistance are all carefully considered.
ECLECTIC CLIENT BASE
Due to the variety of services, Rontan has a broad range of clients. In the automobile sector, Fiat, GM, Mercedes, Peugeot, Renault, Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi all use the company’s parts, as do motorcycle producers Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki and car rental companies Quality and Locavel. Supplying signaling equipment for emergency and public service vehicles, Rontan also deals directly with the federal, state and local authorities. Safety equipment is purchased by many different companies in the private sector: the national Brazilian oil company Petrobrás, mining giant Vale do Rio Doce, Philip Morris and O Boticário cosmetics.
Despite the enormous success of SMT products, the diversification of the company’s range means the emphasis is no longer only on signaling. The adaptation of the vehicles division for security companies, the police and hospitals has gained the company expended sales. The fact that Rontan’s top-selling products are mainly fitted to vehicles increases the impact of changes in the automotive industry on business. However, during the most difficult times, sales to government organizations remained strong and reduced the risk of losses.
Family-run Rontan is proud of its 100 percent Brazilian heritage, especially as it has sustained constant growth since the 1970s. Defending its enviable market position in the industrial and personal protection industries and signaling sector through innovation and excellent service and with sales in both North and South America rising, the group’s positive outlook is more than justified. Together with the fact that Brazil’s economy is surpassing expectations and powering ahead, for Rontan all the signs for the future are good.