Manufacturing explosives for Brazil’s booming construction, mining and energy industries, Britanite is ‘the’ name in blast engineering. With an increasing international presence, the company is going from strength to strength. Reuben Ford braves a closer look at the forces and strategy behind Britanite.
Brazil is extremely rich in natural resources. As well as petroleum and gas reserves, demand for the abundant minerals, notably iron ore and bauxite, has rocketed. Annually, billions of dollars are invested in the mining industry and enormous quantities of stone and metal are produced. Together with the need for greater infrastructure, industrial growth in the country has exploded and Fábrica de Explosivos Britanite has its hand on the detonator.
Based in the south eastern state of Paraná, Britanite is the leading manufacturer of explosives and provides all the necessary services of planning and execution of blast engineering in civil construction projects, mines and quarries.
BIG BANG THEORY
Britanite began in 1961 when the Brazilian government stepped up its investment in infrastructure, improving the road transport network in Paraná. Providing detonation and rock blasting services for road construction, the company was instrumental in the country’s structural growth from the start.
According to Britanite’s president Antônio Luiz Cyrino the company’s first big break came in 1969. Acquired by the engineering and construction group CR Almeida, Britanite participated in the construction of the Itaipu Hydroelectric Plant – the largest operating hydroelectric dam in terms of annual energy generation. The small explosives factory that had the know-how and eight years of experience had made it big.
“The Itaipu project marked the start of a period of unprecedented growth,” Cyrino confirms. Between 1969 and 1973, Britanite cleared the way for some of the country’s most important energy plants, dams and railroads. Specializing in large-scale infrastructure projects, the company was characterized by its determination, focus and by the strength of its team, factors which epitomize its service to the present day.
Thanks to its expertise in explosives, Britanite expanded. In 1984, a joint-venture with Ireco Incorporated, the biggest producer of explosives in North America, at that time, enabled Britanite to bring new explosives and devices to Brazil. The innovation of the so-called ‘bulk explosives’ confirmed the company’s leadership in the market.
Despite a crisis in the Brazilian economy in the mid-1990s, a second major project gave Britanite the boost it needed to recover; a blast engineering contract with the Brazilian multinational mining giant Vale, for the extraction of copper. “After the turn of the century we began growing steadily at a rate of over 5 percent per year and we haven’t looked back,” says Cyrino. His words are backed by more international agreements. “This year Britanite finalized a deal with Chilean and Pervuian companies that will consolidate our position in Latin America and hopefully further afield,” he says.
The quality of Britanite’s products is constantly evolving and is cited by Cyrino as one of the main reasons for the company’s success. “We produce world-class explosives,” he states. A broader customer base and increased market share have also led to the company extending the services it provides, from the simple sale of explosives to complete demolition projects. Clients pay per cubic meter of demolition, and Britanite offers controlled detonation for every type of project. Business is balanced between the two sectors.
“Our service goes beyond providing the blasting accessories and executing the explosion. We have a highly skilled team of engineers, who offer full technical support and use software that provides a complete simulation of the project, calculating the exact quantity of explosives needed,” Cyrino explains. The software generates precise process information and allows made-to-measure solutions, which are adopted by civil construction companies, quarries and mining operatives all over Brazil.
Britanite’s main factory in Quatro Barras, Paraná covers in excess of two million square meters and manufactures all of the company’s products and accessories as well as administering the projects and services. “We also operate production facilities inside Vale in Pará and in a nickel mining site in Bahia,” Cyrino adds. In addition to the factories, Britanite has many branches, distributors, and representatives, which together employ 1,000 people and are located strategically to provide the customer a fast, safe and punctual service, whether in Brazil or abroad.
An important area of investment has been the fleet of specially designed trucks that deliver the explosives. “The trucks are a part of the reliable service that we offer and have come to be recognized for – we can deliver bulk explosives to sites safely and have grown considerably in our logistic capacity,” says Cyrino.
BLASTING THROUGH BORDERS
Investing in expanding products, services and delivery, Britanite has also increased the capacity of its facility in Quatro Barros to cope with growing demand. “We have absorbed technology from abroad – seeking the latest in explosive devices and producing them in our factory,” Cyrino says.
The global explosives industry directs innovation and development of Britanite’s products. The company values important partnerships with manufacturers overseas and operates technological exchange agreements to ensure that it constantly remains at the forefront of international developments. Additionally, Britanite exports explosives to Argentina and the US (the largest international markets) and the rest of Latin America and parts of Africa.
Leading the market in Brazil, Britanite reports steady 20 percent annual growth each year for the last five years, equating to $200 million in annual revenue in 2011.
The impressive figures are due to a combination of important factors; as well as a willingness to accept, absorb and adapt to international industry innovation, Britanite hits hard where its competitors fail. “Our professionals have technical knowledge and expertise, which when coupled with the agility and efficiency of our customer service and delivery is unequalled by any other in the market,” Cyrino explains.
The company’s strengths have proven invaluable in weathering the ups and downs of an emerging economy and the current rise in construction and investment in infrastructure provide constant opportunity. “The Brazilian economy has developed in our favor and the demand continues to outweigh supply, challenging the explosive sector and benefiting our success,” says Cyrino.
But Britanite is more than successful sales. The company counterbalances its explosive nature with an active participation in environmental protection. The company’s main facility is located in the Serra do Mar coastal forest region – an ecoregion of tropical moist forest that runs along the southern coast of Brazil for about 60 miles. Britanite proudly preserves 60 percent of its industrial park, which contains dozens of different species of plant and wildlife, many of which are considered rare by environmental organs.
On the job, Britanite supports residue management programs that guarantee ecologically friendly treatment and disposal of materials and waste. In this way, the company conforms to environmental guidelines, and safety standards.
Britanite’s journey has been marked by an entrepreneurial spirit, determination and global awareness – factors which have helped the company to overcome challenges and put the boom in the domestic market. Thanks to the international standards upheld at all stages of its carefully engineered projects, and excellent customer service, Britanite has secured controlled but rigorous expansion and an accelerated growth rate in Brazil and abroad.