A successful metal stamping company, Metalúrgica Quasar has built a name for itself in supplying parts to automotive OEMs. Lee Weingast tells the story.
They say that when one door closes, another opens. In 1982, following a debt crisis, the door was shut for imports to Brazil and despite a recession in the country at the time, Hipólito Siquiera saw a window of opportunity and opened a tool and die shop in São Paulo. Doors have indeed opened wide and today, over two decades later, the company he founded, Metalúrgica Quasar, is a thriving medium-sized metal stamping company with a healthy and expanding participation in supplying automotive OEMs in its native Brazil and abroad. The company is guided by a philosophy of serving its clients through cost reduction, quality improvement and a never ending search for innovation.
The path to the company’s current success was not a straight and narrow one. Quasar has had a large number of clients in the auto industry since its founding but has also worked in other areas. In the 1990s the company produced metal parts for appliances and power generation companies but, Hipólito Siquiera Junior, Quasar’s chief financial officer and son of the company’s founder, says the volume was not as high as what was available in the automotive assembly market. Quasar began to focus more squarely on that sector at the end of the decade. In 1983, it extended its capacity to produce stamped metal and built up its already strong relationship with the car manufacturing sector. “What we do,” reports Siquiera Junior, “is track the innovations in the automotive field and meet our clients’ technical needs.”
Quasar Metalúrgica’s development over the years can be compared to that of an extraordinarily bright, inquisitive child. Not content to simply produce the parts needed by its clients, Quasar constantly seeks new techniques, inventive ways to use materials and technology to create innovative products and solutions for an ever-broadening arc of its clients’ processes. Siquiera Junior explains that his company offers superior, wide-reaching services. “We design products using simultaneous engineering. We develop the solutions according to the client’s needs, combining our expertise and know-how in engineering and technology.” Quasar’s outcomes, he boasts, are always geared toward use of new materials and reduction of costs.
SEEING THE BIG PICTURE
Since 2001, Quasar has been considered to be a “systemist,” meaning that it does not simply manufacture parts but creates comprehensive systems that integrate parts directly into the clients’ assembly process. If an automobile company needs foot controls (brake, clutch, accelerator), Quasar can provide the whole pedal system and even insert it right into the assembly line at the client’s plant. Siquiera explains, “We are co-designers: we develop the product with the client. They have an idea of what they want and we deal with the math and technical aspects to realize their project.”
“We stand out in the (automobile) sector,” notes Siquiera Junior, “and we play an important role in all our clients’ new projects.” Automakers turn to Metalúrgica Quasar for expertise in developing products and product sets and for its ability to provide systemic solutions to parts, processes and assembly. Clients like Ford, General Motors, Scania and Honda, to name a few, know that Quasar approaches their needs with an eye toward innovation and improving their processes on a global level.
TWENTY TONS OF STEEL AND WHAT DO YOU GET?
Metalúrgica Quasar has expanded its infrastructure over the years. The company’s facilities include a 7,500-square-meter plant in Santo André, on the outskirts of São Paulo, and three factories in Mauá, in the state of São Paulo with 3,500, 2,300 and 12,500 square meters. The latter is a new factory built at end of 2007 and on line since August 2008. It is equipped with new, heavy-duty equipment such as nine 400-ton presses and an 800-ton press. In addition, Quasar has two units on the site of the Volkswagen plants in São Bernardo and Taubaté, São Paulo. Quasar’s employees work directly in the client’s factory to do the final assembly of the parts and then put them directly on the assembly line. In order to produce the nearly 600 different items on their flexible, customized product list, Quasar purchases 20,000 tons of steel annually.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
As any teacher knows, learning leads to growth and asking questions is intrinsic to learning. Metalúrgica Quasar has a symbiotic partnership with the German automotive company Kirchoff in which the two companies share knowledge and exchange services. In 1998, Kirchhoff called upon Quasar to supply airbags to Volkswagen in Brazil. The project was developed in Europe and Quasar produces the item in Brazil. Quasar can call upon the German company for assistance in areas in which it excels: technology and soldering.
Metalúrgica Quasar’s satisfied clients are found well beyond the shores of its South American home country. Quasar provides services and parts to General Motors in Poland, Venezuela and Mexico and to Ford in Africa. The company does some indirect exporting to Turkey and Argentina through Fiat. Current export levels – approximately 4 percent of all sales – are down from what they were a few years ago due to a decline in the value of the Brazilian currency.
Siquiera Junior is ambitious and optimistic about his business’ future. “In order to meet the demands of our clients we are looking at an annual production of five million vehicles – this is our goal for 2011.” Quasar’s clients in the auto assembly field, he reports, are currently investing – to the tune of $25 billion countrywide – in improving the efficiency of processes in existing facilities. They are beginning to outsource parts previously made in-house to focus more on assembly. “When they outsource,” says Siquiera Junior, “that’s an opportunity for us.”
Metalúrgica’s investment of $40 million over the past year will certainly help bolster the expansion needed to reach that goal. The company’s goal seems realistic given that it has shown 30 percent annual growth over the past four years. And Quasar can rely on long-term stability thanks to long-term contracts aligned with the continued production of car models. Siquiera Junior says that the company will be making additional investments over the next two to three years with the aim of moving into the heavy stamping sector, with a greater emphasis on soldered joints and production of higher value products. It goes without saying that as the company expands it remains true to its philosophy of improving its service to clients through lowered costs, increased quality and continued innovation.