Grupo Gestamp is an international group dedicated to the development and production of stamped metal components for the automotive industry. Its global success puts the company among the world industry leaders and in pole position in Brazil. Director of Human Resources and Brazilian institutional issues, Washington Oliveira, explains to Reuben Ford how, in a fast-moving market, innovation and expertise have fuelled Gestamp’s accelerated growth.
Without a doubt, the automotive industry is one of the most globalized sectors of the economy. As one of the top five markets for the automobile industry, Brazil manufactured almost 3.5 million vehicles in 2011 and according to figures published by the Brazilian National Association of Vehicle Manufacturers (ANFAVEA); 2.8 million domestically made vehicles were licensed. Together with a comparatively low car per capita rate (approximately one in seven), the country is a popular destination for vehicle manufacturers. Heavy tax incentives favoring domestic factories, has drawn the likes of Fiat, General Motors and Volkswagen to name a few – and investment in the Brazilian motor industry shows no signs of slowing down.
It is no surprise therefore, that Gestamp Automoción, a Group of Spanish origin and one of the world’s top three producers of stamped metal bodywork and engine parts, is one of the market leaders in Brazil. Operating on a global scale the group realizes the importance of being close to its clients and is present in the all of the main automotive manufacturing centers worldwide.
BIG IN BRAZIL
Breaking into the South American market was part of Grupo Gestamp’s globalization process initiated in 1998. “In Brazil, we began with a joint venture with a national company, which culminated in the opening of a factory in the metropolitan region of Curitiba in the state of Paraná. After two years of the partnership, Gestamp acquired 100 percent of this partner and Gestamp began steady growth in the domestic market,” says Director, Washington Oliveira.
From one factory and 60 employees at its inauguration, Grupo Gestamp now employs 3,600 people in six facilities throughout Brazil. As well as the head offices, based in Greater Curitiba, the state capital of Paraná, the company now has a unit in Gravataí, Rio Grande do Sul and four in São Paulo state.
In 2010 Gestamp acquired the German multinational Edscha, supplier of hinge systems, door checks, foot controls (brake and/or clutch and gas pedal), parking brake levers and convertible roof systems for automotive manufacture. The deal added another facility to the group in Brazil, in Sorocaba also in São Paulo. The company also has commercial and development engineering offices in the São Paulo capital.
“Our extended infrastructure is an important basis for our tremendous growth in Brazil, and the opportunity offered by the evolution of the domestic automotive market. Our considerable investment in new facilities, machinery and the Group’s acquisitions reflect the Gestamp Group’s decision to be and remain an important reference in this market,” Oliveira says.
The acquisition of Edscha also broadened Gestamp’s portfolio of products. “Our products are all specific to the car manufacturers we supply; each project is designed and manufactured for the vehicle model,” Oliveira explains. Gestamp produces skin and moving parts, which include hoods, roofs, fins, doors and sides, as well as bumpers, body components, dashboard crossbeams and chassis. The parts are stamped and soldered and range from small components to large panels. The acquisition of Edscha brought overlapping products with respect to foot pedal controls for vehicles, and some activities were vertically related, given Gestamp’s activities in steel services.
“We offer a complete range of virtually all metal car components – manufactured at our state-of-the-art factories through fully automated, international-standard processes,” adds Oliveira. Investment in product quality ensures that almost 100 percent of the production machinery is new.
Working closely with the almost all of the world’s vehicle manufacturers, including Volkswagen, General Motors, Renault, Nissan, Ford, Honda and Volvo, Gestamp’s parts are specific to each company. “Every project has specific requirements and measurements. We work with soldered and stamped parts, which account for a huge part of the car itself. All manufacturers outsource a large part of the production of these parts,” Oliveira explains.
The importance of safe soldering of a chassis and reliability of engine parts places a lot of responsibility in Gestamp’s hands. It is no coincidence that almost all of the world’s major vehicle manufacturers trust the company and its experience and expertise.
In Brazil, Gestamp was one of the pioneers in bringing the hotstamp production process to the steel automotive parts industry. The technology, which is being brought from Europe to a new, especially constructed plant in Taubaté will be applied to the manufacture of many of the products, which already include these types of parts. A red hot link is processed in a hot stamping line. After being fed into the press and formed with forces up to 1,200 tons the hot blank rests in a water-cooled die until reaching a temperature around 200°C. “Hot-stamping economizes raw material and produces parts of better quality and resistance, the ultra-high temperatures allow better molding and precision than traditional methods” Oliveira says.
Permanently increasing claims on passenger protection demand new solutions of the automobile industry in consideration of steel lightweight construction. On this account the technology of hot stamping of auto body components is a welcome innovation to automobile construction. Previous efforts to apply the technique in the Brazilian vehicle industry failed due to limited execution and resources.
Hot stamping, also called press hardening or hot forming, is not the only recent investment that has fired growth and success in Brazil. “As well as machinery, we are investing in the expansion of four of our facilities, and reviewing the layout of the production floor to maximize efficiency,” continues Oliveira. The aggressive strategy is dramatically increasing production capacity and reinforcing Gestamp’s leadership.
BREAKING THE MOLD
“In commercial terms our decision is to be close to customers and their needs; we visit the companies and accompany their orders. Starting from engineering, we understand that the right path is to offer more and more innovation to our customers. Every new project is followed up from a technical viewpoint, providing assistance and advice and working together with clients to maximize results,” explains Oliveira. The close work with manufacturers also guarantees continuity for Gestamp. “We are partners – we explore possibilities with our clients and reach feasible and effective engineering solutions together,” he continues.
Gestamp certainly exceeds expectations. In just twelve years the company has increased staff by 1000 percent and tripled the number of factories. “Our intention when we opened in Brazil was to supply Renault; we now work with all the major car manufacturers in Brazil – six in total,” Oliveira adds.
Grupo Gestamp’s success in Brazil and worldwide equates to global revenue of €6 billion. A figure that Oliveira says is a “result of investment, safety in the workplace, customer service, timely delivery, modern machinery, quality and reliability.”
Despite its international presence, Gestamp was little affected by the economic crisis of 2008/2009. “We have always been a company with very low debts and strategic investment plans,” comments Oliveira. “In fact, when most companies were suffering the consequences of crisis, we were acquiring new companies – for us it was a period of opportunity for growth.”
In Europe where the company’s factories were more sensitive to the difficulties, not one was forced into closure and the members of the European Union supported each other through exports, providing a constant service to clients.
The challenges in Brazil come in the form of increased labor costs, and energy prices. “Resources have increased in value and our margins have fallen – we constantly have to analyze our investment, but have always managed sustained growth,” Oliveira continues. A booming domestic car industry has definitely helped Gestamp thrive.
Gestamp’s vision begins internally; the company boasts minimal staff turnover and excellent benefits, being the only of its type in Brazil to offer a staff pension plan. The company prides itself not only on client relations but excellent human resources and values its skilled professionals highly.
The outlook for the future is extremely stable, with rising growth and market share as well as the group’s increased visibility in the industry, based on constant client initiatives, such as the hot stamping process. Plans to open new plants in Minas Gerais, Bahia and Pernambuco are currently being considered in addition to expanding existing facilities. Proven that it can go the extra mile with its clients, Gestamp is clearly on the road to continued success.