Volume 15 | Issue 1 | Year 2012

Proof that proximity to the market is an essential element of prolonged prosperity in business, Brazilian-born Condor S.A. was the first national manufacturer of toothbrushes and put a healthy smile on the face of an industry for which the country is known today. However, dental hygiene is not the only area that is defined by its high quality and innovative products. Now, Condor is the largest brush manufacturer in Latin America, one of the most important Brazilian industries and it is among the leaders in producing hairbrushes, brooms and paintbrushes as well as toothbrushes and oral care products.
Condor’s interest in the industry dates back to 1929, when Augusto Emílio Klimmek together with his son and a friend founded a modest toothbrush factory with just two production machines and manufacturing 1,800 brushes a day.

In 1932, Klimmek moved the factory to its own premises and increased the range of brushes to include nail brushes and combs. By 1938 Augusto Klimmek S.A. had increased capacity to an average 120,000 brushes a day and employed 200 staff.

With the arrival of injection plastic molding in the 1940s, machines imported from the US marked one of the biggest technological evolutions in the history of the company. New streamlined processes inspired and financed the construction of a new, larger facility, which included with more integrated production and equipment that diversified and improved manufacturing.

In the coming decades, Klimmek concentrated on increasing the workforce to meet growing demand and by the 30th anniversary, the company had reached almost 500 employees. When Klimmek’s son, Alfredo Frederico assumed presidency in 1970, following his father’s death, he showed the same concern for health, hygiene and quality as well as business growth. He also founded social projects in honor of his father and increased staff and infrastructure.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the company prospered, constantly improving its installations and practices and acquiring Condor da Amazônia in 1984 and Condor Juara in 1985. In 1988 the market leader reached 1,500 employees and launched the book ‘Flight of the Condor’, which told the story of the company’s founders, creation and continued success.

When Alfredo Klimmek passed away in 1994, the company entered a new phase. Registering its name as Condor S.A. and inaugurating the Augusto Emílio Klimmek Museum, the company simultaneously paid tribute to its past and looked ahead to an even brighter future. The increasingly successful cleaning line of brooms and brushes earned its own production unit and more importantly still, the shareholders decided to bring in an Administration Council of executives to assume direction of the company.

In 2009, Condor commemorated its 80th anniversary with an intensive investment in product development and staff. Its largest advertising campaign ever (80 Years of Condor) boosted sales of the products which are structured into five clear lines: oral care; beauty; cleaning; artistic painting; and building painting.

Three years later, Condor is flying high on the wings of its new management. With over 300,000 retail points throughout Brazil and exports to over 30 countries, the company competes on an even field with international competitors such as Colgate, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.

Coming in a close fourth in the oral hygiene market shows Condor’s strength in the industry. “Our production technology is first rate,” says current President Luis Vidal who was brought to Condor a year ago as part of the investment in highly skilled professionals to direct the future of the company. “We use German machinery for the manufacture of brushes, and while methods and practices are standardized in the industry we use the very best technology to ensure our quality.” Despite little room for dramatic innovation in toothbrushes, dental floss, hairbrushes and combs, brooms, mops, squeegees and paintbrushes, Condor is always renewing and reviewing production. “We can innovate with design and material, but not the product itself,” confirms Vidal.

At present, Oral Hygiene, Beauty and Cleaning account for 70 percent of Condor’s annual revenue and paint brushes for artistic and building painting make up 30 percent of sales. “Today, we are probably most recognized for our brooms,” adds Vidal. “Although we have a very strong foothold in the dental care market and also manufacture the bestselling hairbrush sold in supermarket chains in Brazil.”

Condor is based at its 60,000-square-meter facility in São Bento do Sul, Santa Catarina state. Here, 1,500 staff produces 95 percent of all Condor products and the remaining five percent of parts and products are imported. “We have strong commercial links all over Brazil and Latin America: especially Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Puerto Rico,” says Vidal. Exports currently represent 20 percent of sales.

The new phase and continued success of Condor have been the object of constant investment. “We are experiencing a moment of transformation, updating and improving staff and practices and realizing heavy investment across the board,” Vidal explains.

“Our focus is on Brazil. The potential of the market here is enormous and we predict considerable growth in all segments of our business. Our experience and expertise gives us a head start nationally and evenly distributed investment has allowed growth in all areas,” he continues. The economic trend in Brazil is particularly favorable to Condor, which specializes in products for the middle class. With a sharp rise in income has increased the size of the nation’s middle class following political incentives and benefits, Condor’s target market has grown.

The reverse of the coin is that the emerging middle class “lost credit on household appliances and large purchases due to high interest rates and many were left in debt,” as Vidal outlines. This economic see-saw has been a challenge for Condor that has been considered by new executives in recent strategies.

It is a challenge that has been met with success: Condor reports healthy growth figures of an average 10 percent a year for the last four years with annual revenue of around $160 million in 2011 and a further 10 percent rise predicted for 2012.

Quality is guaranteed in all the manufacturing steps, not only through high technology but a strict evaluation system. “But quality is not only valued in production. It is also extended to customer service,” Vidal adds. At Condor, these actions are sustained by the Condor Total Quality System (CTQS), which cares for the continuous excellence improvement, based on the ISO9001:2000.

Internal staff changes and improvements follow consumer research incentives and attention to market demand. Today, parallel to the CTQS, there are some programs that support the continuous improvement. Firstly, Condor’s Improvement Group (CIG) aims to encourage improvement in order to generate positive results in all the company’s processes. Through teamwork, it is possible to strengthen the professional and personal growth of the employees, developing creativity, leadership, organization, analysis and problem solving.

Secondly, Condor operates ‘Ideas in Action’ – the program was created specifically for employees that do not participate in the improvement groups. The main objective is to promote partnership, exchange and implementation of ideas and suggestions to contribute to safety, cost reduction, quality and productity of the professionals and the company, together with the CIG. Finally, the 5S in Action program – promotes a safer and pleasant work environment, through participation of the individual and collective commitment of Condor’s employees.

The costs of materials are also an important factor, as Condor’s products offer a balance of quality and accessible pricing that its clients require. “All of the ranges are characterized by value for money and high performance,” he concludes.

Since the beginning, Condor has been through huge transformations: new products, new factories, investments in high technology and professional training, significant improvements which have made it synonymous with quality and innovation. As Condor enters its 83rd year, the company has revolutionized the market by improving on existing excellence, without losing client focus and promises continued future success.