Schulz is a company in fast and constant evolution. From a small foundry in 1963, when we began business, representing the Brazilian air compressor and automotive component industry, Schulz embarked on a journey and has never looked back,” begins Joel de Oliveira, the Corporate Director of Finance and Administration. It has been a very fruitful journey. Today, Schulz S.A. is an open capital company, with stock negotiated on the São Paulo Stock Exchange (Bovespa). With a state-of-the-art production facility which occupies 72,000 square meters, built according to global standards of technology and quality, and a total staff of 2,650, Schulz makes constant investments and has bold targets that allow it to maintain the level of technology and production for market leadership.
The facility located in Joinville, Santa Catarina state, is made up of two distinct sectors: The Automotive Division, a supplier of cast and machined parts for the automotive industry, and the Compressors Division, which produces compressed air equipment solutions for industrial and domestic applications worldwide.
A DRIVING FORCE
Schulz Automotiva has become an international reference in gray and nodular iron casting, machining, painting and assembling parts, it satisfies the most demanding standards of quality in the automotive industry including being validated as a Global Vendor by its customers.
“We entered the automotive market in the early 1980s, benefiting from our on-site foundry and manufacturing suspension parts for heavy duty vehicles like trucks and tractors,” explains Operations Director for the division, Bruno Salmeron. Schulz Automotiva is currently supplying suspension brackets; axle, transmission and differential housings, engine covers and brackets, brake components, wheel hub, fifth-wheel blocks and pedestals.The strength and efficiency of Schulz’ components made them an instant success and 30 years down the line, the company manufactures products for tier one and tier two clients, including chassis and transmission technology. Servicing truck, bus, agricultural machinery and construction equipment markets, as well as its first tier suppliers, Schulz supplies to key market players, such as Volvo Group, Scania, Mercedes-Benz, MAN, John Deere, Case New Holland, Eaton, ZF Group, Caterpillar, Randon, JOST and MWM International.“Around 20 percent of our components are destined for farming machinery such as combines, planters and tractors, but 80 percent is consumed by the truck, bus, pick-up and LCV manufacturers,” Salmeron confirms.
Due to its high-quality products and services, Schulz Automotiva has been receiving awards from its main customers, such as: Mercedes – Benz Environmental Responsability Award (2011), Caterpillar Supplier Quality Excellence Process (2011), Outstanding Supplier Award ZF South America (2009 and 2005), ArvinMeritor Q-ArM Certificate (2009, 2008, 2006 and 2005), Mercedes’ Interaction – Rationalization Award (2008), John Deere’s Strategic Supplier (2008), ZF South America 50-Year Anniversary Special Award (2008), and Volvo Global 3P Purchasing Supplier Award (2006). Such awards prove that Schulz’s operation excels at quality performance, development, sustainability, delivery performance and customer relationship.
As well as the iron foundry, Schulz has the latest generation machining equipment for producing the components at its facility, which Salmeron describes as one of the world’s largest factories for integrated solutions. “The level of engineering at the plant is extremely high. We develop and perfect solutions together with our clients to suit their individual needs,” he says. The highly qualified technical body seeks continuous improvement, ensuring accessible costs and quality required in all processes. Software resources in 3D, which are constantly updated, guarantee the best development of the products for customers. In addition, Schulz Automotiva has its own production system based on Lean Manufacturing philosophy, aiming at delivering the best value both for customers and shareholders through continuous improvement, intended to get zero waste.
“With a workforce of 2,000 the Automotive Division is more labor intensive than the Air Compressor Division and we are investing in increasing our technical and production capacities from 92,000 to 120,000 tons of cast metal per year,” Salmeron explains. The increase is also due to the inauguration of a new furnace that started operating in September 2011.
As the components are all OEM products, Schulz Automotiva values close relationships with its clients and manufactures specific exclusive products. The automatic system of the furnaces guarantees greater accuracy in the composition of the metallic load, reducing the variances in the mechanical properties of the parts and meeting exact requirements.
Schulz is certainly no stranger to providing what the industry wants, when it wants. “Ever since 1972, Schulz has been dedicated to developing air compressor solutions, with innovation, reliability and quality. Nowadays we have a complete line of piston and rotary compressors, pneumatic tools and accessories, which has grown to meet demand,” says Oliveira. Schulz products are recognized worldwide by the most demanding of clients in the generation, treatment and use of compressed air.
“Investing in new products is one of the main focuses of our division, which is different from Schulz Automotiva,” adds Operations Director for the Compressor Division, Denis Soncini. In fact, 60 percent of revenue by compressors is generated by new products and Schulz invests $3 million per year in hardware and software for developing new compression technology.
One of the company’s biggest differentials is the multi-talented team, including 16 engineers, a further eight with masters and two with doctorate degrees, electricians, mechanics, designers and analysts with extensive experience in the area. The team works in a modern laboratory, where products are performance tested and quality controlled. Tests carried out on the compressors include environmental impact studies and Schulz researches new tooling solutions to best meet individual client and application requirements.
“There is not one air compressor that represents Schulz, with such a broad range of products, but we are the leaders in piston compressors in Latin America and the second largest manufacturer of rotary compressors,” Soncini adds.
The know-how for the development of technology also comes from exchanging information with suppliers, and visits to international trade fairs in South America, Europe, Asia and the US. Partnerships with leading universities also play an important role in innovation at Schulz. “As our products are exported all over the world, the characteristics and manufacturing processes are permanently updated and global standardization is a constant in the day-to-day lives of our engineers,” says Oliveira.
“To complete our success story, at the end of 2009 the company Somar was incorporated to Schulz S.A. adding motorized pumps, and more carefully selected machinery and tools to ourrange of products, so that we fulfill all of our customers’ needs,” Oliveira adds.
Both of the divisions’ factories are on the same site in Joinville. Schulz also has four distribution centers, three in Brazil – in Joinville, Jundiaí (São Paulo), João Pessoa (Paraíba) – and one in Atlanta, Georgia. The company produces 400,000 compressors a year and is ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified, as well as possessing various international trading standards certificates such as ASME and UL for North America, IRAM for Argentina and CE for the European market.
At 25 percent growth a year, Schulz is ahead of the market’s standard 13 percent, fueled by global clients, and the fact that the company is vertically integrated, with all processes in both divisions from casting to machining and assembly taking place at one location. “We have grown by developing strong products together with our clients,” says Salmeron to which Soncini adds that “experience, reliability and durability of Schulz products, as well as excellent after-sales service have been instrumental in the development of the company.”
Growth has not been without its challenges. Changes in markets trends and the international crisis have demanded strategic planning and investment. “When exports to the US and Europe fell we had to compensate by increasing our domestic focus,” says Salmeron. Fortunately the booming economy provided theopportunity that Schulz needed when exports declined to 15 percent. “It is often said that Brazil would come to a standstill without trucks – our heavy duty line has benefited from the fact that the nation relies on its roads for the transport of goods,” he continues. An extremely limited rail network has led to the production of 216,000 trucks in 2011 alone; symbolizing opportunity for Schulz.
Despite obstacles such as the volatile agricultural industry and rise in value of the Brazilian real, Schulz maneuvered past difficulty and according to Soncini even the effects of the crisis were minimal. “Our clients have built up trust in our products and Schulz has always planned long-term. Our lasting strategies consider economic variables, plus our innovative company spirit continues to provide new and improved solutions for the clients’ needs in the present market,” he explains.
The applications for air compressors are increasing, as clean energy sources and environmentally friendly equipment components. “There is constant evolution in the sector and plenty of potential for future growth,” says Soncini.
Strategic market management, innovative solutions and heavy investment in technology and personnel have been the perfect recipe for success for Schulz S.A. A central facility housing both its divisions and boasting the latest generation horizontal and vertical machining centers, lathes and laser cutting machines, advanced chemical, and analysis laboratories is one of Latin America’s largest factories and foundries. Concentrating its efforts on providing the best to its customers, Schulz S.A looks forward to continued success.