Two of the most notable ideas that have driven the business of Rudolph Usinados of Brazil include, “It is not right until it’s right,” and “It’s not work itself that motivates people to do their jobs, it’s the sense that what they do fulfills their lives.” President Wolfgang Rudolph’s approach is very unconventional, but very effective, especially when it comes to picking employees and commercial partners, and identifying new business opportunities. Such an approach has driven the company for over 30 years, turning a family owned venture into an operation that has grown strong ever since.
The company was officially established on Jan. 2, 1973. After several years as an informal manufacturer of alarm clocks, Rudolph’s father, Alfred, realized his work wasn’t enough to have the quality of life he envisioned when he came to Brazil in the 1950s from his native Germany. The business then expanded to include the production of parts for toys, telephones, and tools. The small expansion allowed for better prospects to connect with other businesses and to act as a provider of parts with companies already consolidated in the market. But before this enterprise became what it is today, a whole set of standards were set to accomplish what its founders had envisioned. Some of these standards involved personal and professional satisfaction.
“A company can only succeed if its workforce is talented and motivated,” says Rudolph. “As president I make sure everyone knows that success will come when each of us has clear convictions and the crowning of personal goals.”
THE LITTLE BUSINESS THAT COULD
An adventure that started as a project to provide solutions to friends and locals soon became a profitable one that had the potential to be the little business that could. In 1975, Rudolph Usinados began a partnership with Embraco, a division of appliance maker Whirlpool, and the venture allowed the Brazilian company to open its first branch abroad in Slovakia. It also manufactured pieces for Siemens and Joinville in Curitiba, Brazil. Rudolph, a technical engineer himself, got involved with the company in 1977 after completing his college degree in Sao Paulo and became a partner along with his father and mother. He took over the company in 1981, and immediately began other partnerships with com panies such as DOCOL Metais Sanitarios and Relogios Herweg. As a result of these commercial associations the volume of production grew extensively and the quality standards were raised to higher levels.
By 1981, the company had only four workers, but that number would increase fast up to a total of 500 people. Because of the company’s specialized work in machine tooling, it trained its employees so they could fully understand the company’s business model. The idea, says Rudolph, was to train and motivate employees so they, in turn, could incorporate that motivation into their work.
Already into the 1990s, Rudolph Usinados diversified even more. The company began to offer solutions for the automotive industry, which further increased its share of the market and its position among competitors. Among some of its commercial partners are General Motors, Delphi, Mercedes Benz and MWM International and Robert Bosch. Once it agreed to become provider for these and other companies, Rudolph started manufacturing pieces for axles, car transmissions, steering systems, engines and other minor parts for car doors. These partnerships allowed Rudolph not only to sell its products for the assembly of goods in Brazil, but also to increase the amount of metal parts sold abroad, as many of the auto makers exported such parts to Mexico, Argentina and other countries in Latin America. Currently, 35 percent of its production is sold abroad and the remaining 65 percent internally in Brazil. The company also began importing more raw materials such as steel, aluminum and brass, which amounts to 50 percent.
In its 84,000-square-foot plant, Rudolph currently produces 10 million parts per month, from which 85 percent are sold to the automotive industry and the remaining 15 percent is sold to companies in commercial refrigeration, appliances, construction and electrical applications. The company is also known for the manufacture of serial pieces, supplying mechanical components under order.
THE REFERENCE POINT
“If establishing a business is hard, imagine how much harder it is to be a reference when it comes to quality and service,” says Rudolph. What gave the business an edge was not only its consistent production and commercialization of parts, but also the personalized treatment to customers. With its engineering capacity Rudolph offered something other companies did not – the ability of custom manufacturing – and this provided value to the client.
In a short time, Rudolph became one of the main providers for its partners and converted its technological advantage into an asset that no one else matched. Its capacity to outsource certain specialized tasks in the fabrication and application of metal parts permitted it to provide a faster response without sacrificing quality. After several clients recognized the company as their best supplier, and after having been chosen consecutively as the best in the national market, Rudolph was certified by the DQS, a German standards organization and in March of 1997 it also received ISO: 9002 certification. In 2000, the company deepened its relationship with the Kerb Konus company located in Germany and a joint venture was initiated under the name of Rudolph Kerb Konus Ltd., today Rudolph Fixações Ltda.
The result of all these alliances brought along economic prosperity. In 2006, sales reached $30 million and Rudolph expects to increase that amount by $4 million in 2008. This outcome is a direct consequence of an aggressive investment policy directed toward the acquisition of new equipment, and the pursuit of collaborative projects. Between 2000 and 2007, Rudolph invested over $13 million and it’s expected that for 2008 alone, the company will spend some $4 million. According to Rudolph, 75 to 80 percent of that investment is focused on purchasing of machinery and the remaining 15 to 20 percent is divided into expansion projects and the study of new technologies.
But not all of Rudolph’s achievements came from new business opportunities or further expansion. The company also helped develop its community, contributing toward the improvement of the city of Timbó, in Santa Catarina. Among some of the projects supported by the company are equipping sporting and rhythmic gymnastics teams, a partnership with CETISA – Center of Educational Timbó INC and CERENE – Center of New Recuperation Hope, as well as social projects like Escola Cidada, which provide support to the Clara Donner Elementary School.
In addition, the company’s site was carefully chosen to help with the preservation of the native forest on over 80,000 square meters which now contain more than 120 plant species, some planted by Rudolph. On the remaining space, the company built leisure areas, offering associates and their families a healthy environment, such as fish ponds, beach volleyball playgrounds and soccer fields. “All this is part of our belief that we are created by God and that we need to respect our environment and those who live in it,” concludes Rudolph.