In the year that celebrates five decades of existence, Veneporte marks another important milestone in its journey: nothing less than a partnership with Faurecia, the world's largest exhaust system manufacturer. "It's a date that will leave a record in our history, having a very important meaning for us," says Abilio Cardoso.
Located in Águeda, Veneporte currently employs approximately 170 employees and assumes itself as a reference supplier in the automotive sector. Having as clients some large groups of automobile manufacturers, the objective of the company led by Abílio Cardoso is to put all his know-how into each produced piece, being the quality of the product one of its brand images, at the level of what is best done in the industry. No one, therefore, is better than the CEO of Veneporte himself to give us an interview.
Veneporte celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. What is the balance of these five decades of activity linked to the manufacture of exhaust systems for automobile vehicles?
The balance we make of these 50 years is quite positive. Not many companies in this sector, particularly demanding and competitive, reach this number of years of activity. It has been a sustained course in which we have been improving our organizational level in the different sectors of the company and consolidating the company's economic and financial performance.
How is the company constituted nowadays in facilities and human resources?
For the moment, Veneporte has about 170 employees. In terms of area, the main unit is in an area of 50.000m2, where approximately half of it corresponds to the covered area. During this year we’ll begin works of expansion and modernization of the technical and administrative facilities, from which will emerge 1.000m2 of covered area.
How important is the agreement reached with Faurecia?
Over the last few years, we have been studying the possibilities of cooperation with Faurecia, which now has been materialized in the agreement for the production of parts for Faurecia's Easy2Fit range and also for the distribution of its products throughout Europe. The first phase, concentrated in France and Germany. The second phase, extended to all countries in Europe. The offer available is the entire range currently produced by Veneporte and some Faurecia range, which Veneporte doesn't manufacture and it's being integrated into the global offer of the two companies. Everything that Veneporte doesn’t manufacture or hasn't developed until now, will be studied together. A big part of the product will continue to be manufactured by Veneporte for both companies, but there will also be an incorporation of the range already manufactured by Faurecia for the aftermarket.
Being a partner of the world's largest exhaust system manufacturer is the recognition of what our work was and our product quality. It's something that has to be explored, in a good sense, demonstrating to the large distribution groups that we can be a reliable partner with unquestionable quality and an asset to them as well.
What are the most important factors in the operation of Veneporte?
Undoubtedly the innovation in terms of product development and production technology. The result is a product with high quality, which the market recognizes and appreciates more and more, year after year.
How do you characterize your product portfolio and the type of service you offer to your customers?
Our portfolio is characterized by a wide range of products, which in some markets guarantees more than 90% coverage of the car fleet. Associated with the product range, we are committed to a fast, flexible, and proactive service.
What strategic options were followed by you relating to the production processes and the requalification of human resources?
In Veneporte's strategic plans implemented over the years, there's always been a great concern in terms of constant improvement and updating of the technological and productive processes, in the image of what is best done in the sector at a global level. Also, the qualification of human resources is a constant concern for the company.
And how have workers reacted to the technological growth in products and equipment itself?
In this field, we can say that we felt a good capacity to adapt to new processes and technologies, and in some cases, there even was a great interest in these evolutions.
What are the excellence goals of the products you manufacture?
The increase in the quality level and the pursuit of excellence are a constant concern for Veneporte. We work every day to improve our R&D and production processes, with the purpose of refining the performance of our products and, thus, getting closer to the best practices of the sector.
In the last Automechanika, Veneporte presented the new B2B platform and a renewed catalog for the 2017 and 2018 years. What does it mean for the company to launch these tools?
These tools have proved to be fundamental for monitoring the needs and meeting the expectations of our customers. Veneporte B2B platform is a digital tool, where our customers can check stocks, place orders, consult purchases history, and have access to information.
The goal is to optimize processes and contribute to making our time and the customers' own time profitable. Customer responsiveness to the new platform has been excellent and its adoption is occurring at a faster pace than the best-case scenario we predicted.
What about the catalog? How many references do you have?
The Veneporte catalog is available in two formats: online and paper. The key tool is the online catalog. With around 12.000 references, it is a digital tool that allows a quick query, with access to drawings and applications table effectively. The catalog in paper format works as a complement, where there are "only" 9.000 references, still requested in some markets and by customers of clients, usually more traditional structures.
Does Veneporte export about 90% of its production? Which markets are you present and who are your main customers?
During 2017, Veneporte exported to 25 countries. Of these, the highest volumes are recorded in Europe, namely the central and northern regions. As for the main customers, we highlight the car manufacturers (both OEM and OES) and the large distribution groups operating in Europe.
Veneporte has recently acquired Groupauto International's "Approved Business Partner" status. What does this status mean to the company and what are the benefits that it brings?
This distinction took place at the beginning of 2016 and of course, it is a recognition that honors us. It is above all, a recognition of product quality and service level, which fosters the emergence of new business opportunities within the whole group.
What does the national market represent for Veneporte? What strategies were implemented to grow the brand in our country?
The Portuguese market accounts for about 10% of Veneporte's turnover. Our strategy has been to strengthen the partnerships with the main distributors, information and training actions on the company and the product, as well as the renewal of the image and the provision of new and modern tools with the objective of making our customers' business more efficient.
In the national market, the distribution is made by the distributors that operate in the aftermarket, of which we work with the main ones.
The exhaust system has evolved a lot in recent years and the workshops lack technical expertise. What has Veneporte done at the level of training actions for the workshops?
At Veneporte we have organized a set of training actions both theoretical and practical, aimed at those who deal with our product, both from a commercial and technical point of view. These actions usually take place in collaboration with our distributors.
Do you consider that the workshops have enough knowledge to maintain/repair the exhaust systems of modern vehicles?
I would say that not all of them are prepared, in particular, for more technical components such as catalytic converters and particulate filters - most notably in the emission control products for the latest Euro standards.
What should be done to keep repairers informed about modern exhaust systems?
We must continue to focus on training and the recycling of knowledge. At the same time, we suggest that some public entities should carry out information and awareness actions on the use of non-homologated or non-approved products - for the risks and consequences they cause for both public health and the environment.
Does Veneporte manufacture components for the cold and hot parts of the exhaust system? Which part represents the highest sales volume?
The weight of the hot part has been rising year after year. However, it is the cold part that still represents the largest slice of Veneporte's turnover, which is otherwise normal in this sector.
What has been the evolution in the manufacture of catalytic converters and particulate filters?
From a technical point of view, it has been enormous. The changes in the European emission standards have forced us to develop more technically and technologically demanding products, with even more rigorous environmental performances.
How do you analyze the evolution of the automobile concept and the most likely short/medium-term trends? In the future will all vehicles be electric or will there still be a percentage of combustion vehicles?
There is a lot of misinformation circulating about this matter. I believe that most of the vehicles will continue to be equipped with combustion engines (although they tend to be hybrids), and there will also be a growing share of electric vehicles. However, although no one mentions this, electric vehicles pose serious problems with CO2 emissions, particularly by producing and dismantling batteries. The production of a battery generates a level of CO2 equal to what is generated by the circulation of a combustion motor vehicle for 80.000 to 100.000 km. Regarding the dismantling of a battery, the corresponding emissions are even more worrying, corresponding to the equivalent of the circulation of a vehicle with a combustion engine for 120.000 to 150.000 km. Adding these values, we have a number that is higher than the average kilometers made by many vehicles, namely urban and utilitarian.
What are the biggest challenges for Veneporte today? And what are the biggest opportunities?
The biggest challenges are technological developments in products, which require more efficient techniques and more advanced technologies. Other challenges are related to productive flexibility, logistics capacity, and maintenance of high service levels. In the field of opportunities, I would like to highlight the quality of our product and the capitalization of it on the different markets in which Veneporte is present.
What are the strategic lines for the future of Veneporte?
Naturally, the position reinforcement in OEM and OES customers, strengthening international partnerships with large players and deepening trade relations with key purchasing groups.
Source: Jornal das Oficinas, pág. 46-47