Two simultaneous explosions, exchange rate and coronavirus, are leading companies to expand the process of nationalization of raw materials and components. The intention is to escape the imports that are more expensive in the face of the 25% appreciation of the dollar since the beginning of the pandemic, the dependence of few global manufacturers and the scarcity of products to combat covid-19 due to the high world demand.
Given the general lack of alcohol gel, used to prevent the spread of covid-19, Klabin, a manufacturer of packaging papers, developed a thickener to replace carbopol, raw material derived from petroleum that turns liquid alcohol into gel. The product was 100% imported from China and, in addition to the scarcity, it had a significant price adjustment.
The new product is extracted from wood and was developed in just two weeks in a partnership between Klabin and Senai Institute of Innovation and with the cosmetics industry Apoteka, which will produce gel alcohol at its Leme (SP).
“We obtained, at a critical moment for us and for the world, a carbopol substitute derived from cellulosic microfiber extracted from our forests, which is very good in terms of sustainability as it is a renewable product”, he says. Carlos Augusto do Amaral Santos, Klabin’s corporate R&D manager. The company has already applied for a patent.
The new thickener also has other applications, such as in cosmetic formulas and in paper production itself. “This opens up a great possibility for the domestic market and, in the future, for exporting, depending on our strategy,” says Santos.
The economist of Institute for Industrial Development Studies (Iedi), Rafael Cagnin, believes that there will be some substantial changes in the country. For him, the companies will increase the number of suppliers to reduce the dependence on external manufacturers.
“The conversion of plants (for the production of medical equipment, for example) shows that we have the industrial competence to return to production and reduce some bottlenecks”, he says.
In the evaluation of the president of the Brazilian Electrical and Electronic Industry Association (Abinee), Humberto Barbato, the current crisis has opened up the country’s vulnerability in relation to the international market. “When the problem arose in China, we soon suffered from a lack of parts. This level of dependence on electronic components creates a serious situation.”
He believes that Brazil has the opportunity to resume the nationalization of its industry, but, for this, companies need to be competitive and, in addition to serving the domestic market, also export. And that, he says, will only be possible with tax and administrative reforms.
ZF, a manufacturer of transmissions for commercial vehicles, says that, even in the home office, its people are looking to identify potential local suppliers that meet the technology levels of their products.
“This work is supported by our customers because, in addition to reducing currency exposure, it minimizes logistical risks in view of the fragility shown by this pandemic, so as not to depend on a single supplier, mainly distant and with limited action”, he says Silvio Furtado, director of ZF South America.
The president of Volkswagen in Latin America, Pablo Di Si, says that the company was already accelerating projects to nationalize parts due to the high dollar. With the pandemic, the process becomes strategic, and not only in Brazil.
Di Si admits the plans may be delayed because companies will exit the pandemic without investment cash. He suggests the creation of a cooperative between associations of assemblers and suppliers (Anfavea and Sindipeças).
The executive says that Volkswagen will introduce in its next launch, the SUV Nivus, a multimedia center, called VW Play, developed in the country, as well as the car. “The system screen (10 inch) will come from the Korea, but I am sure that we have the competence to produce in Brazil and use it in the automotive sector and in other sectors. “He also mentions parts for engines and airbags that can be nationalized.
One of the criteria to be evaluated in the post-pandemic is whether it is worth paying a little more for a national product to not depend on a single supplier, says the economist José Roberto Mendonça de Barros, from MB Associados. “I believe that a piece of the logic that you buy because it is cheaper – even if it is on the other side of the world – is going to change, and it is not just for Brazil.”
He sees opportunities for Brazilian manufacturers as long as, using modern technology, they can do something at a competitive cost. He also assesses that any nationalization will be welcome, as long as companies do not use government money. “It has to be an initiative of the private sector, which selects items that can be done without subsidy.”
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