With 54 years of activity, Veneporte is an exhaust system reference, together with automotive manufacturers and in the independent aftermarket. After the challenges brought by the pandemic in 2020, Abílio Cardoso, Veneporte’s CEO, believes this year can be very important for the company.
Active in 30 countries and with 90% of its production exported to four continents, Veneporte is a worldwide exhaust systems reference. Expert in the production of components such catalytic converters, particulate filters, SCR systems, and silencers, the company headquartered in Águeda works with various automotive manufacturers, but it is the independent aftermarket sector that has a bigger weight in the activity.
Committed to the continuous evolution of its offer, through a strong stake in innovation and competence at the product development level, the company believes its capacity to answer to stricter environment norms will benefit it in the future. Even conditioned by the pandemic, 2020 ended as a positive year, but the Veneporte CEO, Abílio Cardoso, believes 2021 can be a historical year.
How do you analyse 2020 to Veneporte?
2020 was very positive despite the pandemic situation, which naturally had consequences, not only at the public’s health level but also in the activity of most sectors. At Veneporte, we felt a bigger impact in March, April, and May. Not only for the commercial impact but also as a protection mechanism, we suspended the totality of our production between the end o March and the end of April. We resumed the productive activity gradually and neatly until we reach plenitude at the beginning of July.
With more than 90% of its production being exported, was there a big impact on the business? Were necessary relevant changes in logistics?
It had a special impact between the second half of March and the beginning of May, but then it stabilized with a huge dynamic. There was naturally the necessity to take action on the Logistics Department, but with everyone's great dedication and responsibility, we were well-succeeded. Notwithstanding the production pause, we always guaranteed the supply to our customers, even during the confinement critical phase, thanks to the actions taken and a very organized and dedicated logistics team. All these efforts enabled us to end 2020 in line with the numbers of 2019.
Which were the implemented actions for employee protection and the manufactured components?
At the end of March, in agreement with every employee, we started by giving holidays, and thereafter, we entered a layoff period, except for the Commercial and Logistics Departments. Later, we retook activity gradually, but always with exceptional attention to individual and group safety measures, such as providing masks to employees, frequent sanitization of common spaces, temperature measurement, social distancing, and homeworking when possible, besides medical tests we made and continue to make regularly. These measures are still in force today.
How much did you invest in safety measures?
I do not have the exact numbers of the investment, but it surely was a couple of dozens of thousands of euros. We considered it an important and necessary investment, so our employees could feel safe and tranquil.
Was the pandemic an opportunity to optimize business aspects and make a few changes?
Yes, it is true. Beyond important reflections about some organizational aspects, which surely made us analyse and implementing improvement opportunities, we prepared the launching of new product ranges, especially in the hot part of the system, such as EURO 6 references (catalytic converters, particulate filters, and SCR systems). In addition, we started a study about interior air treatment in public transports, “Clean Veneporte Solutions – Pure & Safety Air”. We applied to the SI15/2020 program in consortium with Coimbra University and ADAI (Association for the Development of Industrial Aerodynamics). It was approved with maximum score and, is currently taking place, a test phase for a piece of equipment that can eliminate the viral load in public transports. The team responsible for this project will also dwell on questions regarding air quality in individual or shared mobility.
Which are the news and objectives of Veneporte for 2021?
We have very clear and important objectives for 2021. We have to reach the end of the year recovering the non-growth forecasted for 2020, plus the forecasted for 2021. We are very optimistic and believe we can achieve a historical year for the company, naturally if the pandemic picture has a favourable evolution.
Which area has a bigger impact on Veneporte’s activity? Working directly with the manufacturers or the aftermarket components supplying?
Notwithstanding the strategic relationship with OEM/OES customers, it is the IAM (independent aftermarket) that has bigger importance in the company's activity.
What is more important in the direct relationship with manufacturers and how do you answer the challenge of guaranteeing the fulfillment of each brand's technical requirements?
I believe that is a set of competencies and their interplay, as product development, production capacity and integrated technologies, logistic capacity, and the organizational and quality system. Naturally, there are a lot of requirements, but we have been able to respond clearly to what is requested. All OEM/OES projects that we are involved in are naturally a huge demonstration of trust and recognition for the work we develop.
Are there any differences regarding the aftermarket work?
The requirements are greatly different, although increasingly demanding. In some cases, it can be even more complex, from the logistics standpoint.
Research has huge importance in Veneporte’s activity. What is the amount invested each year in this area?
We have been investing a couple of hundreds of thousands of euros in research and development of new models.
The ensure of quality in the manufacturing is another preoccupation, I suppose…
The quality of our products was, is, and will always be one of our biggest concerns. This attitude and responsibility of ours have been rewarded with increasing recognition by our customers and the market in general. Today, we are one of the sector’s references, and all of this due to the innovation and quality of our products.
How demanding are the product verification methods implemented in Veneporte’s production chain?
We are particularly demanding in the matter, but also in the correct development of our products, their homologation, etc. Indeed, we have been for few years opposers to the major environmental crimes that continue to be practiced by other market players, as particulate filter removal and assembly of catalytic converters that do not respect the levels defined by the directives.
The concern with fulfilling the environmental norms has been a huge intervention area for Veneporte…
We warned a couple of times about this issue, but unfortunately, the authorities did not act responsibly. Stays in history our contribute on fighting these illegal practices, which are a true public crime and a real attack on public health and the environment. Maybe one day they will give us reason…
Have the increasing demand of emissions norms beneficiated Veneporte by the sector’s recognition of the quality and effectiveness of your components?
We have no doubts about it, but it derives from our capability of accompanying those demands. Probably, unlike the other manufacturers.
How do you analyse the changes in environmental norms? Are they well thought, considering the investment needed in research and production?
The ponderation exists, undoubtedly. Although I think that efforts in reducing emissions should be worldwide and not only in some parts of the world. For instance, it does not seem right to me to expect a huge effort from Europe when other parts of the world do not take it seriously. On the other side, it is important to have correct legislation. But it is fundamental that exists a correct control in the aftermarket to avoid improper practices, which, unfortunately, are known by the sector, and, naturally, Veneporte is totally against them.
Is it a big battle? The fight against non-homologated components and the competition of companies that do not respect the production, safety, and environmental requirements.
Clearly, the fight against improper practices will always be a flag of our company, being related to selling non-homologated products or emissions issues. I affirm once again that we are talking about true attacks on public health. These situations should not be depreciated by the authorities that have responsibility on the matter!
To fulfill the new norms until 2030, the optimization of engines and exhaust systems will be enough, or we will see arise new components, such as the SCRs?
As we know, the emission levels will be more and more strict, and the technical solutions will respond to those necessities. There will be a lot of innovations in this area, certainly.
To a company that manufactures exhaust system components, how do you face electrification? Can Veneporte, in the future, extend its range of activity to other components (maybe even to electric vehicles)?
Naturally, we are aware of this reality. We will seek to evolve in our activity with the objective of accompanying the emissions limits imposed for combustion, but we will not lose our attention to other business areas, strategies that we are already developing, albeit gradually.
Source: Turbo Oficina nº 86, january/february 2021