Rising star

From the April 2020 issue.

Librelato has seen tremendous change over the years from its humble sawmill roots to becoming one of the largest industrial contributors to South America’s economy. The innovative trailer manufacturer and component supplier is satisfying industry demand in Brazil and beyond.

Since its foundation 51 years ago, Librelato has continuously invested in innovative technologies to provide customers in Brazil – and every market it operates in – with road transport equipment of the highest quality. The OEM seeks the lowest tare and the hardest wearing trailers in addition to supplying top-of-the-range componentry.

Librelato CEO, José Carlos Sprícigo – with the support of the company – has spent the past 35 years supplying freight operators with trailers and road tankers that enable competitive and profitable operations.

“I have met, worked with, and been a partner and admirer of José Carlos Librelato, aka Lussa,” he said. “He was a visionary and enterprising man who, besides being one of the founders of the company, was one of its biggest supporters, being responsible for making Librelato what it is today – a company with solid human values without giving up technological innovation. Lussa is gone now, but his legacy and his teachings are proudly preserved as the values and principles of the company. That is why all the opportunities I have had and the manner how the company believed and invested in me is a policy that we unrestrictedly keep and improve at Librelato for all our employees. We acknowledge the value of our human resources so as we may be able to offer state-of-the-art technology in trailers to our customers. We are driven by a moment of digital transformation, and I necessarily believe that excellence management models aligned with professional training will certainly help us to meet our growth and development objectives.”

Sprícigo reflected on the history of the Librelato family which started its activities as a small and modest sawmill, located in the interior city of Orleans, with the Patron Berto Librelato (in memoriam) at the head of the company
“In 1969 the sawmill became a formal company and produced its first truck wooden body,” he said.

“In 1980, Irmãos Librelato (Librelato Brothers) was formed, dedicated to the sales of truck parts and accessories and started providing technical assistance for trailers of a major national brand. In 1992 the company changed its name to Librelato Implementos Agrícolas e Rodoviários Ltda (Librelato Agricultural and Road Equipment Ltda) and started producing trailers.

“In 2007, the company made the first export to Angola and expanded its operations in the state of Santa Catarina and opened a new facility in the city of Capivari de Baixo. In the same year, the company began selling consortium quotes (local financing model).

In 2008 the company consolidated the brand internationally and started building the third production site in the municipality of Içara.

“By 2010, Librelato expanded and modernised its facilities, in addition to creating a new unit in the city of Criciúma / SC.

“This year, the company achieved recognition due to its expansion not only by customers and business partners but, was also congratulated with important awards. Golden year for Librelato, reaching the fourth position in the ranking of the largest companies among the Brazilian trailer manufacturers. For the third consecutive year (2008, 2009 and 2010) it is considered one of the fastest growing companies in the country by EXAME PME magazine and it is nominated for the AUTODATA Award of the Best company in the automotive sector.

“In 2011, it became a corporation and entered into a partnership with the Investor Fund CRP VII, a fund manager based in Rio Grande do Sul, which has been operating in the Brazilian Venture Capital and Private Equity market for more than 30 years. In 2013, Librelato reached the third position in the ranking of the biggest trailer manufacturers in Brazil, won for the first time the Best Companies to Work for in Santa Catarina award and the Champions of Innovation award, granted by the Amanhã group in partnership with Edusys and Fundação Dom Cabral.

“In 2019 Librelato celebrated its 50th anniversary in a special way, inaugurating Unilibrelato – Librelato University – with Post-Graduation, exclusively for its professionals, participating in the best Fenatran in its history, holding a party for more than 2,000 people (including professionals and family members) and winning for the second time the Best Companies to Work For award.”

Operating for over half a century and having a spectacular history of technological innovations and focus on honouring its employees, Sprícigo said in addition to keeping a serious and long-term policy of investments in the upgrade of Librelato’s manufacturing complex, it is natural for the business to always be among the finalists, often winning important industry awards.

“We won several awards throughout our history, but we can highlight the most recent ones: for three consecutive years – 2008, 2009, and 2010 – we were recognised by the magazine Revista Exame as the company that grew the most in our segment in Brazil,” Sprícigo said.

“We were also nominated for the prestigious Autodata Award as one of the best companies in the automotive field, and, in 2016, 2017, and 2018, Librelato won the ‘Brand of the Year’ award from the Brazilian National Federation of Automotive Vehicle Distribution – Fenabrave.

“From 2010 until the present, Librelato has won important awards recognising our responsible operation in the social and environmental areas, our committed Human Resources policy, which honours our workforce, and our policies of seeking innovation aiming at offering the highest efficiency and safety to the operation of road transport.

“We have closed the year of 2019 winning the award ‘Company of the Year 2019’ from Associação Empresarial de Criciúma (local city association) and the award ‘Best Companies to Work For’, through the Great Place to Work – GPTW certification program.

“Step by step, year after year, we have achieved several accomplishments, and, today, Librelato is already among the three biggest companies in our segment, having a wide and innovative portfolio of trailer solutions and being in our best phase ever.”
The OEM has come a long way from manufacturing products assembled on chassis in 1969.

“After being in the market for several years and seeing the market opportunity in the line of heavy vehicles, in other words, trailers, we decided to take a bolder step and started the manufacturing of the first Librelato tipper trailer in 1998,” Sprícigo said. “In the same way that the first body produced in 1969 accomplished our customer expectations, Librelato trailers were also widely accepted, of course the Brazilian market, an important world barn with growing agribusiness, made the company’s growth very solid and helped us on bringing new products to meet the demand also in the consumer and infrastructure market.”

By listening and understanding the needs of its customers over time, Librelato has worked hard to adapt its products to suit both domestic and international markets.

“Librelato has innovation in its DNA, and we are capable of giving quick responses to the market needs,” said Sprícigo. “Both these characteristics, innovation and agility, were crucial in recent years for us to achieve great sales leaps. Today, we are the third-largest trailer manufacturer in Brazil and the second main exporter of trailers in the country. Our market share has been growing over the years – currently, our share in Brazil is more than 14 per cent. We always offer new products without ever giving up on safety and availability, which ensures reliable products and services and provides greater results to our customers.”

Librelato showed a 66 per cent growth in its revenue compared to 2018, reaching about 235 million USD in the period. The brand expansion in comparison to its sales figure corresponds to more than 55 per cent, which is also notable, since the sales increase in the internal market corresponded to 45 per cent in relation to 2018 according to data provided by the National Association of Manufacturers of Trailers and Bodies – Anfir.

In 2019, the company sold 9,545 trailers in the internal and external markets, reaching a market share of 14.1 per cent in the Brazilian market and 13.5 per cent in exports.

“Last year was one of the best years in the company history, becoming unforgettable to everyone at Librelato – we celebrated 50 years and achieved sales and results that guaranteed the continuity of investments and of the development of products and components that make the Brazilian logistics industry more competitive and efficient,” Sprícigo said – adding that the growth of the business has been quite substantial. “We started our business in 1969, in the city of Orleans, in Santa Catarina. Today, we have three units – our headquarters and a subsidiary in the Municipality of Içara, and another facility in the City of Criciúma, all in the State of Santa Catarina, in the South of Brazil. With 50,186m² of total built area and 255,861m² of plot area in all units, with the inauguration of the new facilities at the company’s headquarters in Içara at the end of 2020, providing a wider and more comfortable space for professionals and company customers.”

As for its aftermarket support, Librelato has 60 dealer agents strategically located in all the Brazilian regions.

“All technicians at our Casas Librelato (Librelato Stores) are systematically trained and updated in relation to our products,” Sprícigo said. “We have a strong logistics system for all the networks to be permanently supplied with high-turnover products. Our aftermarket service is so efficient that we were recognised by Fenabrave as the best concessionaire network in the field twice in the last two years. Fenabrave is the entity that gathers the sales offices of vehicle retailers across Brazil.”

Librelato also has dealer agents in key markets such as Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Colombia as well as sales agents in Africa and the Middle East.

For more than five years now, Librelato is increasingly growing in the Brazilian market.

“Despite a loss in volume, even amid the severe 2014-2017 crisis, we gained in market share in Brazil due to a single reason: we offer the most modern and innovative products (light, resistant and innovative) in the country,’ Sprícigo said.

“Concerning the Brazilian economy, after such severe crisis, which affected the market in more than 70 per cent, we noticed that, in the last two and a half years (since mid-2017), there are strong and unequivocal signs of sustainable economic recovery. We believe the economy rules are clearer now, as there are evident signs from the government that the required reforms are in progress or about to take place. This is very positive, creating an optimistic mood that is crucial for growth recovery. The current year will also be marked by growth – the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) possibly will grow at a 2.5 per cent to 3.0 per cent rate, the interest is at the lowest level ever, and the inflation is under control. These positive economic and political indicators helped in the recovery of the market trust and, thus, the circulating fleet is being renewed at a fast pace, and Brazil appears to be in a growth cycle that can last a decade. All economic indicators point at a smooth, sustainable growth – and that is great.”

Librelato has one of the most complete product portfolios in Brazil. There are configurations such as trailers, interlink trailers (with two, three or more composition), in different models like flatbeds, grain grailers, tippers, lowbeds, timber trailers, dry vans, curtainsiders, skels, tankers, sugar-cane trailers and reefers.

“When these products bear the brand Librelato, the carrier can be 100 per cent sure that it is a robust, lighter, and more efficient equipment,” Sprícigo said. “We have been studying this market for 50 years and know it well, listening to our customers and meeting their needs. Carriers need trailers that, at the same time, are light (to transport more load) and robust (to bear the harsh conditions of Brazilian and region roads). It takes a lot of technology to make a product that is strong and light at the same time. As we invest heavily in product engineering and R&D, Librelato owns this formula and it is well adjusted.”

On the topic of the most popular trailer applications in Brazil, Sprícigo said grain trailers are the most versatile equipment in the country; therefore, they are the best-selling product in Brazil. “They are generally used to transport grain harvests (a major operation in Brazil), but are also widely used to transport raw materials, consumer goods, and supporting the movement of containers in exports and imports,” he said – adding that the Brazilian trailer industry is among the most modern and innovative industries in the world. “It is highly professional and has strong and traditional competitors. Brazil is a country of continental dimensions, and roads are its main transport mode – more than 60 per cent of all transport performed in the country employ trailers. It is an industry that is reinventing and modernising itself, seeking to offer carriers with products of the highest quality and, thus, reaching high levels of equipment availability.”

Librelato is attentive to freight logistics trends in Brazil

“In recent years, the field of logistics underwent an accelerated modernisation process in Brazil, especially the road logistics, with a strong impact on intermodality,” said Sprícigo.

“Trucks and trailers are the protagonists of such a process. Logistics became more efficient and, to meet the society expectations, it needs to be more sustainable from the environmental perspective. The emission of pollutant gases by trucks is far fewer than 10 years ago and, each year, truck brands have been improving such environmental performance. The same applies to the trailers – we seek to use lighter and more environmentally friendly materials.

“As I said before, the key demand of logistics operators is to transport more and in a more efficient way. That is what we deliver by producing lighter and more robust equipment. Certainly, it is a dynamic process, and we will always have new advancements.
“Electrification is a reality that will reach us in Brazil soon, but we already implemented other innovations – connected trailers are a good example of it. In an unprecedented and exclusive partnership with Sascar, a company with renowned expertise on fleet management equipment, Librelato is the only Brazilian company in the sector offering connected trailers. With such technology, fleet operators will elevate the standard of control and broad monitoring of their freights, moreover regarding decoupled tractors.”

Another outstanding innovation for Librelato is air suspension with self-steerable axle.

“As of 2020, for all three-axle Librelato trailers where at least the first one is away from the second one, the first axle will be equipped with the self-steerable axle,” Sprícigo said. “This new technology offers greater safety, involves lower maintenance costs, and provides a faster return on investments, fully replacing the solution employed so far, the fixed axle coupled to a self-steerable frame with turntable.”

In addition to these innovations in trailer design, the ‘Sider Grid’ is a new curtainsider concept that serves all types of palletised cargo.

“This new trailer, which is in the process of approval for the transport of beverage, allows a wide and full access to any cargo in up to 30 seconds,” Sprícigo said. “The ‘Sider Grid’ technology was inspired by European concepts of logistics and distribution, and its commercialisation is scheduled for the first quarter of this year.

“Meanwhile, the new model of 2.0 Premium Interlink Tipper, developed using ultra-resistant steel and employing a fifth-wheel coupling, is the product we need to highlight when talking about trends in logistics. The major differential in the development of this equipment was the increase in the tipping angle of the rear trailer in relation to models made available by other builders. With an innovative concept, the R&D team of Librelato increased the dumping angle from 28 to 40 degrees, which makes it possible to discharge any kind of product.”

Librelato constantly strives to innovate, not only in its products and services but also in its communications with its customers. The OEM recently released its first podcast of the trailer sector in Brazil.

“The corporate program, unprecedented in the sector, is called Carregando o Brasil (‘Loading Brazil’),” Sprícigo said. “Its main editorial line is to address hot topics related to the fields of transport, technology, safety, and economy; road tips; trailer industry trivia; and Librelato news, such as releases, trends, services, technical tips, after-sales matters, consortium (Brazilian kind of financial), financings, interviews with guests, among others. The Podcast is hosted by the journalist Fernando Richeti, a specialist in the sector of transport for over 20 years, in addition to working as a reporter and host of shows aimed at road professionals. It is available for free on the SoundCloud platform (in Portuguese only).”

Fast Fact
Librelato made several key sales of innovative semi-trailers at the last Fenatran, the largest exhibition for the sector, held in October 2019, in São Paulo. The OEM’s most innovative trailer is the grain trailer PRÓ-NIO which features Niobium in the steel formulation; it is used in its manufacturing process, which was among the brand key products at the event. It is the lightest and most resistant implement available in its category in the Brazilian market. With the new PRÓ-NIO technology applied to the three-Axle, 12.50M grain trailer, it is possible to transport 780kg more payload than a standard trailer, meaning greater gains and higher profitability for the carrier.

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