Turbulent Times Give Way to OpportunityBy Ricardo Guzman | Wed, 07/22/2020 - 15:34
Q: What challenges or opportunities does Vasconia Brands foresee after a turbulent 2020?
A: Today, our goal is to expand our operations in the US market and for that, we face two challenges. First, we need to adapt to the US model, which is more dynamic. Our cost structure is in Mexican pesos and in the US, we would pay a higher logistic cost if we were late with deliveries or if we moved half-empty trucks, so we need to adapt to that.
Another challenge is to cut delivery times to two days. Normally, imports coming from China take 45 days to arrive and we can cut that to only two days. Imagine the impact on costs, time and inventory for our clients. Recently, Chinese labor has increased in cost but in Mexico, we still have the same advantages against the US. We live in the same time zone, we are close to each other by road and Mexican labor has a competitive cost. There is also the growing trade dispute between the US and China. This is the opportunity the world is giving us right now.
Q: How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact your operations?
A: One important change was in planning. A year ago, our goal was to move from yearly planning to an 18-month scheme. Today, we are uncertain of what will happen next month. We are working in a day-to-day basis; nothing is written. We need to change our supply chain and develop domestic suppliers, moving from the global culture of buying supplies from Asia to a regional or local strategy. Chinese products might be cheap to produce but the cost of bringing the product from such a remote location is eventually paid by the consumer.
Q: Vasconia Brands relies on imports. What are the biggest challenges you have faced in 2020?
A: This year has been an interesting challenge because everything changed. We went through different stages in only six months. First, between January and February, there was a shortage in materials coming from Asia.
Then, disruption reached Europe and it affected us mainly regarding bakelite and cookware handle materials imported from Italy. Finally, we faced challenges in the US, which is the top producer of nonstick coatings.
Some of our retail clients’ distribution centers were (or are) closed. We normally take our products to a distribution center and from there, they handle the national distribution to 100 or 200 stores. As a result of the pandemic, we started delivering directly to stores. Changing the distribution model was a major challenge we had to overcome. We reinvented ourselves and in a few weeks, we redesigned our transportation capability.
At Vasconia Brands, we have not stopped operations because we are part of an essential industry, given that cookware is needed in every household. Nevertheless, we are working below our 100 percent capacity and are following every hygiene and safety protocol.
Q: How have you built your presence in Mexico?
A: Over 85 percent of our sales come from products manufactured at our three production plants: Cuautitlan and Tulpetlac, in the State of Mexico, and Queretaro, Queretaro. All of them have fully automated state-of-the-art technology. We are the only Latin American company with its own aluminum rolling plant, which allows us to offer competitiveness, speed, quality and proximity, as well as short execution times, flexibility in minimum purchase quantities, custom-made products, low logistics costs and available capacity.
In Cuautitlan, we manufacture cooking products: pressure cookers, frying pans, cookware sets, steamers, rice makers, baking sets and a professional line in enameled aluminum. In Queretaro, we manufacture porcelainized aluminum and Vitroacero, which is a steel core product that is vitrified with a multi-layer non-stick system, natural clay enamels and highly durable mineral pigments in a wide range of colors. It is resistant to rust and corrosion and designed for any type of burner. Tulpetlac focuses on consumables: aluminum foil and sheets, wax paper and disposable cooking trays of many shapes and sizes. We also commercialize Kitchen tools, gadgets, knifes, cutting boards, tableware, cutlery, bar items, pantry utensils, thermos and others. We offer complete collections with ergonomically designed utensils, appliances, auxiliaries and knives with features that facilitate daily life and provide superior performance. We work with an intelligent inventory management system, Warehouse Management System, built with the most advanced design and energy, ecological, logistics, computer and communication technology. It has a storage capacity of 38,000m3, sevem height levels and is capable of operating up to 50 transport units simultaneously.
I believe the main reasons behind our success are powerful brands, a culture of innovation, integrated production and expert buyers. Almost every kitchen in Mexico has one of our products from either Ekco, Vasconia or Presto brands.
Q. Why should a retailer be a business partner of Vasconia Brands?
A: There is no other company that understands the Mexican market like we do. We offer our clients and consumers innovative solutions, consistent catalogs, an excellent cost-benefit ratio and the best service covering all distribution channels. Our pressure cookers are the only ones in Mexico with the Express Laboratory certification, a symbol of trust and speed. The Ekco, Presto and Vasconia brands are constantly evolving in design and technology to stay ahead of the needs of current life. We are leaders in pans, with a wide range of shapes, designs and colors. We have different production capabilities, including roller-coating, spray, welding, riveting, pad printing, laser and photopaint finishes (unique to Mexico for printed art). We manufacture in aluminum and steel of different thicknesses for all price ranges. In cookware sets, steamers, grills and baking sets we offer the best products in the market, some of which last 35 percent longer thanks to their thickness. The professional line Vasconia Pro delivers maximum performance and durability for the HORECA market: hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops. Our products are certified by the International National Sanitation Foundation.
We are fully oriented to satisfy our customers’ needs. Our first client was the very owner of the company, because he wanted a paella pan. More than 110 years ago, he could not buy one in Mexico, so he decided he would make one for himself and for some of his friends who came from Vasconia, Spain. This is how everything started. Since day one, this company has focused on helping customers to fulfill their needs. Despite its size, this is still a family business and the approach has always been the same. Most of our providers in the supply chain have been with us for more than 20 years. I believe this speaks a great deal about who we are. With 110 years of life, Vasconia Brands strengthens its commitment to quality and service, always focused on the needs of our consumers.
Vasconia Brands is a Mexican company with 111 years of history manufacturing cookware products under brands like Ekco, Vasconia and Presto. The company has three production plants in Mexico.