SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — Coffee. Steel. Shoes. Luiz Simoes thinks it's time Brazil becomes known for exporting something else: plastics machinery.
``Brazil needs to export. Be sure about that,'' said Simoes, sales manager of A. Carnevalli & Cia. Ltda., which makes blown film equipment, winders and printing machinery. Now the company wants to sell to the United States.
Brazilian government and business leaders hope their devalued currency, the real, will help reverse their country's trade deficit by making exports cheaper. Although Brazil's plastics machinery sector is considered fairly strong, it has not tried to export many machines outside of Brazil and its Latin American neighbors.
Carnevalli went global five years ago, when the government began reducing protective tariffs, Simoes said during Brasilplast'99, held March 8-13 in Sao Paulo. That decision made Carnevalli a better company.
``You can't imagine how our equipment developed during that time,'' Simoes said. ``Because if you stay only in your country, you have only local competitors. They are on the same level. When you have as your competitor Germany, Italy, the United States, you need to work. You need to go fast. Because these people work hard, and if you don't do that too, you can't stay in that market.''
For years, Brazil's machinery industry was protected by high import tariffs. Now tariffs are coming down and Carnevalli wants to be more aggressive, Simoes said.
Eight Carnevalli film lines are running in Mexico. The company has sold machines to Europe, including seven in Hungary and eight in Portugal.
Now Simoes is turning to the United States, where Carnevalli will face off against some tough competition, including Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering Co. Inc. There's an obvious technology gap — Battenfeld Gloucester has made machines that can blow film with seven and nine layers, while in Brazil, coextrusion is just getting started. At Brasilplast, Carnevalli showed a three-layer blown film line and two single-layer lines, though it can make lines for up to five layers.
As the film lines hummed in the background, Simoes was a perpetual-motion machine throughout the six-day trade show. He interrupted an interview several times to greet customers or pick up his cellular phone.
When it comes to shows, Carnevalli officials are world travelers. Carnevalli exhibits at the K show in Dusseldorf, Germany, and at Chicago's NPE, said its president, Wilson Miguel Carnevalli.
Carnevalli recently signed up a U.S. agent, Warner Sales Associates Inc. of Hanover, Mass. Carnevalli still is waiting for its first U.S. sale. But Jack Warner, Warner Sales' president, said the devalued real makes Brazilian machines a good buy.
``On output vs. investment, as they stand today, there's a very good bang for the buck,'' Warner said. ``I would say that, generally, with the same output, they [cost] 30-50 percent less.''
Simoes understands it takes more than price to sell to the world's biggest market.
``The more important thing for us is not to export only for the price. I would like to add price and quality together. ... I know how difficult it is to sell in the United States. I know how that market needs to look for quality every time, and looks for automatic equipment,'' he said.
Very few Brazilian machinery companies export machines, according to Francisco Semeraro, president of the country's plastics machinery trade group, CSMAIP. Carnevalli is the exception. ``Carnevalli is a good exporter,'' he said.
Since the January currency devaluation, Brazil has reported a small positive trade balance. But that is because the weak real cut off imports, not because of any major jump in exports, according to Citibank economist Antonio L.P. de Castro. Still, he said, most people expect Brazil to see a ``significant turaround'' in actual exports by May or June.
Other Brazilian machine builders may join Carnevalli. Industrias Romi SA, an injection molding machine maker, is studying whether to sell small-tonnage presses out of an operation in Erlanger, Ky., near Cincinnati, according to Giordano Romi Jr., director of marketing and sales. Romi began selling metalworking lathes at the facility last fall.
At Brasilplast, the company showed a new press designed for export to other Latin America countries.
A Sao Paulo blow molding machine factory, Bekum do Brasil Industria e Comercio Ltda., wants to export more machines to Mexico and Latin America, said Eduardo Dias, export sales manager. Berlin-based Bekum Maschinenfabriken GmbH opened the plant in 1975.
``We are very optimistic because with this new exchange rate, our prices are much better now,'' Dias said.
Last year, Carnevalli built 140 blown film lines at a factory near Guarulhos International Airport outside of Sao Paulo. Simoes declined to release sales figures.
In recent years, the company built a 5,000-square-foot addition to house metalworking equipment, including milling machines that make key parts such as dies and screws. The air-conditioned building means components are made in the same conditions, year-round.
Simoes said the company maximizes its in-house manufacturing.
``This gives us the possibility to control all the levels of the machine's construction, and it's possible to change all the parts quickly. You can make different products for different customers, and adapt your process to what customers want to have,'' he said.
Like most Brazilian machine builders, Carnevalli imports some parts. Barrels come from Xaloy Inc. of Pulaski, Va. Italian suppliers provide gearboxes, temperature controls and a rotating take-off unit. As an exporter, Carnevalli enjoys tax breaks on the imported components.