With a catalogue containing approximately 424,000 references, Portuguese wholesaler LUSAVOUGA is a ‘one stop shop’ for customers in a variety of industries. Deputy Editor Claire Aldridge visited the logistics centre in Aveiro to see how the company’s commitment to investment has enabled it to better serve its customers.
Founded in 1967, LUSAVOUGA - Máquinas e Ferramentas Lda (known simply as LUSAVOUGA) initially focused on selling bearings, rubber belts, and O-rings, to the professional market. A significant turning point for the business was in 1976, when the company was bought by Marques dos Santos – founder of the MS Group – after it was facing bankruptcy.
Marques moved to Portugal due to the Mozambique revolution in 1975. With money to invest, Marques put an advert in the local newspaper for businesses to come forward. After being approached by LUSAVOUGA he worked there for six months to learn everything he could about the business, in every single department.
“Mr Marques dos Santos is a businessman, and a salesman, and he saw the potential in the company even back then. Since then we have come a long way, and can proudly say we are the biggest wholesaler regarding machinery and hardware in Portugal,” comments Miguel Gomes, sales manager at MS Group.
“It’s all down to the Santos family and at our core, we are still a family-run business. The MS Group is now ran by Mr Santos and his sons, Rui Vicente Santos and Miguel Santos, who both continue their dad’s passion for innovation and who are the real strategists behind the growth strategy deployed in the last 8 years. The succession plan is on course and on schedule, with Rui combining his role as CEO of LUSAVOUGA with chairman of the board of MS Group, and Miguel his vice-president,” comments Miguel.
This passion for innovation was highlighted in 2011 when an investment of €5 million – its biggest investment to date – was made to create a new logistics centre. Comprising of modern offices and the company’s main warehouse, the logistics centre covers 2,000m2 and includes a pallet warehouse for 10,000 pallets and an automated bin warehouse measuring 18m high, 200m wide and has 36,000 bin positions. The bin storage capacity is 32,000 tonnes.
“The automated warehouse has helped us increase LUSAVOUGA’s competitiveness, efficiency and effectiveness, which in turn has enabled us to provide a faster and better service to our customers. It enables us to hold stock and for us that is not a problem – it’s a strategic decision,” comments Miguel.
“The stock we have enables us to provide faster delivery times to our customers and allows us to have a high rotation of our products. Almost 50% of what LUSAVOUGA sells in the Portuguese retail market is in standard fasteners. If you don’t have the stock – you can’t sell them, it really is that simple.”
With this philosophy it will come as no surprise that LUSAVOUGA is planning to expand this automated space again in the future. “I like to say that LUSAVOUGA is the best kept secret in Portugal,” explains Miguel. “We’re constantly looking for more – more stock, more space, more automation. Whilst the warehouse has given us so much, it is not enough as we’re running out of space. Our aim is to have as little human intervention as possible to eliminate human error. Of course, this is all with our customers in mind. They’ll benefit hugely and get stock even quicker. We’re passionate about making purchasing for our customers simpler and easier.”
An example of making it easier for customers is a recent update to the company’s SAP system and warehouse management software, which has enabled LUSAVOUGA to develop a B2B online platform to give customers access to stock information and order online. Planned for launch in the first quarter of next year, the B2B platform will make it even easier and faster for customers to order stock, as well as give the company the opportunity to reach a wider range of customers.
Initially LUSAVOUGA supplied professionals, before adding retail channels in 2012. “The decision to sell into retail channels was made after the warehouse had been operational for a while, so that we could start appealing to hardware and DIY stores, etc,” points out Miguel. “Up to that point we had only ever sold in Portugal via the professional market. However, we decided to mirror LUSAVEIRO – a machinery, tools and accessories specialist that also part of the MS Group – who had a very successful route to market via retail channels. I joined the company in 2012, to initiate this retail operation, and from there we then started to concentrate on boosting fastener and fixing sales.”
LUSAVOUGA also has its very own CHEMITOOL brand, which is known for its high-quality. “Every fastener we sell is now under the CHEMITOOL brand, as we are strongly focused on it becoming a recognised brand and synonymous for high-quality know-how,” says Miguel.
CHEMITOOL products are manufactured according to the highest standards of construction requirements and always in-line with the latest directives and European standards. There are 70,000 different products in its extensive CHEMITOOL fastener range, which includes anchor products, hose clamps, gamma suspension, nuts, rivets and pegs, screws, PVC thread products, washers and brakes, wood thread screws, and much more. From tuning washers to cylindrical pins, the range also includes fasteners from DIN 1 to DIN 82101, with sizes from 1mm x 2mm to M72 x 600mm.
Also available is the CHEMITOOL range of chemical products. This is a high-quality range of products and services in silicones, sealants, glues, chemical resins and polyurethane foams.
“This quality brand we’ve created also enables us to focus on specific markets with high potential such as southern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Africa is a strategic market for several reasons; it’s close to us, has many Portuguese speaking countries, and as a wholesaler we can have a wider range of products to sell,” explains Miguel.
In addition to Africa, southern Europe is also a key target market for LUSAVOUGA. “Portugal and Spain are two of the most competitive markets in Europe and as a Portuguese company, we must remain competitive to supply our domestic market. However, if we can stay competitive in these two markets, we can be competitive across Europe too. We want to be considered as a viable option in Europe – a high-quality, reliable option,” concludes Miguel.
Having joined the magazine in 2012, Claire developed her knowledge of the industry through the numerous company visits, exhibitions and conferences she attended both in the UK and abroad.
Claire prides herself on keeping readers well informed and up to date with the latest industry news.