GKD – Gebr. Kufferath AG (GKD) is driving its global growth strategy forward with foundation of a subsidiary in Chile. As the leading international provider of complex solutions based on special woven technical materials, the owner-operated mid-sized company from the German town of Düren near Cologne will be increasing the number of its global subsidiaries to nine with this new venture. GKD LatAm S.A. was founded as a joint venture with the Chilean corporate group Eco Inversiones Limitada. The new production site, based in Santiago de Chile, bundles the many years of experience held by the German parent company in the development, production and commercialisation of filter media, process belts, architectural and design mesh, as well as systems technology for defined solid-liquid filtration markets. With its 70% stake, GKD holds the majority of shares in the joint venture. The new company commenced operations on 1 September 2012.
Since the return of democracy, Chile has become a modern economy that has enjoyed stable growth over the last two decades. The German Chamber of Commerce rates Chile as an important test market for Latin America. Characteristic structures of a free market economy, reliable contracts and a low level of corruption thanks to competitive salaries make the 2,600-mile long country located between the Andes mountains and the
Pacific Ocean a genuine success model for investors. Indeed, the dropping of trade barriers in the so-called Mercosur region, the South American Economic Community, has opened up Latin America’s domestic market to investors with 45% of the population, which equates to 270 million people. Modern ports on the Pacific Ocean and the world’s largest copper deposits are carrying the country’s stable economic growth. Alongside mining, the most important areas of economic activity are focussed on the energy, agricultural and forestry sectors. Chile is also the second largest supplier of cellulose after Finland. In Eco Inversiones Limitada, GKD has found an established partner with a complementary product portfolio that has been successfully operating in three business areas in Chile for many decades.
Successful local operations for 25 years
GKD has been actively represented in Chile since the 1980s. GKD Director Ingo Kufferath was able to gather some valuable overseas experience in the family business here at the start of his career. With the newly founded subsidiary in the country’s capital, which with an estimated eight million residents is the undisputed political and economic centre of Chile, GKD is reinforcing the company’s role in one of Latin America’s most dynamic economies. “Our goal with GKD LatAm is to expand the strong market position we already enjoy in the fields of architecture and process belt meshes, and to drive forward introduction of filter media for demanding applications,” explains Dr. Stephan Kufferath, also a director at GKD.
Architecture as the key impulse
Three major sporting events, which are set to have a significant influence on both the architecture and the infrastructure in Latin America over the course of the next few years, also provided the motivation for this step.
These events are the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 2015 Copa América and the 2016 Olympics, which will obviously require a great deal of construction work. GKD metallic mesh is already setting standards worldwide in the field of stadium architecture thanks to its outstanding aesthetics and multifunctional performance characteristics. Local development and production of both proven and new types of mesh will therefore open up attractive prospects for planners and investors in the upcoming stadium construction work in Latin America. Our long-standing sales partner, Hunter Douglas, will continue to hold exclusive rights for selling the architectural meshes. However, since local operations are now in place, other forms of collaboration, such as joint work to develop new products specifically for the South American market, are now also certainly conceivable.
Building on the leading role in the field of process belts
GKD already plays a leading part in the field of process belt technology in the Chilean market. This position is now set to be expanded even further with synthetic mesh belts for belt presses used in municipal sewage sludge dewatering or fruit juice production, belt filters for the copper industry and press meshes for wood processing. Combining existing skills and experience in the field of mining with the many years of expertise of the Eco Group as partner in the joint venture also promises to provide further impetus.
Tailor-made filtration technology for local markets
GKD LatAm also caters to many local market requirements in the field of filtration technology. Market-specific focuses of this division in Latin America include vertical pressure leaf filter elements, which include re-screenable plate filtration elements for local vegetable oil filtration, filter media for fish processing and high-precision woven solutions for complex processes in the chemical industry’s solid-liquid separation operations.
The latest manufacturing standards now established
GKD LatAm manufactures for all three business areas on its own premises in Santiago de Chile, which are located in close vicinity to the production facilities of the new joint venture partner. A full state-of-the-art manufacturing unit with loom, straightening unit and complete product finishing area operates in the 1,400 square metre production area. Spiral mesh production is also set to be relocated from Spain to Chile in the near future. This successful type of mesh is, for example, used to clad the famous Bernabéu football stadium and the tennis stadium in Madrid. There is also potential to set up an automated production facility for NeverLeak filter plates. Enrique Celedón V will assume general management duties at GKD LatAm. “We will be launching operations here in Chile with ten members of staff, two of whom have already been intensively trained by us in Düren,” reports Ingo Kufferath. The goal is achieve further growth with local staff.
Picture © GKD/Emil Zander
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