World converges on Hufcor for Janesville conference

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011
— The culture and business climate of Brazil are as different from those in China, Canada, Finland and Australia as they are from the United States, Mexico, Germany, France, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.

But representatives of the 11 countries are uncovering common ground this week in Janesville, and it’s not a high-level summit of world leaders.

Instead, it’s a gathering of global Hufcor manufacturers and licensees at the company’s world headquarters in Janesville.

Hufcor’s wall systems are sold in nearly every country in the world. Since its founding in 1900, the company has completed installations at hundreds of convention centers and thousands of hotels.

The international conference gathers manufacturers and designers to share best practices, particularly as they relate to the lean manufacturing of Hufcor’s operable partitions and walls.

Lean manufacturing is a concept designed to eliminate waste and production costs that don’t provide value to customers. Typically, its goal is to improve efficiency, decrease waste and to use empirical methods—not pre-conceived ideas—to decide what really matters.

“This is really about the technical aspect of the business,” said Jim Landherr, Hufcor’s president. “We do another one in the fall that focuses more on the business side of Hufcor, the sales, branding and visioning for the company.”

Nearly 30 people from around the world are in Janesville this week. While some represent Hufcor subsidiaries, others represent Hufcor licensees—independently owned and operated companies that make and sell Hufcor products and then pay royalties to the company.

“Each of us controls our own markets, but this gives us a chance to learn what’s going on in Australia, Brazil, Canada and other places,” said Yves Bozellec, president of Algaflex, a Hufcor licensee in Voiron, France.

“It is a very rich experience.”

Bozellec, for example, was intrigued to learn about heavy–lifting equipment from Oliver Mitrovski of Hufcor Australia

“There’s a tremendous amount of sharing going on, and it’s invaluable to me,” Mitrovski said. “Lean manufacturing comes down to a basic set of tools that we all have to master.”

Jeff Kober, Hufcor’s plant manager in Janesville, said that while his plant might be farther down the lean manufacturing path than others in the Hufcor family, all are working toward the same goals.

“People are learning that they may do things differently than Australia does or Janesville does, and that’s OK,” he said. “The key is that whatever we’re doing, we get the people on the floor to buy into it, because once they do, we’re all better off.”

Gary Southern, Hufcor’s director of design and engineering in Janesville, said the conference is a two-way street. It’s not about Janesville telling the others how things must be done.

Southern, for example, was happy to learn about an electric seal mechanism Bozellec is using in France.

“He got me the info on it—the suppliers—and it’s something we’ll look at,” Southern said. “This is all about building relationships.”

Rafael Brochier Cardoso, director of sales and marketing for Wall System in Brazil, agreed.

He was in Janesville with his father, Ivonir de Mello Cardoso, and Ralf Lisboa Daudt-Arquiteto to represent Wall System, Hufcor’s “youngest” licensee.

The company recently won a large contract in Brazil that will funnel more than $1 million in work to the Janesville plant, which employs about 235 people. While here, the three got a chance to check on the production of panels that will fill 24 ocean containers.

‘This is truly about networking and sharing ideas, ideologies, technologies and even secrets,” the younger Cardosa said. “It speeds up projects, and our competition can’t do that.

“I know things are different in France than they are in Brazil, but we can pick up things and adapt them to the Brazilian market.

“We are so happy to be a part of the Hufcor family.”

Last updated: 5:11 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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