Today, we visited ESCO's plant just outside of Belo Horizonte, where we were joined by CEO Cal Collins and Senior Vice President (and Alliance board member) Jon Owens. ESCO has plants in this region, as well as Northern Brazil, both mining center. ESCO manufactures engineered "wear parts" for mining equipment, those big buckets and diggers at the end of excavation machines. Some are huge.
Their strategy is to locate near their customers, which means they are near mining centers, like Minas Gerais, the state that includes Belo Horizonte. They are in most of the global mining centers, on six continents and 21 countries. ESCO was founded in NW Portland in 1913 and in the last couple of decades they have grown into a major global company.
Brazil exemplifies their strategy. They entered the country in 2007 through a joint venture, and then bought 100 percent of the operations in 2009. They have brought their "lean" manufacturing model and continuous improvement practices to Brazil, and now the plants here are are among the best performing in the company. They have also innovated a practice in Northern Brazil of embedding a team with their customers in the field where mining operations are occurring to make repairs more efficient. Their philosophy: they sell solutions, not just parts. As a result, their market share has grown.
ESCO has more than 500 employees, including 350 in Belo Horinzonte. The workforce is young, with an average age of 33. The plant is run by a Brazilian recruited from one of their mining companies, and the entire team clearly loves working for this great Oregon company.
That was the end of our working tour. Tomorrow: we are off to Ouro Preto, a historic UNESCO site, then to Rio for a couple of days of fun!