By Sharad Matade:
Control over procurement of raw materials, production and delivery of its products, enables Fremaxto maintain quality of its products and ensure customer satisfaction.
“We sell what we manufacture. Today many of our competitors outsource most of their parts or even the whole product, but we control the entire business. We have our own foundry, tooling, manufacturing lines, packing, shipment, storage, distribution, and sales,” Carlos André Birckholz, Chief Executive Officer,Fremax, told AutoParts Asia.
Fremax, started in 1990, initially focused on the domestic aftermarket for brake discs and drums. Today the company is the largest Latin-American manufacturer of brake rotors for passenger cars and commercial vehicles, focusing on replacement braking products for automotive equipment manufacturers and the aftermarket, claims Birckholz.
The Fremax manufacturing unit in Joinville, in Santa Catarina State, South of Brazil, produces five million discs and brake drums annually. “Our product portfolio is made up of over 1700 part numbers for 60,000 different applications,” Birckholz said.
The main challenge in the brake discs and drums production is reduction of noise and weight, and increase in safety and comfort. “Our product development is mainly focusing on achieving noise reduction, better safety and comfort during braking. Apart from this, weight reduction has been the growing demand of OEMs,” he said.
During braking, the kinetic energy is converted to thermal energy and the performance of the brakes is based on the amount of the dissipation of heat generated in the process. “When heat is dissipated, the brakes perform better. Generally, brakes fail due to excess temperature. However, the Fremax drums and discs come with a higher content of carbon which make them withstand even high temperatures,” Birckholz explained.
The company has developed a unique technology to manufacture brake discs and drums to meet the customers’ and regulatory requirements. Its Carbon+ technology was developed for high performance applications like car racing which demand brakes that can withstand high temperatures. Apart from optimal thermal conductivity, higher carbon content in the discs prevents brake judder, reduces braking noise, increases resistance to distortion and thermal cracking, which improves braking safety and overall performance.
According to Birckholz, the main challenge in making rotors with higher carbon content is to maintain mechanical properties. “We manage the higher content of carbon without losing mechanical properties. We were able to increase carbon content to 3.6 – 3.8 percent in rotors”, he said. However, excess content of carbon leads to loss of mechanical properties.
The Fremax discs come with a protective oil that does not need to be cleaned before use. The mechanic has only to install them and use. The finishing of the braking surfaces with concentric grooves provides better and faster bedding. “It will also prevent noise or vibration after brake service, eliminating the need to return to the garage for further adjustments,” Birckholz said.
Fremax has been the official and exclusive supplier of Stock Car Brazil and Porsche Cup Brazil where its products are tested to the limits. “The sponsorship of such events does not only enhance the brand, but enforces the image of the quality of our products. In the GT 3, a Brazilian racing event, made in Germany brake disc rotors were replaced by Fremax discs as they found ours had better quality than the Germans. Such big events are open labs for us. They are not only for marketing, but also to check our product quality in real conditions,” he said.
Fremax supplies to OEMs such as Renault, GM, Mitsubishi and Suzuki in Brazil. It has been exporting its discs and drums since three decades. The company started its export business with the South American market and then focused on Europe. Today, Fremax has a warehouse in Holland and another in Argentina. Apart
from this, it also exports to North America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
It has started focusing on the Middle East market. “The company has been doing business in Dubai since three years. We look at the Middle East region as a potential market for our future growth. Though the aftermarket there is flooded with cheap Chinese products, there is still big scope for the premium products,” Birckholz said.
To get closer to the market, Fremax is launching Arabic versions of its website, brochures and catalogues. “The market should understand what we offer and vice-versa,” he said.However, the company does not have any plan to enter the other Asian markets, though it had tried to do business in China. The company also does not plan to supply discs and drums to the OEMs in the Middle East region. “Dealing with OE players in the Middle East will be much more complicated. To be a partner, we have to have direct presence in the market as OEMs expect continuous support from their suppliers, from the product development stage,” Birckholz said.
Growing usage of the electronic braking system does not drive technology or product development in discs and drums business. “The technical advancements in electric devices supporting the driver in braking system do not impact our products. The electric advancements interfere in the way the driver handles the car. We do rotors, not the whole system. ABS or EBD does not impact rotors but it impacts how the driver hits the brakes,” he said.
Fremax has a flexible production line that enables it to take up even small orders. Cost reduction remains the main challenge, and the optimisation of production is the key answer for that, Birckholz said.