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Exportadora São Francisco

Anchoring Excellence: Gustavo Heleno on Leading Exportadora São Francisco in the Maritime Supply Industry

Explore an engaging discussion with Gustavo Heleno, the Commercial Director of Exportadora São Francisco, as he shares his insights on guiding the company through the evolving maritime supply industry. Since its inception in 1990, Exportadora São Francisco has transformed from a pioneering family business into a key player in the market. Gustavo elaborates on the company’s strategic innovations, sustainability practices, and dedication to customer satisfaction. Learn how Exportadora São Francisco continues to adapt and thrive in the dynamic global shipping supplies market under Gustavo’s leadership.


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Company Evolution: Exportadora São Francisco has been a key player since 1990. How has the company’s approach to the maritime supply industry evolved over the years?


Since our inception in 1990, our approach to the maritime supply industry has undergone significant evolution. At the time, my father, Iran Machado Heleno, the company’s founder, was the sole employee and a pioneer in this market in our region. He personally visited the port of São Francisco do Sul and engaged directly with the captains of the vessels to gain a deeper understanding of their immediate needs. As the market and our company grew, our approach also evolved to adapt to the changes. With the advent of new technologies and market expansion, we are better positioned to anticipate vessel needs. We leverage technology to track vessel arrival schedules and establish strategic partnerships with a diverse range of stakeholders, including captains, fleet managers, shipowners, and catering companies. These partnerships enable us to offer a more comprehensive and efficient service to our clients. Additionally, we have invested in internal systems and processes to improve operational efficiency and ensure that we can meet our customers’ demands in a timely and effective manner.


Product Range Expansion: With a diverse product range from food items to chemical products, what strategies do you use to maintain quality across such varied offerings?


Due to the diverse range of goods on offer, it is necessary to implement a strategy to ensure that customers receive the goods they have ordered. To this end, we have established a categorisation strategy for buyers according to the type of goods, with each buyer responsible for a specific category. This includes buyers for frozen and chilled products, provisions and their quality, chemicals and spare parts, and other categories. Furthermore, with a specific buyer for each type of merchandise, we can ensure that the goods arrive as requested and within legal criteria. Additionally, upon arrival at the company, a check and separation of edible from non-edible items are performed to prevent any risk of contamination. Moreover, the quality and inventory departments monitor and record any non-conformities for evaluation and the creation of corrective actions to ensure continuous improvement. We are committed to ensuring that each item of merchandise is delivered as requested and meets customer expectations, while adhering to all legal standards.

Sustainability Initiatives: Given the wide array of products, including chemicals and gases, what sustainability practices does Exportadora São Francisco implement to minimise environmental impact?

At Exportadora São Francisco, we are committed to adopting sustainable practices to minimise our environmental impact and promote environmental responsibility in our operations. One of the most significant initiatives we have implemented is the installation of solar panels at our warehouse. These solar panels provide a reliable source of renewable and clean energy, reducing our dependence on non-renewable energy sources and contributing to the reduction of our carbon footprint.

In addition to our efforts to reduce the use of disposable plastic, we have also committed to the IMPA SAVE initiative. Through this collaboration, we have pledged to phase out disposable plastic water bottles on global fleets by 2025. This measure aims to reduce plastic waste and promote more sustainable practices in our industry. Additionally, we collaborate with a network of partners specialised in collecting and properly disposing of a variety of materials, from recyclables to electronic waste. This partnership ensures that materials discarded during our operations are managed responsibly and in an environmentally conscious manner. We also encourage all of our staff to implement this initiative in their homes and help us put it into practice.


Supply Chain Management: How does Exportadora São Francisco ensure efficient supply chain management to meet client demands promptly?


Our current structure allows us to process orders in a clear and efficient manner, ensuring that our customers receive the best possible service. However, maintaining good relationships and effective communication with suppliers from the initial quotation stage to the purchase order is crucial for us to meet our customers’ expectations regarding the delivery of goods. From the moment of the purchase order, we purchase the goods according to each client’s needs to meet each requirement.


Furthermore, within supply chain management, different aspects of the merchandise are evaluated to ensure they arrive in the best possible condition for the customer. This includes factors such as delivery time, packaging, temperature, visual appearance, validity, and storage conditions. Therefore, the inventory and logistics departments work to ensure that goods are checked, packaged, and handled correctly to achieve the ultimate goal. Consequently, we fulfil our company’s mission, which is to “deliver the best quality to our customers, without neglecting ethics, punctuality, and transparency, always seeking the satisfaction of all.


Innovation in Operations: What innovations have been significant in shaping Exportadora São Francisco’s operational processes?


We have implemented several significant innovations to enhance our operational processes at Exportadora São Francisco. Firstly, we have invested in advanced software systems, such as CRM and ERP, to optimise the efficiency and accuracy of our operations. These tools have allowed us to effectively address bottlenecks in our processes, especially in transitioning information between different departments. Now, with an integrated process management system, we can access and address relevant information in real-time, streamlining our operations.


Furthermore, we recognise the importance of ensuring continuous quality and efficiency in our processes. To this end, we have established a department dedicated to quality assurance and efficiency, responsible for standardising and closely monitoring compliance with established processes. This has not only allowed us to standardise our operational practices but also helped us identify areas for continuous improvement and take proactive measures to further optimise our processes.


In summary, these innovations have been instrumental in enhancing our operational effectiveness and enabling us to effectively meet the evolving demands of our customers while maintaining our agility and adaptability in response to market changes.

Market Adaptation: How has Exportadora São Francisco adapted its business model to stay competitive in the dynamic global shipping supplies market?


Our company has adopted a proactive approach to remain competitive in the ship supply market. One of the main strategies is the diversification of our product portfolio. We understand that ships have crews from different parts of the world, so to better serve them, we include local products from different cultures in our offerings. These include a variety of masalas, which are widely consumed by Indian crews, and halal meats, often requested by Muslim crews. This approach not only benefits us by allowing us to fulfil the client’s order in full but also helps crew members feel closer to home, even from a distance. We bring not only healthy food but also well-being at work at sea.


Another area where we excel is in customer service. We always seek to understand the needs of each client during the quotation process and offer personalised solutions that not only solve their problems but also add value to their businesses. Finally, it was crucial to expand our port coverage to enhance our flexibility in responding to unexpected changes in vessel schedules and to strengthen our competitiveness in the market.


Customer Relationship Management: Can you discuss your approach to building and maintaining strong relationships with your diverse customer base?


Our approach is highly personalised and tailored to the specific needs of each client. For clients with whom we already have an established relationship, our approach is based on mutual trust and a deep understanding of their operations, needs, and requirements. Conversely, when engaging with new clients, our approach is more proactive and customer-focused. We invest time in researching and fully understanding the clients’ companies, their needs, and specific challenges before any contact is made. This preparation allows us to offer tailored solutions that meet their needs and add value to their business from the outset.


We believe that negotiation is a two-way street, where it is essential to understand the customer’s needs and expectations and provide solutions that add value and resolve their pain points. Our goal is not only to satisfy but to exceed our clients’ expectations in every interaction. To achieve this, we are committed to providing exceptional services, high-quality products, and personalised support to ensure that our clients feel valued, respected, and satisfied in all aspects of our relationship.


Challenges in the Industry: What are the current challenges facing the general ship supply industry, and how is Exportadora São Francisco addressing these?


One of the main challenges facing the ship supply industry is the diversity of standards and regulations at different ports and port terminals throughout Brazil. The disparities between the operational requirements of each region can significantly complicate service provision for suppliers, making it difficult to implement standardised and efficient processes. Despite these challenges, at Exportadora São Francisco, we are committed to finding solutions to overcome these complexities, ensuring that our clients receive high-quality service, regardless of their location, whether at sea or anchored.


Furthermore, currency volatility and price inflation in Brazil present another significant challenge to our industry. To mitigate these risks, we have adopted proactive risk management strategies and are always vigilant about market conditions, seeking ways to protect our company and clients against the adverse impacts of these fluctuations.


In summary, although we face significant challenges in our industry, at Exportadora São Francisco, we are committed to overcoming them through a proactive, flexible, and customer-centric approach. We will continue to seek opportunities for improvement and innovation to ensure that we can meet the ever-evolving needs of our clients and remain competitive in a dynamic and challenging business environment.

Future Goals: What long-term goals does Exportadora São Francisco have, and how do you plan to achieve them?


As with all companies, our objective is to grow our revenue and, in particular, our margin. This is challenging in a competitive market, particularly when we wish to maintain our well-known quality and values. Until the end of the year, our goals include increasing our cold room space (tripling the number of pallets we can store), expanding our fleet of trucks, and obtaining ISO 9001 and HACCP certification. We believe that achieving this will help us maintain our revenue growth year on year.


For our HR department, we have set some goals to improve our organisational atmosphere, including offering more benefits to our employees and implementing new processes to reduce rework and stressful situations in our line of work. We are also looking to minimise turnover.


Leadership Insights: As Commercial Director, what key insights have you gained about leading in the maritime supply sector, and what advice would you offer to others in the industry?


The opportunity to assume a position of such responsibility has enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of the maritime industry as a whole, while also allowing me to leverage my experience in a meaningful way. I am a curious individual, always seeking new and improved ways of doing things. I am continuously exploring new opportunities to enhance our processes, and we embrace the testing and changing of processes as a means of improving ourselves and maximising our capacity for work.


During my university studies, I was repeatedly informed that networking is one of the most important skills in the job market. I have since come to realise that this is indeed true, as it is the fastest way to learn and understand the ecosystem in which you are inserted. Talking to people with different backgrounds helps me develop new ideas. Therefore, I would like to share my advice with everyone: meet new people and talk with everybody, not just someone that you already have an affinity with. Even someone from a completely different field can provide a fresh perspective on your challenges. I have learned to be a more communicative individual over time, which has been a significant accomplishment in my professional journey.