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Executive Interview

Executive Interview with Roberto Malagon, President, Remsa of America

North American brake pad manufacturer Remsa was originally founded in 1970 in Pamplona, Spain, by three independent business men. By 1981, production had reached 1 million sets, starting several expansion phases including the launch of the North American group in 1992. Remsa was acquired by Lucas Varity in 1998 which soon became TRW Automotive. Shortly thereafter, TRW began building a new manufacturing facility in Monterrey, Mexico, which now serves the Americas. Today, Remsa is part of the Friction Materials Group of TRW Automotive. Join us as Roberto Malagon, president of Remsa of America, tells us more about this under-the-radar brake pad supplier.

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BROADVIEW, IL — North American brake pad manufacturer Remsa was originally founded in 1970 in Pamplona, Spain, by three independent business men. By 1981, production had reached 1 million sets, starting several expansion phases including the launch of the North American group in 1992. Remsa was acquired by Lucas Varity in 1998 which soon became TRW Automotive. Shortly thereafter, TRW began building a new manufacturing facility in Monterrey, Mexico, which now serves the Americas. Today, Remsa is part of the Friction Materials Group of TRW Automotive.

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Join us as Roberto Malagon, president of Remsa of America, tells us more about this under-the-radar brake pad supplier.

REMSA is probably not a well-known brand name in North America to technicians, but they are familiar with your private-label products. Can you tell me about some of your private label customers? Also, how does Remsa plan to grow its own brand?

Today, approximately 85 percent of our production is sold under private label. Remsa has established an excellent supply arrangement in several market segments including retail, co-man and WD’s. These customers have their distribution systems and rely on our service, quality and expertise in providing a strong brake pad program.

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In the Remsa-branded area, we have signed with 10 very reputable sales agencies to cover the breadth of the U.S. market. These agencies have more than 40 sales agents carrying the Remsa program to aftermarket customers. This, combined with the advertising being conducted in the trade magazines, is expanding the Remsa presence. The Remsa-branded program is targeted to the professional installer who is intent on providing complete brake service and installing OE-style replacement pads.

Remsa only supplies to the aftermarket in North America, what are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach when it comes to brake pads?

Remsa has been very active in keeping abreast of the latest improvements in brake pad designs and new vehicle requirements. Our R&D division is constantly studying new product ideas as well as new manufacturing techniques to keep our product current with market demands. Our customers depend on our expertise to keep them current with their customer needs. As a testament to our progress, some of our volume this year is going to support some OES accounts in North America.

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When compared to others players in the brake pad market, Remsa’s annual production of 19 million pad sets is impressive, and even more impressive when you consider this is strictly pads manufactured for the aftermarket. What are your plans for growth over the next few years?

Remsa’s increasing capacity to produce brake pads places us with the top manufacturers in the global market. It is very important in today’s financial climate to be able to control as many aspects of your business as you can. Our growth plans will be directed to areas of the market that clearly fit our manufacturing strengths as well as complement our current customer base. With our global presence, we can utilize the economic advantages in each of our locations to develop very strong and competitive programs to grow both our private brand and Remsa-branded volumes.

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In terms of an integrated supply chain, Remsa manufacturers most of its own backing plates and shims, how does this allow the company to be more agile in terms of pricing and bringing new applications to market faster?

As an integrated manufacturer, we have the ability to control our own destiny with regards to our finished product. We have developed our backing plates to match precisely with insulator shim designs for maximum noise control. Our engineers are continually working with various manufacturers of shim material to improve the noise control capabilities, retention to the plate and control costs. The end result is a very-high quality grade of brake pad that clearly performs at the same level as the OE designs.

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Remsa services many global markets. The proliferation of new number designs in the U.S. market is considerable with today’s new vehicles, but combined with those of the other global markets that we service, the new number tooling demand can be overwhelming. Remsa produces the majority of the tooling requirements in house in order to accommodate these demands, we work with a number of qualified outside suppliers to determine which items can be developed within an acceptable time frame. The balance of the designs is then developed internally.

Engineering brake pads for the aftermarket is difficult in terms of standards. What governmental standards or third-party certifications does Remsa manufacture to?

The performance of fit and function is the first priority for any manufacturer. Our engineering and manufacturing staffs are driven by extremely high standards of design quality that parallels and sometimes exceeds that of the OE parts. In Europe, each part number must be certified to the R90 standards established. Many of the numbers sold in the North American market are certified by the R90 parameters. All Remsa plants are ISO9000 certified. Remsa pads have also been tested and certified by independent test labs as required by some of the private label customers. These tests are extremely beneficial to verify the consistency in the manufacturing processes and insure that our products continue to be at the peak performance.

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How many plants does Remsa operate and in what countries?

Remsa currently operates seven manufacturing facilities in Spain and one facility in North America. The headquarters for the Americas as well as the master distribution center is located in the Chicago area.

What is the extent of Remsa’s coverage for domestic vehicles?

Remsa’s initial entry into the North American Market in 1991 was primarily in the import vehicle market. The successes of this effort lead to expanding into domestic vehicle coverage in 1995. Today, Remsa offers one of the widest ranges of coverage in the aftermarket. We have taken the approach to offer the right OE replacement pad for each application to assist the installer in minimizing the number of product grades on his shelf.

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Are there any extra manufacturing processes that Remsa uses that other manufacturers do not?

In the completion of our premium linings, we have added a thermal curing procedure that enables the pad to provide effective braking performance right out of the box. Installers are still encouraged to conduct test drives after brake service, however, the brakes will have better pedal feel and better initial braking.

Your company has been expanding its integrally molded lines. What are the advantages in terms of product quality and manufacturability?

Remsa only produces integrally molded pad designs. We eliminated the riveted assembly lines several years ago in favor of the preferred, stronger designs afforded by integrally molding. By upgrading all designs to the integrally molded format, we now provide our customers with the highest quality pad design. Our automation continues to grow with the expansion of the positive molding process in which the assembly molding machine performs all of the molding processes.

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Quality control is a big issue with brake pads. What type of testing does Remsa engage in during production?

Each manufacturing facility has a laboratory equipped with the state of the industry test apparatus including at least one dynamometer test platform running performance testing 24/7. Remsa makes the effort in keeping constant watch on the materials and processes, which enables us to control the product quality and deliver the performance expected by Remsa customers. Extensive quality checks are made throughout the day to verify the product integrity. Quality must be guaranteed with the Remsa product.

Interview conducted by Andrew Markel, Editor of Brake & Front End magazine, a sister publication to aftermarketNews.

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