The “perfect fit”between past and future

High quality bearings, reliable service, comprehensive range and stock proximity have been the key factors of success for PFI Bearings, the USA based bearing company that foresees a brighter and fast-growing future following its acquisition by Fersa Group, the European multinational experts in bearing technology. Several months after the acquisition, we are interviewing Felipe Martin, PFI Group’s General Manager, to discuss the evolution of the integration process and the challenges ahead.

The “Perfect Fit” Between Past And Future

PFI Group, Inc., whose acronym comes from “Perfect Fit Industries”, has been in the bearing business for close to 30 years, during which it has evolved into the current dynamic multinational with a prolific global footprint that we know today. In the words of PFI’s founder and former CEO, John P. Cali, “FersaGroup is an excellent partner that will undoubtedly maximise PFI’s potential, and FelipeMartin has all the necessary skills to see this massive task through.” Felipe has been  with Fersa Bearings for over 14 years. In that time he undertook different leadership roles such as, setting up and running the Fersa Brazil subsidiary for 6 years and launching the A&S after-market brand for FersaGroup in 2018.

His experience and business acumen have earned him this exciting new challenge, as well as the responsibility of taking PFI Bearings further into the future, while continuing to deliver solid financial results.

How is the integration process going so far, any obstacles along the way?

As you can imagine, no integration process is exempt from complexity, but overall for PFI, the process has run smoothly from the very beginning.

Apart from John Cali’s outstanding support, I can identify three other key success factors for the integration process: FersaGroup’s strategy for PFI, the PFI team and the unwavering assistance we got from Rami Chirila, PFI’s Global Sales Director for the last 6 years and a former Fersa staff member.

From the start, FersaGroup strategy was aimed at boosting PFI’s growth, keeping its identity and autonomy in commercial and operational activities, whilst making the most of group synergies. As per the team, we share many corporate values, such as the passion and commitment to ensure the best customer experience and the versatility to quickly take on new challenges. PFI has an extensive network of nine subsidiaries in Latin America, Europe and Australia, but despite the cultural diversity of PFI’s multinational team, they have been very open and supportive during these decisive first months.

Last but not least, Rami’s commitment during all the process was instrumental, helping to bridge the gap between the two companies, since she was able to blend the best of both cultures. She had previously undertaken several senior positions in Fersa Sales for over 14 years as a top performer, successfully developing OEM, key accounts and running the Private Label division.

What impact do you think the acquisition will have for PFI, both in the short and long term?

Since we recognise PFI’s admirable job so far, our goal has been to keep the current state-of-affairs, including commercial strategy, sales policies, and agreements. As a customer-centric company, we want to convey a clear message to our customers: PFI is an asset for FersaGroup, with a distinct voice in the marketplace.

We appreciate our current value proposition based mainly on reliable quality, comprehensive product range and stock proximity. We want to continue to build on this foundation. Moving forward, there are many operational synergies that PFI customers can benefit from. FersaGroup brings a series of very appealing competencies to the table, such as OE expertise, advanced digitalisation practices, technical innovation, industrial IoT and 4.0 production technology and so much more! Needless to say, this can impact PFI’s evolution in a very positive way, setting the organic growth process on the fast track!

How do you envision PFI moving forward, any significant strategic changes around the corner?

Service is at the heart of PFI’s current strategy, and our vision is to continue to enhance this competitive edge by  increasing the number of PFI subsidiaries around the world. We want to bring the product closer to the customer, reducing all the hassle of importing procedures and simplifying the buying process. We believe there is real added value in that, and for our next subsidiaries, we have a few interesting markets in the pipeline. We also plan on increasing capacity for already existing subsidiaries, as is the case for PFI Mexico, located in Zapopán, Guadalajara. There we have just moved into a new building that triples current storage space and future-proofs our growth initiatives in the Mexican market. On the other hand, we want to continue to expand the product range, keeping it up to date with the latest customer requirements and market trends, such as vehicle electrification and smart mobility.

What about FersaGroup, how does PFI reinforce FersaGroup’s value proposition?

Like I mentioned, PFI is an asset for FersaGroup and it is a “perfect fit” to the current brand portfolio that includes brands for the OEM segment, such as Fersa – specialised in heavy duty automotive, and NKE – specialised in wind, energy, railway and industrial applications. Whereas for the aftermarket segment, A&S is our private brand, dedicated to exclusive master importers.

This multi-brand approach benefits from the addition of a player such as PFI,with a sound reputation in the MRO, the light-duty automotive and agricultural segments. With a worldwide capillary distribution network that streamlines product delivery and reinforces local support and customer service for all brands.

Any other insights from these first months of transition?

Specialty literature points out that after an acquisition, the first thing to do is address the culture upfront, in order to reorientate the organisation around such values like collaboration, accountability and bottom-line value. I personally found it very rewarding to see that we had very little work to do in this regard, because all these values already resonated with PFI’s corporate culture. Moreover, we will continue to generate significant value by nurturing what makes PFI unique and successful. Our relationship is based on the mutual recognition of each other’s strengths, and there is a host of growth opportunities ahead for PFI, under the FersaGroup umbrella.

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