SEMCO ‘A’: A MOST UNUSUAL WORKPLACE INTRODUCTION Semco a small business located in an old industrial district in San Paulo Brazil, was started in 1953, by engineer Antonio Curt Semler. By 1950’s Antonio secured a patent for a centrifuge which could separate lubricating oil form vegetables and this was the starting point for Semco. The name Semco is a contraction of ‘Semler and company’. Semco was later joined by three Brazilian partners who provided capital, and were well versed with knowledge of the country. The Brazilian government made public its intentions to spur ship building in the country, with this opportunity, Semco signed partnership agreement with two between pump manufacturers and became a major marine pump supplier. By 1980, sales had been stable at US & 4m.
During this period, his son Semler joined Samco in the purchasing department at the age of 16. At the age of 20, his father transferred to him the majority of semco shares as well as the responsibility to run the business. How Semco’s firm boundaries were continually revised and redefined between the early 1980’s and early 2000s. During early 1980’s recession loomed in Brazil businesses, especially capital-goods industries were battered.
Semco was no an exception. This is the time Ricardo Semler rejoined Semco after graduating from Sao-Paulo’s prestigious stage law school. His father transferred to him the majority of Semco shares as well as the responsibility to run the business. Business from the shipping industry was in complete standstill. Ricardo Semler and Harro Heyede set out to broaden Semco’s product line. They set to expand Semco’s firm boundaries by convincing manufacturers around the world to let Semco manufacture their pumps and mixer in Brazil. Semler decided to avoid dependency on one industry by diversifying away form marine equipment through acquisition.
Semco acquired two businesses from Asea, Brown Boveil and Merck. It required flast which manufactured refrigeration equipment for ships and ventilation systems for marine engine rooms. It also acquired BAC (Baltimore Aircoil), a company that manufactured air-conditioning equipment. This resulted to two new plant and an increase in labour force by 120 people. In 1984, it also acquired the Hobart plant, a Dart and Craft Brazilian business unit that manufactured dish washers, fryers, scaler and slicers.
Semco’s labour force also increased by 150 new staff. When Ricardo Semler took charge of the business in early 1980’s his first action was to remove more than half management team. The old Semco which had traditionally been hierarchical company was to be replaced by new Semco which seemed organized and well disciplined. This is evident from Semler’s words “we could not get our people to perform as we wanted, or to be happy with their job’s” In mid 1980’s Semler started making unusual decisions concerning management. He started to experiment with unusual decisions such as eliminating the company dress code and the end-of-day security searchers.
He also revoked parking privileges for management and eliminated executive dining rooms. This did not go well with member of management that were used to the old traditional Semco and hence, they left.