A business marked by mutual trust and friendship
By Elizabeth Vrdoljak
edited and translated by Carmen Maldacena, EW Correspondent
For many years, SOIMET – Sociedad Industrial Metalúrgica (Metallurgical Industrial Society) – occupied a seat of honor in the elevator automatic-door and hydraulic-equipment market in Argentina. Even today, many people throughout the global vertical-transportation industry identify the company by its original name.
Automatic Doors, Manual Business
In 1969, two young friends Nicolás Vrdoljak and Walter González founded Soimet, a small company that manufactured dies for the automotive industry. They expanded their business to produce parts for other customers, but they were not satisfied. They wanted to innovate. So, to widen their scope, they decided to focus on elevators.
They traveled to Italy in 1978 to visit several automatic-door manufacturers. They signed an exclusive agreement to distribute products, in Argentina, manufactured by Selcom Parma, a brand-new company under the direction of Horst Wittur, Rose Marie Wittur, Hans Opl, Luciano Franceschi, Luciano Sorio and Sandro Marchiori. Soimet imported complete elevator doors from Italy until 1980, when it received an exclusive license to import car- and landing-door operators, while the door panels and frames were manufactured locally.
This long-term commercial relationship, based on mutual trust, was reinforced by Soimet’s directors’ regular visits to Europe to learn about the latest quality standards and attend elevator shows. Later, it was decided that all transactions would be conducted through Selcom Zaragoza, Spain, directed by David Gallego. Apart from business matters, a deep friendship developed between Gallego, Vrdoljak and González, which sadly ended when Gallego passed away some time ago.
Hydraulic Equipment, Martini’s Support
In 1985, at Luciano Sorio’s recommendation, Soimet interviewed Angelo Martini, GMV-Martini’s owner in Italy, and obtained the exclusive distribution rights for its hydraulic equipment. At first, jacks and power units were imported from Italy.
Martini’s visit to Buenos Aires was crucial in developing and improving hydraulic elevators in Argentina. Soimet’s partners have not forgotten his help and support with regard to his generous payment conditions. This attitude allowed Soimet to purchase a large and diverse stock of hydraulic components to start business. Later, the Argentine company imported the pistons, but purchased, cut and assembled the cylinders locally to reduce cost and speed up delivery.
Soimet’s goals were to sell good-quality products, like those offered in Europe, on the local market, and to quickly meet customers’ needs while providing excellent service. To this end, the industrial premises were enlarged and furnished with cutting-edge machinery, such as Japanese folding and punching machines and modern assembly lines. A robotized painting tunnel, similar to the system used by the Wittur Group, was installed at Soimet’s to paint its doors with epoxy powder paint.
A well-trained engineering department was organized to provide technical solutions to elevator professionals, architects and building companies. Progressively, a special department was added to design and manufacture cars and other components so that the customer could purchase from an assortment of components to complete electric or hydraulic elevators.
In 2000, the Wittur Group decided to increase its presence in other markets. Gallego informed Vrdoljak of the company’s intention to acquire part of Soimet. It was not an easy decision, but both Vrdoljak and González’s families finally agreed on the sale of 60% of the capital shares, establishing a purchase option in favor of Wittur in case it decided to acquire the remaining shares. In 2007, Wittur used that option and bought the whole business, and Soimet changed its name to Wittur SA.
One Company, One Team
The partners’ activities were always clearly defined. Vrdoljak was responsible for commercial and administrative issues, and González was in charge of production and technical developments.
The role played by the second generation, Adrián and Hernán González and your author, was also important. However, all agree the company was successful thanks to the effort and commitment of the excellent personnel that made up the Soimet team.
Editor’s note: Soimet, led for many years by Nicolás Vrdoljak and his dear friend and partner Walter González, is remembered as a model company in the Argentine elevator industry due to its technology, organization and commercial reliability. Its name went beyond the country’s borders and was successful abroad.