LAPP Panamá is located in a customs-free trade zone called Panamá Pacífico, very close to Panama City, the Panama Canal and the most important ports. “We chose this location because it’s ideal from a geographical and logistical point of view for tapping into markets and serving customers throughout Central and South America. You can fly to almost all the countries in the region and return on the same day”, explains Wolfgang Schulte, Managing Director of LAPP Panamá.
With the exception of Brazil and Mexico, where LAPP has its own national subsidiaries, turnover in Central and South America was previously generated exclusively through regional sales partners. Orders were processed via Stuttgart, which meant delivery times of several weeks. To be successful in the long term, LAPP needed to be closer to the markets and customers. Initially, in 2011 the LAPP Latin America Support Corporation was founded in Panama with three employees. The aim wasn’t to sell, but rather to support, train and mentor all local partners in technical and marketing issues and thus improve their understanding of LAPP’s product range. All sales and product deliveries continued to be made from Stuttgart.
The next step was taken in June 2017. LAPP Panamá started with its own 1,300 square metre warehouse and 250 square metre office space. From there, marketing and sales, logistics, procurement and customer service are managed. LAPP Panamá employs 14 people, including one sales representative in Guatemala. Having an own warehouse has meant that delivery times for customers in Central America have been drastically reduced. Nevertheless, it was a difficult start. Schulte said, “We started with just 13 customers in just as many countries. But they were all long-standing sales partners. Initially, we had very little knowledge about the areas of application and the end users’ needs and had no direct contacts. LAPP as a brand was barely known and invisible in the increasingly important digital environment.” The overall strategy was to broaden the customer base and make it easier for potential customers to find LAPP products. To achieve this, LAPP Panamá has launched a comprehensive digital marketing campaign throughout the entire region. And it’s been a great success: the team in Panama now looks after more than 130 customers in 19 countries, with almost 4,000 followers on social media. All the marketing messages are accompanied by the slogan “EL MÉTODO LAPP”, the LAPP method. This is how LAPP works, the quality, reliability, innovative power – everything that LAPP stands for.
Despite the pandemic, LAPP Panamá is now heading for strong growth. This has been a great success, as the markets in Central America aren’t that easy to gain access to. The formal requirements for import documentation are very complex and vary from country to country. There’s also plenty of social unrest and a lot of strikes in the region. Visits to customers, for example in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, are not entirely safe.
Nonetheless, LAPP Panamá has some impressive success stories. For example, they supplied 200 km of an underwater rubber cable for a huge shrimp farm in Ecuador to connect the ventilation pumps there. The Panama Channel Authority ordered a special hybrid cable for a dredge ship, and it was specially developed and built for this purpose at LAPP Muller. A customised power chain was also fully assembled for a sewage treatment plant in Panama, which was planned and built by a Brazilian company.