Cas­ket-mak­ing ven­ture eyed to feed new green busi­ness

Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Vic­tor An­thony V. Silva RE­PORTER

For a busi­ness as straight­for­ward as cas­ket man­u­fac­tur­ing, there are only a lim­ited num­ber of ways to in­no­vate a prod­uct.

Hav­ing run a cas­ket­mak­ing busi­ness for close to two decades now, Maria Lourdes La­torre of Zi­gal­nor Wooden Hand­i­craft ad­mit­ted that the ven­ture had some­how be­come mun­dane.

But the 40-year-old man­ager be­lieves there are still many ways to en­liven the busi­ness for the dead.

“Who knows? Our cas­kets might come with free Wi-Fi soon,” La­torre said in jest.

While that con­cept is still far from hap­pen­ing, Zi­gal­nor is tak­ing lit­tle steps to­ward in­no­va­tion by try­ing to max­i­mize the use of their ma­te­ri­als, par­tic­u­larly wood.

Zi­gal­nor was es­tab­lished in Tal­isay City in 1986 by pas­tor and En­gi­neer Nolan Diaz to ac­com­mo­date dis­placed work­ers in their con­struc­tion busi­ness.

The com­pany spe­cial­izes in wooden hand­i­craft, par­tic­u­larly stan­dard cas­kets.

Bank­ing on the steady de­mand for wooden cas­kets, they even­tu­ally set up a fu­neral par­lor to com­ple­ment the cas­ket-mak­ing busi­ness.

It was in the year 2000 that La­torre started work­ing for the cas­ket maker, af­ter five years of do­ing sta­tis­tics and mar­ket stud­ies for St. Fran­cis Memo­rial Homes.

Scraps to money

La­torre said around five per­cent of their raw ma­te­ri­als end up as “waste,” in­clud­ing scrap wood, cut glass and saw­dust.

She said they used to sell scrap wood at a lesser cost to le­chon (roast suck­ling pig) mak­ers in Tal­isay City.

But now, they are turn­ing these scraps into ta­ble coast­ers and wine hold­ers, which La­torre said she hopes they will be able to re­lease to the mar­ket in the lat­ter part of 2018 or early part of 2019.

Green ad­vo­cate

La­torre has taken up an ad­vo­cacy in en­vi­ron­ment over the last two years af­ter see­ing the flood­ing sit­u­a­tion in Tal­isay City.

“I live in Mam­bal­ing (Cebu City) and when it rains, it floods, and it’s hard for me to go home. These days, you can see trash wher­ever you look and that con­trib­utes to flood­ing,” she said in a mix of Ce­buano and English.

Mak­ing sure all their ma­te­ri­als are put to use is Zi­gal­nor’s own way of help­ing min­i­mize the garbage prob­lem in the grow­ing city, La­torre said.

This was also their way of pre­par­ing for the fu­ture, adding that they might even­tu­ally ven­ture into cre­at­ing pa­per or metal cas­kets and even urns.

La­torre said she plans to launch a cas­ket de­sign­ing con­test open to ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign stu­dents by the end of the year to help them come up with cre­ative takes on the oth­er­wise stan­dard­look­ing cas­kets.

P100K cap­i­tal

Wi t h a c a p i t a l o f P100,000 then, the Diaz fam­ily set up Zi­gal­nor on a 1,600-square me­ter work­shop in Barangay Dum­log, about 1.5 kilo­me­ters from the South Road Prop­er­ties (SRP).

Be­fore La­torre started man­ag­ing the busi­ness, the car­pen­ters only came to work when they felt like it and never re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated the value of em­ploy­ment.

Within two years af­ter she came in, La­torre set up a pro­duc­tion area and hired reg­u­lar em­ploy­ees.

To­day, they have seven reg­u­lar em­ploy­ees in charge of car­pen­try, dress­ing and fin­ish­ing as well as those man­ning the ad­min­is­tra­tive staff.

The man­u­fac­turer is able to pro­duce an av­er­age of 350 wooden cas­kets ev­ery month, which cost P5,000 to P10,000, de­pend­ing on size and de­sign.

More in­tri­cately-de­signed cas­kets, es­pe­cially the ones coated in sil­ver, cost P15,000 each, although La­torre said these do not sell fast.

Zi­gal­nor is the ex­clu­sive sup­plier of cas­kets to St. Fran­cis Memo­rial Homes along N. Ba­calso Av­enue in Cebu City as well as per-or­der ba­sis for fu­neral par­lors in Ne­gros and Mas­bate.

Lu­cra­tive busi­ness

The cas­ket-mak­ing busi­ness and fu­neral homes are both sub­sidiaries un­der Zana Hold­ings, Inc., a hold­ing com­pany with in­ter­est mainly in fu­neral ser­vic­ing, cas­ket man­u­fac­tur­ing, mor­tu­ary sup­plies and equip­ment, memo­rial ser­vices, and any­thing re­lated to the fu­neral in­dus­try.

La­torre said cas­ket mak­ing is a very lu­cra­tive busi­ness, but one has to know how to nav­i­gate the ven­ture for it to grow.

It is es­ti­mated that two peo­ple in the world die ev­ery se­cond and in Cebu City alone, cit­ing data from the city govern­ment, a post on Zi­gal­nor’s web­site said there are 20 dead bod­ies em­balmed ev­ery day.

While more peo­ple are turn­ing to cre­ma­tion and the use of urns, there are still many who go for tra­di­tional burial rites.


Mov­ing for­ward, La­torre said they will build an ex­ten­sion fa­cil­ity on a 3,000sqm lot just a few hun­dred me­ters from their work­shop.

The new fa­cil­ity, which is es­ti­mated to cost around P3 mil­lion and will hope­fully be funded by the De­part­ment of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, will have a router for wood­work­ing, a ta­ble saw, and other nec­es­sary equip­ment for cas­ket man­u­fac­tur­ing.

La­torre added that the ex­ten­sion will also have equip­ment that will be able to pro­duce smaller prod­ucts such as coast­ers, wine hold­ers and small Ja­panese-in­spired ta­bles.

Em­ploy­ees do the fin­ish­ing touches of a cof­fin at the pro­duc­tion area of cas­ket-mak­ing firm, Zi­gal­nor Wooden Hand­i­craft, which is at Barangay Dum­log, Tal­isay City (right).


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