Casket-making venture eyed to feed new green business
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.
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.
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.
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).