Pursuing supremacy of global markets
An investment of 20 million euros for the new site of the Emilia-based company that has re-launched its commitment to international markets, where 84% of its 20,000 tyre changers and wheel balancers last year produced revenues of over 37 million euros, 60% higher than in 2009
by Mino de Rigo
“In the group’s strategic picture, which on the one hand is synonymous with diagnostic equipment, whereas on the other hand it is the main player in the brake system sector” – Patat emphasized – “the acquisition of Sicam meant the completion of the range of tools for servicing and repairing the entire wheel assembly, and another strong investment was the logical consequence pursued in accordance with our plans, despite the recession”.
Small companies are growing thanks to specialization and accelerated international capability. Which is what took the Emilia-based company Sicam into the orbit of the Bosch group and turned it into a specialized centre of strategic importance for the German group’s automotive aftermarket division. Four years after the acquisition, Sicam is now preparing to lengthen its stride backed up by new headquarters at Correggio (in the province of Reggio Emilia), a single structure that unites all the activities that were previously divided among three sites. Annual production potential will be double its present 20,000 machines: tyre changers and wheel balancers for cars and industrial vehicles, as well as the wheel aligners and diagnostic equipment that complete the product range. As Sicam CEO Luca Gazzotti said “Joining the Bosch group was a leap in quality that enabled us to develop our skills and play a leading role on the international stage. The new 11,000-square-metre factory is the result of an investment of about 20 million euros that will not only ensure the optimization of production processes with reduced costs and greater quality, but also important prospects for growth”.
Sicam has 150 employees and last year its revenues exceeded 37 million euros, an increase of almost 60% against 2009. “The major contribution to this excellent result came from the east European market, which is showing strong recovery”. With three brands, Sicam, Bosch and Beissbarth, 84% of its production is exported to 90 countries through their respective commercial channels.
More products for each market targeted
“The need to provide the markets with different brands” – explained Pietro Paolo Patat, responsible for South Europe at the German group’s aftermarket division – “is the main reason for opening the new site. It can guarantee greater production capacity and supply automotive equipment by the three different brands”. Sicam’s principal targets are tyre specialists, Beissbarth is mainly for car dealerships, and Bosch is primarily for general repair shops in the four corners of the globe. Development is oriented toward changing the mix of export destinations and aims to increase them in North America, South America and Asia, in particular China, where the Stuttgart group has already made considerable investments and expects to expand its network of Bosch Car Service shops to 15,000.
“In the group’s strategic picture, which on the one hand is synonymous with diagnostic equipment, whereas on the other hand it is the main player in the brake system sector” – Patat emphasized – “the acquisition of Sicam meant the completion of the range of tools for servicing and repairing the entire wheel assembly, and another strong investment was the logical consequence pursued in accordance with our plans, despite the recession”. Confirmation that with 16 companies and 4 Research and Development centres, Italy is essential for Bosch. “The decision to re-launch in Correggio” – the manager added – “also meant that we recognize that the territory has know-how and a product culture that are unique, with a workforce and suppliers feeding an industrial zone that makes over 60% of the world production of tyre changers and wheel balancers”.
Lean production and minimum stores
The planning standards at the new Sicam factory, the area of which could expand by 60% in the future, are common to all the new Bosch group sites throughout the world. From flooring characteristics to soundproofing, from technical and technological systems to space layout, a special team of engineers at its headquarters in Stuttgart handles the specifications for structures that are designed in detail; for example, there is only one building but the offices and production units are on separate foundations to prevent the spread of vibrations. The throbbing heart of the factory is the 2,600-square-metre carpentry division. Here, the plates that arrive in sheets and bars or already pre-cut, are cut, folded and welded for the finished housings; the division has five robots for welding and only particularly critical points are worked on manually. The assembly area has two lines specifically for tyre changers and two for wheel balancers; production cycle times vary from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the complexity, and focus on the principles of lean production, a streamlined method which ensures that from the procurement to the processing stages overall production times correspond to the delivery deadline, which more or less totally eliminates stocks of raw materials, components and finished products.
Computerization and quality control
The premise is an efficient information transmission system for the entire production process, thanks to which all the parts required are taken from the processing stages upstream precisely when they are needed. “We have adopted the kanban method” –Gazzotti explained – “through the Bosch Production System that pairs with the SAP management system. Stocks are kept to a minimum and we can respond quickly to changes in demand”.
A computer station checks that the parameters conform to standards and then prints the card with the serial number. There are two loading bays beside a small store of finished products. Next to the material acceptance area, a laboratory checks the size and quality of the parts and components arriving before they are placed in the different storage areas. From there, they are automatically sent to the area where the components are prepared for assembly.
• Environmental sustainability first and foremost
“The philosophy at the basis of Bosch activities has been fully observed also at the new Sicam factory: environmental sustainability, energy saving and safety are the main guidelines”. This was how Sicam CEO Luca Gazzotti explained the decision to install on the roof of the building a 2,500-square-metre photovoltaic system and then add solar panels and a complete internal and external security system. “Correggio is also part of the Bosch project to reduce the CO2 emissions produced at its sites: we aim to cut them by at least 20% compared to 2007”. At a cost of almost one million euros funded by public incentives, the photovoltaic system can produce 360 MWh a year, double the amount of energy required by the company in Emilia. Built by Bosch Solar Energy, it contributes to reducing CO2 by 50%, a total of 150 tonnes a year. Sicam can also count on about 24 MWh a year of hot water from the solar panels connected to two Buderus condensing boilers. Closed-circuit television, intrusion detectors and fire prevention systems are ensured by Bosch Security Systems.