THE NIGHTINGALE SINGS LOUDER THAN THE CRISIS
INNOVATION WITH THE R.E.M.O. ALIGNER
Key words from Corghi, which has been working on process efficiency and the rationalization of investments, technology and exports for a 2013 that promises to be the year of the innovative R.E.M.O. aligner, already in several different versions
Mino De Rigo
ALTHOUGH STILL CONSTRAINED by the crisis rollercoaster, the leaders of the sector are destined to continue mapping out the road without abandoning the essence of their scheduled plans or innovation and development projects. Even more so if the objective is to consolidate penetration and share by re-establishing leadership. This is the way it is for the company with the nightingale trademark, which is demonstrating that it can adapt to a changing and, inevitably, much more critical domestic market while at the same time pressing hard on the accelerator of business outside its borders, which accounts for 80% of its turnover.
Company chairman Giulio Corghi said: “It is pointless to deny that we have felt the crisis, but, compared to 2011, we have been able to contain the downturn in turnover within single-digit limits. 2012 was worse also because it did not have the queue of orders that characterized the first few months of the previous year, when the continental market was still holding up. We handled a situation that became more complicated by making the most of investments and continuing to restore efficiency in the processes area and in internal organization”. On the one side, we decided to focus on business with higher added value and, on the other, to begin comprehensive rationalization thanks to which the business will be given new impetus.
Revive sluggish markets
“Because of this, we can look at the new year with confidence and the certainty that we are well equipped to tackle any situation. We believe in our ability to revive sluggish markets and count on reanimating those penalized by the crisis”. With the start-up of wide-ranging commercial initiatives, beginning with the expansion of a direct presence where it is more advantageous to continue to rely on local importers, accompanied by the determination to harvest the fruits of the most recent product innovations. “The renewed export drive” – Giulio Corghi emphasized – “still implies considerable commitment in markets that are traditional outlets, but without neglecting domestic markets. Above all, it imposes entry into and gradual expansion of new markets, with BRIC top of the iist, where we are having good results”.
“When we realized how much the Asian market was interested in our equipment” – the chairman explained – “we decided to manufacture in China itself. The products are the classic turntable tyre changers that we selected so that we would not have to transfer special know-how or invest heavily. It is not a matter of delocalizing, but a special line of low-technology products for markets in the Far East and South America, products that we could never make in Italy at the right price”.
Technological innovation in its DNA
Technological innovation is the other strategic weapon that Corghi has always relied on. For the company based in Reggio Emilia, which annually invests 5% of its turnover and where one in ten employees work in research and development, 2013 will be the year of Robotic Equipment for Measuring by Optics (R.E.M.O.). The outcome of a study that began eight years ago with a team of 13 specialists and involved 55,000 hours of work at a cost of almost 6 million euros, the innovative clamp-free alignment system “is ready” – Corghi said – “to establish the brand’s supremacy also in the sector of wheel alignment equipment. We were strongly in favour of this and in 2005, when we started the project, we decided to proceed with our own resources and the scientific contribution of a couple of local universities. It took longer than originally planned, but we continued to invest because we were sure of achieving our goal”. The basis of the development idea is the concept of operating without touching the rims, which safeguards their integrity and saves time, whereas traditional alignment equipment uses clamps which house the passive measuring sensors.
Touchless and 3D – the R.E.M.O. generation
“The attempt to overcome this logic and the relevant patents developed by our two main competitors led us to the exploration of more sophisticated technologies. Optics, optoelectronics, robotics and artificial vision systems. R.E.M.O. is totally autonomous and has technical solutions that were developed in-house. The optics, for example, are the expression of our patents: they are not commercially available and they are dedicated solely to the system”, which represents the prototype of a new generation. Since its debut last June at the Reifen international fair in Essen, R.E.M.O. has been used by numerous service centres in Italy. “And they are enthusiastic about it” – Corghi stated. “Saving time is the first reason: totally automatic and incomparably fast at taking measurements, the system allows the vehicle to be checked for service that has never been so extensive and precise, and this is also encouragement to review the organization of work from the standpoint of greater efficiency”. Two laser robots and cameras run along the sides of the lift and in about one minute wheel geometry with tolerances of a hundredth of a millimetre are transmitted to the central unit. “Automation not only avoids the possibility of operator error, it also prevents any incorrect operations.
“With the continual development of the system and growing economies of scale, the cost will come down and make R.E.M.O. accessible to a greater number of buyers. We could have presented a lower cost version immediately, but we preferred to debut with the most complete system”. A possible variant that will cut costs envisages robots installed on the lift. And then there could be a version with simplified sensors.
• R.E.M.O. WINS ITALIAN MECHATRONICS AWARD
A prestigious recognition and an auspicious omen, last November Corghi received from the Reggio Emilia Confederation of Italian Industry the Italian Mechatronics Award 2012. It is an award for innovative firms that are able to increase their international competitiveness through evolved mechanical solutions, the “intelligence” of which is the distinctive characteristic. Mechatronic systems are the mechanical industry’s new frontier for manufacturing with greater added value, thanks to which the distance from competitors in emerging countries in east Europe and the Far East can be increased.
The company with the nightingale trademark received the award “for the development of innovative technical solutions from the Artiglio tyre changer invented in 1961 to the current R.E.M.O., a system based on artificial vision technologies and complete 3D scanning of the wheel to measure toe-in without operator intervention.” Corghi had the better of the three finalists and their models with innovative mechatronics (the combination of mechanics, information technology and electronics): Cosberg, for the automation of assembly procedures, Pitom, for drones, Smoov Asrv, for warehouse automation. A special mention went to Bellco, which operates in the electro-medical sector and reopened a few months after the disastrous earthquake that struck Emilia last May.