Being competitive in sectors and markets characterized by strong Asian presence is not a simple matter. The constant innovation has anyway allowed Cagnoni spa to make very appealing a “made in Italy” production, intended for applications in various industrial fields, among which the household appliance industry stands out.
It started its activity in the Forties thanks to the inventiveness of its founder, Muzio Cagnoni, prevailingly operating in three different ambits. First of all specializing in the machining of components for accordions (reeds), then in the electrical winding manufacturing, and afterwards in metal shearing and the production of electrical collectors. “In the Sixties– specifies the managing director Giordano Sorci – the company widens its structure by acquiring some job orders by Lenco, at that time renowned producer of audio systems such as record players, cassette-players and so on, and it specialized in the manufacturing of electrical windings. At the same time the owners decide also the starting of the metal shearing activity and, thanks to the support of a Lenco technician, also the production of electrical collectors”. Today in the headquarters at Osimo (Ancona, Italy), the company has not changed its character and goes on in its mission with the same activities: reeds, electrical collectors and shearing of metal components. A sound company, still living an expansion phase and with a staff increase that from 2011 to today has seen the entry of a good 12 people (from 50 employees in 2011 to the present 62), with turnovers showing constant positive trends up to the current 6.3 million Euros. “A work team– adds Sorci – strongly motivated to accept new challenges and who is appreciated for the promptness in developing aggressive solutions, typical of the market!”
Technical skills and know-how in synergy
But it is in the electrical collector sector that the company represents a national reference partner for the production of small models, often opposing the attacks of the Asian market. A department that can rely on a skilled team of technicians in-house trained, able to study interesting alternatives from the economic point of view, with low costs of production starting up. Technical and qualitative competences, then, which coupled with an attentive analysis of internal costs allow satisfying the most demanding customers both in the automotive ambit and especially in the household appliance industry. “Often –Sorci underlines– we work side by side with our customers in the development of projects wherever our contribution becomes essential to reduce the total costs, generally very burdensome, of projects”. A synergy, this one, which is highly appreciated especially by R&D departments that, even relying on strong competences, cannot have a global and in-depth knowledge of all that turns around their activity. “It is not unusual for instance –Sorci himself exemplifies– that the only choice of a material rather than another can imply a notable saving, very often amounting to several thousand Euros”. But what should the mission of a company like Cagnoni be? What the keys to success of the players in your sector? Sorci has no doubts: “Mission means for us continuous internal training, constant updating courses of the technical staff aimed at the research of modern and efficient solutions that always allow offering the best in terms of technology and state-of-the-art. In other words, constant investment then in human resources. Since our sector is scarcely standardized, the product typology is not so common; the employed people need therefore a very accurate in-house training”. It is worth reminding also the aspect concerning the scrupulous selection of suppliers, aligned to precise and specific requirements, attentive not only to the quality/service matter but also competitive from the economic point of view. “A meticulous attention – adds Sorci – that is extended also to the production process phase, allowing the maximum reduction of wastes, both of product and of raw materials. In this context copper, which is the initial raw material, has notoriously very high costs; then the minor possible waste means the possibility of equally rising competitiveness”.
Process optimization and product quality
Conforming to this operational logic, the company has succeeded in reducing the incidence of the raw material (just copper) in the finished product, without affecting the demanded technical characteristics. As a matter of fact, until some years ago we did not pay too much attention to the use of copper. It cost about 50% less than today and then there were those who “could afford” the luxury of using an abundant quantity of it. “Customers – states Sorci – preferred keeping quiet, so to speak, and having an over-dimensioned product, even if they paid it more. The advent of the Asian competitor has on the contrary compelled us to review what had been a consolidated product for years. We have redesigned the component, revising the eventual surplus of copper where it was not necessary. It was not a simple operation: we had to redesign the initial semi-finished products and adapt all the phases of the productive process”. A tiring re-design that has however led to a really brilliant final result and where the protagonist, the electrical collector, has been highly appreciated by the market that has confirmed its technical validity as well its competitiveness from the point of view of final price. “Unlike our competitors – goes on Sorci – our technology has permitted greater flexibility in perceiving such important changes. Nowadays our product is seen as a reference characterized by light weight, minor cost and impeccable quality”. Peculiarities and benefits that can be directly transferred to a market that today is notoriously much more attentive to costs, often without long-term planning anymore. And if it becomes more difficult to succeed in making programmes, also Cagnoni stakes on operational flexibility permitting to meet the most different requests in the most possible efficient way. “Our customers – confirms Sorci – even if they understand the difficulty of proceeding, as it were, “in sight”, cannot fix engagements exceeding three months. This means for us to stock up, which has compulsorily a cost for us, to be prepared to changes overnight. All that by paying utmost attention, in order not to weigh on final customers too much”.
Innovation at the service of big players
Facing, then, a market in a certain sense deeply changed, what are the strategies followed by Cagnoni to consolidate the positive results attained, going on in this positive trend? “Today more than in the past – underlines Sorci – we are betting on a market of big volumes. The collector is a poor product with low profit margins, therefore it becomes essential to focus the attention and the energies on important fields, such as automotive and especially household appliances. Not long ago we were competitive in niche markets. Markets that are gradually disappearing to the benefit of a more global prerogative, where big-size companies operate”. In this context, even if with a still small-medium structure, in time the company has opted for targeted investments that today allow it to be successfully positioned in the most competitive markets, too. “Both the automotive industry – specifies Sorci – and the household appliance field generally appreciate our innovations. Innovations that mean a notable saving for these ambits. With the additional advantage of a fast and efficient supplier, as we are when we propose ourselves to big players”.
The future between challenges and opportunities
On one hand the market that becomes more and more global and difficult to interpret, on the other hand the increasingly strict and severe technical requirements. What challenges, then, the producers like Cagnoni will be expected to win in the next year to keep their competitiveness level high? In the opinion of Giordano Sorci the game is played in the “more and more pressing request of cost reductions, unequalled flexibility levels, combined with a service that must always be impeccable and excellent. In times like the present ones, to support customers, which may in their turn feel lost and “frightened” by the market uncertainty, becomes essential. As suppliers, we must provide a concrete help, looking for valid technical and economic alternatives”. Today more than ever, an attentive analysis of the productive phases, trying to optimize flows and then costs, can make the difference. The incidence of the personnel cost, as we know, is enormous and then we should specialize the labour force and automate as much as possible. It may seem banal but for a company like Cagnoni it is the most obvious solution, and with still important improvement margins. A scenario from which also other significant strong points can arise in terms of process/service. “We have always taken care – adds Sorci – of maintaining direct relationships with our customers: the technicians of customer companies are backed by our staff that, as said, is very competent. They find in us a young reality with good proposals, sometimes also in countertendency. But it is just this that today is more appreciated. So to speak, something that “has worked” until today, it might no more satisfy the needs tomorrow. We are ready to change things, to revise all that was standard and to revolutionize it. Today technology offers many more possibilities of researching alternatives: materials, processes and suppliers”. It is useless to remind that the last five years have indelibly marked the Italian, European and world economy forever. What other evolutions should we expect for the next years in this ambit? “It is as difficult – ends Sorci – as hazardous to reply. What we are noticing is that Italian companies, but also the European ones in general, prefer provisioning “in domestic markets”, that’s to say in Europe. This is an important, and absolutely not negligible, datum. The Asian phenomenon has not waned but we finally witness the awareness of our companies. Too much the cultural gap. And most of all, we Italians do not like “unstable” suppliers, which today promise one thing and do another tomorrow. Behaviour, this one, typical of the Asian market. If that aspect is perceived as opportunity, then it means to overcome the new challenges that the market issues as winners. And in which we are going to take part with the right mix of technology, innovation and optimization of resources”.
COMPETENCE AND BIG NUMBERS
Cagnoni, as already underlined, operates in three different directions: producing reeds and electrical collectors, and shearing metal components. In this context, the top management of the company is proceeding to a widening of the range of products that are used in electrical motors. In addition to electrical collectors, the department producing sheared part can offer various items. Besides, the workshop can develop special machines for some product types. And it is also towards this direction that goes the company’s growth strategy, that’s to say making great competences available for the market. Last but not least, also a machinery able to produce a very expensive component that today is purchased by Asia. In this context the technical office has conceived and implemented a totally automatic technology, with low investment cost and high productive efficiency. Target made possible also thanks to the in-depth R&D activity deemed a distinguishing factor. In a standardized market/product like the one in which Cagnoni operates, it might seem impossible to propose something new, but this did not happen. And now a further instrument able to stem the Asian invasion, with a much more performing and low-cost product, is available.