In a market situation in which price and quality of products are given for granted, it is mainly the service level that differentiates enterprises. The Brescia company Sabaf stands out for this aspect.
In the global market, the competition among manufacturing enterprises is simultaneously played on all the fronts of the offer, from the traditional ones of the product price and quality, which especially for the medium-low end products are by now given for granted, up to the service level, which from many points of view has today become the most important element of choice of the component suppliers according to finished product enterprises. This situation has been generated by the convergence of three phenomena, of which the first is represented by the internationalization of manufacturing activities, with the consequence of their relative trivialization. Excluding some particular cases, in fact, today production activities are considered as a “commodity”, which can be allocated everywhere and especially in the so called rising Countries, according to the local conditions of the labour cost and of the tax regime. Under these conditions the industrial cost and the quality of the product tend to be aligned to a common market standard for the various enterprises. The second element that we should take into account to understand the growing importance of the service level is constituted by the higher complexity of the market where must work the enterprises that are going to operate on a global scale, due to the needs and the cultures of consumers in the various Countries and especially the various regulations, which call for a specific conformity certification. All that involves some troubles in the product distribution, with not always definable additional costs and operational times. Finally, we should consider that the big industries of the finished product, compelled to reduce their fixed costs, tend to concentrate their financial and professional resources in what they today consider their “core business”, constituted by the activities upstream and downstream the production, that’s to say marketing and product definition on one hand, distribution, communication, sale and after sale service on the other hand. As an aftermath of this strategy, they have drastically downsized their technical offices, with the consequent difficulty in taking care of a whole series of activities, including the product conformity control.
The service importance
In this context, the component producers tend to fill the gap created between production and market, providing customers, as added value of their supplies, with a forefront professional service that often goes beyond the specific features of the component and extends to the whole finished product. This is the case of Sabaf, the Brescia company that is world leader in the production and marketing of components for the cooking appliance industry, which together with the innovation of products and processes has paid great attention to the service level. As illustrated by Nicola Belpietro and Tiziano Pasetti, respectively Executive Sales Director and Laboratory Manager of Sabaf SpA, customer support activities in the design and certification phase of the new products constitute an important element of Sabaf supplies and are appreciated by customers in terms of real added value. It is not in fact simple, for a producer of cooking appliances powered by gas, to manage the complex problems connected with regulations, which are often very different in the various areas of the world: Europe, Middle East, North America, South America and Far East. On the other hand, the product certification in the destination countries is requested for their marketing. The consequences of a non-conformity of the appliance, which can be detected during the certification tests implies, in addition to the execution of the opportune product modifications, the repetition of the whole certification procedure, with the related economic burdens for the manufacturer and the delays in the household appliance marketing. Preventing this eventuality is then important for household appliance manufacturers and it might be theoretically accomplished by turning to the technical offices of the producer companies themselves. This, however, is not always possible and often it is not advantageous. Gas cooking products, in fact, are complex appliances and they need, besides a specific competence in the combustion process and the user’s knowledge of the various use modalities, an optimal adaptation of the single components, among which burners and taps are very important, to the whole cooking hob.
The laboratory structure
For the performance control and the regulatory conformity verification of gas cooking appliances in a determinate Country, it is necessary to rely on skilled personnel and on an adequately equipped laboratory to carry out numerous tests, some of which of a certain complexity. This derives from the fact that the product typology is not suitable for purely theoretical researches, apart from some simulation processes that allow the rough-shaping of projects, while most part of the development must be carried out with the experimentation support, with the uses of various gases and under different environmental conditions. Consequently, the burner and the gas tap, which are the main components of a gas cooking hob and determine its performances, must be tested on the assembled product and under the real use conditions, owing to the numerous interactions among the various parts. Besides, tests must be carried out using the specific gas in use in the destination Country of the product. It is then natural that the producer of cooking appliances prefers, when this is possible, to entrust the whole of the lab activities to its own component supplier, saving time and money and attaining, thanks to a preventive verification carried out by professionally skilled personnel, the certainty of a fast certification procedure. For these activities, Sabaf is equipped with a laboratory provided with cutting-edge instruments, able to carry out all functional and regulatory tests on burners and on entire cooking appliances. To this end, the laboratory makes use of plants for the stocking and distribution of primary gases, of immediate use or from whose mixing it is possible to obtain, from time to time, the gas with the particular composition used in the product destination Country.
The available instruments include also a thermo-vision computerized system, which allows measuring with precision the temperatures in the various points of the examined appliance while functioning. It moreover makes use of a hyperbaric chamber for the tests on cooking hobs and the burners intended for some markets with particular environmental characteristics, such as the case of products that must operate at high altitudes, for instance in Mexico and in some Andean Countries of Central America.
The consulting value
At the end of the verification tests on the household appliance where Sabaf components have been mounted, the company delivers a complete “test report” to its customer, reporting the various aspects of the application, the testing modalities and the achieved results. That report is generally enclosed by the appliance manufacturer to the certification demand and constitutes an important element of preliminary assessment by the certifying Body, considering also the notoriety of Sabaf laboratory. But besides these important customer-support activities, which are generally carried out in the final phases of the product design, when this is by now defined and must be submitted to the certifying Body before being launched on the market, the advice activities during the initial design phases are of equal value. That’s to say when the household appliance producer must choose the most suitable combination of components for its own market targets, especially when you want that the cooking appliance in question can be successfully welcomed in various Countries with different regulations.
It is at this stage that Sabaf experience, which covers applications in all Countries worldwide, is particularly precious for customers because, single company in the field, it can real on real technological/industrial platforms concerning its components, simultaneously satisfying the requirements of product standardization, of compatibility with the various markets, of productive flexibility and of high performances. The definition of such platforms has required adequate times and investments, as well as higher organizational and technological competences. We are speaking, in fact, of the attainment of a difficult design synthesis, which pooling the different needs of customers and markets, allows satisfying them with the least possible diversity of the product. Finally, in the cases in which customer’s needs are absolutely specific and are not included in those already considered by Sabaf, it is possible to act in appropriate manner on some elements that are able to differentiate the product but anyway marginal from the point of view of the mass production, such as gas injectors, the 1/2 way functions of taps and the flame spreaders of burners. The integrated company organization, which includes in its inside not only all design and production departments but also the foundry and the equipment for the production of moulds, dies and tools, finally grants the possibility of carrying out at low cost and in short times those special modifications of components that might become necessary.