A world class approach

Biesse Group UK is expanding its operations to meet increasing demands. Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell visited the manufacturing sites in Italy to see what is driving this reported growth.

Based in Pesaro, Italy, the Biesse Group is on target to exceed 550 million euros years, which represents a 20% year-on-year increase, despite the global economy struggling to reach top speed following the recent global downturn.

This, in part, has been driven by continued growth at Biesse Group UK, a fully owned subsidiary of Biesse, which will turn over in excess of £30 million this year.

Intermac is a division of Biesse which manufactures machines for the glass and stone industries and Chris Arend, its UK business manager, explained that continued success in the UK affects the existing infrastructure.

“As it stands, we have 84 people working at Biesse Group UK,” Chris said. “Together, they look after all Intermac and Biesse machines we have installed in the UK. Our sales are growing year on year and, in fact, we at Intermac UK had our record month in October 2016, following on from Marmomacc and Glasstec when we sold a record 19 machines – and this was against the backdrop of Brexit and the drop in value of sterling.”

While the aim of any company is to sell as many products as possible, for a company like Biesse this can have potentially awkward knock-on effects because the company continues to manage all of its assets in operation in the UK.  

“We have run out of space,” Chris said. “We need to find space for about 50 more people at our Daventry site.”

Biesse Group UK, therefore, has started to expand its Daventry site with the primary aim of housing its growing team, but also with a view to providing a comprehensive training facility, a permanent exhibition site, and space to host events. This will reflect Intermac’s impressive Tech Centre and showroom in Pesaro where customers can test drive a wide range of machines and processes.

The company enjoys very close links with its parent company in Italy (it is a fully owned subsidiary), so this development is a strong sign that the UK operation is a vital part of the global picture. However, the expansion isn’t expected to affect the dynamic between the UK and Italy.

“All new technicians visit the headquarters in Italy to learn about Intermac machinery via the training academy,” Chris said. “And all apprentices complete a three-year training programme.

“Also, some technical work will always be carried out by our Italian technicians – for example, on double edging machines – to take full advantage of areas of expertise.”

And the feeling is mutual – Biesse UK’s Italian counterparts appreciate the value in the UK offering.

“Biesse UK offers a great deal of stability to the overall Biesse Group,” Miranda Tomatis, Intermac’s Italian subsidiaries sales manager explained. “Its success in winning several large orders to supply complete glass cutting lines with automated storage and loading systems builds on the strategic value of providing complete solutions for our customers in the glass cutting sector.”

Interestingly, looking at the way the Biesse Group is structured, stability appears to be the key to its ongoing success, beginning with (not surprisingly) with Cosmec, which builds many of the components for Intermac’s machines, including cutting tables.

Stability is central to Cosmec’s operation; the bases for Intermac’s cutting tables are constructed here, and all elements are re-measured after manufacture to ensure they are fall within the tight tolerances demanded by the company.

“If there are any mis-measurements or errors – no matter how small – then the whole batch is scrapped,” Chris said.

Cosmec’s engineers also benefit from Biesse’s Kaizen School, which teaches lean manufacturing to all employees. As Glass Times was shown around all operations within Biesse, it became clear that this approach to manufacturing was a vital strength for the company, and ensured that it met all targets, including accuracy, cost, and completion time.

Diamut is another group company that Biesse has full control over, and can thus guarantee the quality of the component parts – in this case, the cutting wheels. Again, Diamut has recently employed consultants to implement Kaizen world class manufacturing techniques in the factory with the aim of speeding up the manufacturing process and get the products to market quickly.

Despite the fact that manufacturing diamond cutting wheels is an intricate and time-consuming process, this doesn’t fit with today’s expectations.

“Customers can’t wait because these tools are important consumables,” Alberto Bisio, Diamut’s product area manager, said. “Therefore, we are investing in production to help Diamut understand where the down time in the production process. This will, of course, directly benefit customers in the UK.”

It is at Intermac, however, that the implementation of world class manufacturing techniques is most obvious, and it is where Intermac’s process engineering manager Petrusca Gentile spends most of her time, and she is responsible for the implementation of Kaizen principles.

“We want to make sure that what we produce here in Pesaro is exactly what the market wants, and when it wants it. In the logic of the 5Rs, this means the right piece, at the right time, in the right place, at the right price and with the right quality,” Petrusca said.

We had a walk through the factory where we witnessed the operation of a Mixed Model Line implemented only three years ago, following the Lean Manufacturing and Kaizen principles. On this production line, Intermac now produces 75% of its turnover with three different ranges of machines.

“First of all, we have carefully timed each stage of manufacture, standardised the operations to be performed, and balanced them in order to exceed our customers’ expectations to finally reach the aim of maximising our daily production output,” Petrusca said.

“The project was hard but the results are visible in that we have achieved over 40% reduction in space and increased operator skills with a training plan of over 2000 hours.”

However, there is a lot of flexibility built in so that Intermac can either increase or reduce production as the market required.

In this ‘one piece flow line’, each machine goes through a number of stations where engineers carry out a series of tasks in a given time. All tools and components are picked beforehand and presented so that the engineers don’t waste valuable time searching for what they need.

“We are currently working on standardising operations and balancing them across all our product ranges,” Petrusca said. “Since we produce other machines other than those on the mixed model line – each with different build requirements – we want to reduce the chances of error even further, and it also gives us the option of speeding up the manufacturing process if we need to.”

Intermac has invested heavily in the cutting table side of the business, with the aim to be as recognised here as it is with its Master range of CNC machines, for example. But this is alongside wider investment in its bid to be a world class manufacturer across all ranges and all group companies. Having seen what is in store for the Biesse UK’s site in Daventry, it is clear that this philosophy extends to the UK as well.