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MODELLERIA BRAMBILLA: TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION FOR THE AUTOMOTIVE SECTOR
Although firmly rooted in Italy, this company has a determined international outlook, making more than 75% of its turnover abroad. Modelleria Brambilla is one of the top companies supplying precision engineering parts for the automotive industry. To ensure sustained growth, the business focuses on research and technological innovation, on design studies, and on project development involving its clients. We asked the CEO, Gabriele Bonfiglioli, to explain the reasons for firm's success and to describe their plans for future development.
- Modelleria Brambilla is deeply rooted in Italy but has a truly international reach: How do you manage to combine these two elements?
It is precisely because we are so well established in Italy that we have been able to access the global market. Modelleria Brambilla entered its first phase of development in the 1980s when it became the chosen supplier for Teksid: the Fiat foundry then leading the field in both cast iron and aluminium technology. This growth in terms of both technology and output continued into the 1990s, when Modelleria Brambilla became a partner of Ferrari, both for the production side and for Formula 1. From about 2000 onwards, we also started working with BMW on the inorganic process, which is still the most innovative technique used in foundries. Our collaboration with companies of this calibre (and others such as VW and Ford, to name but a few) has allowed us to acquire the expertise that we can use at an international level to beat competitors whose only leverage is price. So even though we are aiming at a global presence (as shown by our presence in India since 2013), we continue to invest in people and in vehicles - both design and production – working from our manufacturing base in Correggio. It should be said that a touch of healthy Italian attitude is no bad thing, for in a world like the automotive industry where time to market is increasingly tight, flexibility is often a trump card.
- How do you combine family tradition with management of a modern company active in markets around the world?
I believe the key factor has been, as many have recognised, our successful transition between the generations. In 2011, Aldo and Giancarlo Brambilla, sons of the founder Eugenio, asked me to take on the position of CEO. My task was not only to manage the growth of the company but also to support the professional development of their children: Giulia (Aldo's daughter) and Edoardo and Marco (Giancarlo's sons). One of my greatest satisfactions has been introducing them successfully into key roles in the company, so that they now work respectively as Managers of Administration, Operations and Sales. On the one hand, this has clearly been a motivating factor for them, while on the other it provides clients with a guarantee of continuity in the company, combined with the presence of an impartial person in the management.
- In which markets do you have the greatest presence, and in what form?
Approximately 75% of our turnover is achieved abroad. Of this, the lion's share is within the European Union (and Germany in particular); this accounts for about half. Mexico constitutes a significant proportion, about a third. A number of American vehicle manufacturers have moved their production to this country or entered into complex mergers. The remaining portion involves Asia, less important in terms of numbers but undergoing significant growth; as shown by the major contract recently won with Kia in South Korea. Our contacts with clients are generally managed directly by our technical and commercial departments. We offer a high-tech product and so customers like to talk directly to the company at every stage, from the initial offer through production and to post-sales service.
In India, we are present in person, with a design firm (Italian Foundry Engineering) solely owned by us since 2013, and with a production site (Brambilla India Private Limited), a 50/50 joint venture with the Continental Engines Group and established in 2015. We decided to engage directly because India combines huge potential for growth in terms of volume with the opportunity to fill the significant gap that exists between the technical demands of the most advanced local foundries and the offer from our local competitors.
- Which markets are you aiming for in the short, medium and long term?
We just mentioned India, and I would say that our latest orders in that country fully justify, from a commercial point of view, our decision to be present on site. In general, we are strongly focused on the Asian markets (especially South Korea, China and Japan), because there is now a consistent move towards the inorganic process, and with more than 15 years' experience in this field we have become a world leader.
However, we believe there is still room for growth in Germany, which continues to be a leading country both in terms of volume and of the technical input required from suppliers. Mexico also has more potential. This country is still seen as having considerable prospects in the automotive world: both for the above reasons and for its excellent relationship between quality of output and production costs. However, we must not forget Italy, which as we know is currently undergoing a revival of the "make" strategy, and which sees us as a vital partner of the main foundries that produce essential vehicle parts, such as heads and engine blocks or complex parts for the frame.
- Do you also anticipate growth through acquisitions?
To be honest, over the short term we are focusing on our joint venture start-up in India. We also have another large commitment in the form of reorganising the layout of our parent company in Correggio. Last year we acquired a neighbouring factory shed, allowing us to double our covered working area. We now have to transfer our assembly line there, and so we need to rationalise the machining area, which will be staying in the old premises. This does not exclude the possibility of growth by acquisition in the future: we are considering some opportunities which we may even work on in the medium term.
- What were your results for 2015, and what are your predictions for 2016?
We have just published the figures for 2015, which show an improvement on the previous year. For 2016, we definitely want to continue on the path of restoring efficiency, which is a must for those of us working in the automotive market.