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COMER INDUSTRIES: A LEADER IN MECHATRONICS THAT AIMS TO BOOST REVENUES TO 500 MILLION EUROS BY 2010
Mechatronics - the technology that combines mechanics, hydraulics, electronics and information technology - is the field in which Comer Industries (www.comerindustries.com/eng/) has specialised itself. Based in Reggiolo, in the province of Reggio Emilia, the firm is a world leader in the design and manufacturing of advanced engineering systems and mechatronics solutions for power transmission destined to the main producers in the world of agricultural and industrial machines. Starting from an undisputed leadership in its traditional sector of activity, agricultural mechanics, over the course of its development strategy Comer Industries has decided to diversify in the manufacturing of modular transmissions, differential axles, electrical wheel drive units and a complete range of hydraulic transmission for industrial applications, destined in particular for wind generators and compact earth moving and construction machines. Fabio Storchi, President and CEO of the firm, explains how diversification holds the key to achieve a breakthrough on the foreign markets.
Mr President, the expansion in your product range has been matched by an increasing presence in the international markets. Which steps did your firm undertake to fully adapt to your clients' demands?
Comer has an international vocation. We export in 50 countries and we have been present with our products on the main foreign markets since the Seventies. In 1970, the year in which our firm was founded, our natural point of reference was Italy. But in the next few years we started to look towards Europe, starting from Greece, France and Germany. In the Eighties, we arrived in the United States. Today exports account for 75% to 80% of our revenuers. We have sales subsidiaries in the biggest industrialised countries in the world: USA, UK, France, Germany, and we have recently opened a new subsidiary in Shanghai.
Achieving this kind of export figures could have been easy. How hard was it in the Seventies to promote Italian products on the international markets?
When the company was starter, going abroad was a pioneering exercise. Comer Industries, however, was always successful because its transmission products were always extremely innovative. Back then our competitors could not match the breadth and comprehensiveness of our range, so it was not difficult to establish our leadership in the market. Several of our French, British and German competitors were simply pushed out of the market and forced to close down.
However, it is clear that the market leadership you built over the years is not enough for you. Do you have China and India in your sights, like most other international producers of machines?
We have been present in China since 1986, through outsourcing deals for the manufacturing of agricultural transmission systems. Today, on the basis of the experience gained, we have set up a sales subsidiary in Shanghai, the Comer (Shanghai) Trading Company Ltd, in order to promote our industrial products on the ever-expanding Chinese market. Before the end of the year we will also open a new manufacturing plant in Shaoxing, in the Zhejiang province, which will become fully operational in January 2008 and which will mainly produce industrial drive systems for the Chinese market.
China, therefore, is not just a strategic destination for outsourcing initiatives aiming to secure low cost components, but also a destination to set up a manufacturing base geared for supplying and enormous domestic market?
Our presence in China is explained by the need to follow the internationalisation path of our global clients, who are outsourcing ever more towards Asia. We are responding to their needs by producing locally what they need. At the same time, our new plants will also be cater for our traditional markets, as it happened 20 years ago. Since then, we have been producing low-tech agricultural transmissions in China that we then sell on the North American market and, since the last few years, also in Europe.
Comer Industries is continuously expanding, and its growth targets are ever more ambitious. How to you plan to double you revenues from 232 million euros in 2006 to 500 million euros in 2010?
Our strategic growth plan - called Vision 2010 - lays its foundations on three aspects of global evolutionary trends. First, the growth in the world's population will contribute to continuing urbanisation and abandonment of the countryside. Second, there is a growing attention being paid to sustainable development and energy production from renewable sources (biofuels and wind power). Third, the growing demand for housing and infrastructure in order to cater for the needs of a world population that will reach the 9 billion mark by 2050. All three developments provide opportunities for our main line of business, i.e. the provision of mechanical drives and mechatronics solutions for wind generators, mobile industrial and agricultural machines. This explains why our growth has been in the double figures in the last four years, and why we forecast to have doubled our sales by 2010.