Over Meccanica: more than 40 years young with sights firmly on the future

Overmeccanica, the Italian supplier of paper machines, is a very solid middle-sized supplier. Perini Journal recently visited the company to discuss its history as well as its plans for the future.

Perini Journal

When you arrive at the company headquarters of Over Meccanica in Verona, Italy, there is no question about who is in charge.

Still clearly being run under the experienced, 79-year-young founder, Dr. Emilio Robbi, Over has been in the paper machine business for more than 40 years. Founded in 1961 in Verona, the company has been involved in over 200 new paper machine projects, with more than 80 of those projects involving tissue machines.

OVER: OFFICINA VERONESE EMILIO ROBBI. The name OVER comes from the acronym Officina Veronese Emilio Robbi. Working independently on numerous paper machine projects for the first six or seven years, in 1968 the company entered into an important licensing and manufacturing agreement with Dominion Engineering Works of Montreal, Canada. Dominion Engineering, which was owned by General Electric of Canada and today no longer exists, was one of the venerable old names in the paper machine business. “This alliance with Dominion”, says Robbi, “was a very important step for Over as it gave us access to what was then the most advanced papermaking technology in the world, namely the Papriformer Twin Wire sheet forming process”. The legendary Papriformer had been invented at Paprican, also known as the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada, based in Montreal, Canada. This technology was commercialized and further developed by Dominion Engineering Works. The cooperation between Over and Dominion was a very fruitful one, with the companies working closely on numerous paper machine projects over the years. The first great project realized in Europe was the machine supplied to Cellulose du Pin, Facture; with its 8100 mm width and 900 mpm speed, it was at that time the largest linerboard machine in Europe, followed soon after by other big machines for newspaper, writing and printing paper, tissue, etc. The first twin wire paper machine ever sold in Europe was supplied by Over to the newsprint producer Papeterie De Moulin Vieux in France in 1977. The agreement with Dominion was structured in a manner by which Over paid a guaranteed minimum license fee each year. If, at the end of the 15 year agreement, Over had paid totally more than the minimum target revenue, the Italian company would be entitled to the technology. In 1983, this is exactly what happened with Over getting property of the technology and of the drawings which allowed it to build on its own paper machines of large dimensions and high speeds with either conventional or twin wire formers (Papriformer). In hindsight, the timing was very fortunate as Over got the technology just one year before General Electric Canada sold Dominion Engineering to Valmet Paper Machinery in 1984. With the disappearance of Dominion, Over was able to continue to develop on its own over the past 20 years.

ALL GRADES OF PAPER. Through the years Overmeccanica has produced a wide range of paper machines covering all grades of paper from lightweight tissue up to very heavyweight board grades. Rather than building up a big management organization, the company has instead chosen to run things on a rather lean structure based on a network of worldwide sales agents. Relying on a very advanced and dedicated R&D and process development team, Over has also been able to continuously improve its technology.

Giovanni Deperis, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Overmeccanica, comments: “Over is truly one of the most dynamic paper machine suppliers around. We have always been able to offer the top technology whether it is the latest improvements in headbox design or the best paper machine quality due to our strong technical competence as well as world class manufacturing facilities”.

NEW PILOT LINE AT NEW SITE. As Over has developed through the years, it has outgrown its premises near the center of Verona. About five years ago the company started building a new industrial site in the town of Nogarole Rocca, around 20 km south of Verona. “This is where Over intends to expand in the future, as it is rather squeezed in Verona with its foundry bordered on all four sides by other businesses”, declares Luca Robbi, Vice President of the company and son of Emilio Robbi.

The new Nogarole Rocca site totals 70,000 sqm of which 14,000 sqm are now covered with buildings, while the original site in Verona totals 40,000 sqm of which 24,000 sqm are covered. In 2000 Over built a new pilot paper machine for papermaking R&D in Nogarole Rocca. Luca Robbi, manager in charge of the development strategies of the company, has tremendously boosted the implementation of this research center. The pilot line is a very modern papermaking machine producing a 1 meter wide sheet.

“It is a slice of a conventional paper machine,” says Robbi, “with all of the latest technology and automation allowing us to do R&D work on all grades of paper except tissue. We can run at speeds up to 2,500 mpm, which we feel will allow us to use this tool far into the future”. There are also plans for the installation in the short term of a machine for trial tests on tissue grades. As Over grows it will locate more and more of its operations at the Nogarole Rocca plant, while still keeping a very important presence in Verona, where the foundry and important machining workshops are located.

TISSUE AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE BUSINESS. As mentioned earlier tissue machines have accounted for about 80% of the company’s 200 paper machines delivered. Thus the tissue sector has been a very important part of Overmeccanica’s business. “Our tissue technology is derived directly from the Dominion Papriformer twin wire design”, comments E. Robbi.

“While we had been making tissue machines based on flat fourdrinier forming since 1964, one of the most important breakthroughs came in 1977 when we sold our first twin wire tissue machine. This was important not just because it was the first twin wire on tissue but also because we delivered it to the Carrara Group’s mill in Castelnuovo Garfagnana in Tuscany.

This was the first of what has turned out to be 14 paper machines that we have sold to the Carrara Group, which was built up by Mario Carrara and his brothers”. The Carrara family, through their company CartoInvest, grew to become one of Europe’s largest tissue making companies before selling the group to SCA of Sweden in 2002. In addition to 14 complete PMs, Over supplied also spare Yankee dryers so that in total the Yankee dryers supplied to the CartoInvest Group over the years were 22.

The most recently started machines that Over Meccanica delivered to the CartoInvest Group were the two paper machines installed at the company’s Oakenholt mill in North Wales in 2001-2002. Over’s tissue references of the last five years are given in the attached list.

NOT TAKING IT EASY. Having delivered over 200 total paper machines during the past 40 years, as well as having handled over 600 major rebuilds during the same time, Over Meccanica is hardly an unknown company. But the very low profile that it has kept has sometimes made it difficult to understand just how important it has been to the paper industry. But this low profile should not give the impression that Over is taking it easy. Clearly, as indicated by the very modern pilot plant near Verona, the company is gearing up for the future.

Emilio Robbi, for his part, has not been content to stick only to the paper machinery business.

Over the years his love for the making of paper has led him to join and to contribute to the development of a group publishing newspapers and high-quality art books. The same group has grown into the media business with an advertising company and three TV and one radio broadcasting.

Clearly, the pioneering spirit and enthusiasm of Emilio and Luca Robbi have taken them a long way since the early days on paper machines in the 1960s. Sales at Over Meccanica, in a good year, they point out, can amount to over Euro 100 million.•

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