At the service of production efficiency

The advantage of competition often lies not so much in the capability to design and create excellent machines, but rather in the services and infrastructures necessary to allow companies to use them at their best.

Perini Journal

Management slogans are often mere banalities skilfully disguised as operating principles. Only in few cases do these company mantras turn out to be anything more than a passing fashion. This is certainly the case of the concept of “lean manufacturing”, which in the last 15 years has led companies to face complex issues such as changeover time reduction, widening of product range, greater flexibility in processes management. In this, companies involved in the tissue business have been facilitated by the development of information and communication technologies that have shortened the distance between data and decision-makers. Furthermore, and most importantly, a true revolution in the design and manufacture of integrated production lines that have acquired adaptability, flexibility and reliability, has allowed companies to enhance their productivity according to the criteria of efficiency, profitability and time.

THE ISSUE OF TIME IN THE PRODUCTION PROCESS IS ONE AMONG THE MOST CRITICAL IN MODERN INDUSTRIAL ECONOMY. The need to optimise the use of time requires substantial human and information technology resources, but often collides with deep-rooted prejudices and obsolete operating procedures.

Although the production process has been considered for years as a flow, the idea that the origin of problems in a production line is a mechanical breakdown is still quite common: as long as the machine works there is no problem or, at least, no serious problem.

Actually, traumatic events are becoming more and more sporadic also thanks to the high level of reliability reached by tissue converting lines and to the diffusion of systematic maintenance.

“The production flow, instead, is influenced by a large number of events, even small and difficult to detect, and the more such obstacles – imperceptible accidents that may originate friction and attrition - are eliminated, the more fluid the process is. It’s just like being on the motorway with intense traffic: a single sharp braking in the wrong place is enough to generate a terrible jam. And in a production context, today more than ever, production time and fluidity are strictly linked to the profitability of the company,” says Alberto Malagoli, Customer Service Manager of Fabio Perini S.p.A. This structure can count on the work of 85 people and is dedicated to always guaranteeing the customer the ideal conditions to best exploit his/her investment, thus creating an efficient partnership for the handling of production processes.

WE COULD NOW LIST ALL THE SERVICES OFFERED BY THE DEPARTMENTS OF THE CUSTOMER SERVICE REALM OF FABIO PERINI S.P.A., but Malagoli says it would be a waste of time: “The advantages offered by the Customer Service department do not depend on the nature and span of the service portfolio. Rather, they depend on the collaboration and the intensity of communication with customers, which can generate and diffuse knowledge. In fact, production efficiency and the preservation of the value invested in Perini machinery stem from this flow of communication and knowledge.”

In this perspective of continuous flow (of production, information, knowledge), time is the main variable.

TIME IS A COST AND AN OPPORTUNITY: there are some activities that on the one hand must be carried out in order to keep the production process efficient, while on the other, they rob time to other, more strategic activities. This is the reason that Fabio Perini S.p.A. has used the new technologies to offer customers a direct access to important information and services, with the aim of reducing the time dedicated to repetitive and not very qualifying activities, thus allowing personnel to carry out more strategic ones. One example is that of Spares On-Line (see Perini Journal 22, pages 14-15): a project coordinated by Orfeo Del Carlo, Spare Parts Sales Manager, ideated to integrate in a single tool the logistic and informative aspects of the sales of spare parts. Del Carlo explains: “On the one hand the customer is bound by the two-fold and contradictory need to reduce the spare parts stock in the warehouse to the minimum, while on the other, he is dealing with complex machinery, which multiplies the number of parts. The Spares On-Line system allows to minimise the time necessary to deal with an order and to deliver the spare parts, thus managing in an integrated way all Fabio Perini warehouses in the world and at the same time guaranteeing a definite delivery time. This system also minimises the time for research and identification of the needed spare part (thus avoiding possible mistakes), thanks to the electronic documentation STAD3, supplied in CD-ROM with every line”.

A small innovation that allows to optimise resources, reduce mistakes and enhance the service efficiency.

THIS SERVICE IS COMPLETED BY AN INTENSIVE INFORMATION ACTIVITY TOWARDS CUSTOMERS, aimed at constantly guaranteeing the utmost potential efficiency of the machinery. This is done through a continuous flow of information (a newsletter) that updates customers about developments, upgrades and promotional offers. This is particularly useful in the management of electronic spare parts, which are more subject to obsolescence and identification difficulties. Recently, for example, the production of the 486 microprocessor has been ceased, although it is still in use in many electronic control devices of production lines.

“BUT POINTING OUT THE POTENTIAL PROBLEMS IS NOT ENOUGH TO QUALIFY THE COMPANY AS AN EFFICIENT PARTNER IN THE HANDLING OF THE PRODUCTION PROCESSES” ambitiously declares Alberto Malagoli. “Besides the activity of information about spare parts availability, we have developed the TIP (Technology Improvement Program), a tool through which we constantly update Perini customers about the latest developments of the R&D department as far as machine production enhancements; it also suggests the possible upgrades on installed lines in order to enhance them and keep them up to date, thus maintaining their economic and production value over the years.

THIS ACTIVITY OF CONTINUOUS UPGRADE OF LINES AND MACHINES (also those already sold and installed) also takes advantage of the wide experience of customers. The technicians dedicated to maintenance and those dedicated to training and documentation activities – coordinated by Andrea Ricci – provide reports about the interventions and the conditions of the line. Such information is inserted in the CRM system to create a knowledge base useful to aid the work of maintenance technicians in detecting and solving possible irregularities, and in facilitating the development of new solutions, updates and optimisations on the range of Perini products. “Once the customer has invested in new machinery by Perini”, explains Andrea Ricci, “in order to maintain its value over the years, he/she must always be in the position to freely choose whether to make a new investment or to work on the machine he/she already has”. This can be done both by acquiring new technologies – the TIP program – and by building up increasingly sophisticated and specialised skills, thanks to the intensive training activity offered by Fabio Perini S.p.A.”

THE IDEA ON WHICH THIS ACTIVITY IS FOUNDED IS THAT EACH MACHINE SHOULD BE EQUIPPED, AT THE TIME OF INSTALLATION, WITH A COMPLETE DOCUMENTATION of the components and the parts of which it is made up, and of the most efficient procedures to handle its operation. Traditional courses - held at the customer’s or at the Perini facilities - often focused on safety and observance of ever-evolving norms; distance-learning via the internet; video-procedures useful to the customer to enhance skills and verify their evolution over the years, are all effective tools. This training activity is also based on a close integration between the various division of the Customer Service department: the trainers are often the same technicians dedicated to programmed or urgent maintenance, installations, machine tests and demonstrations.

THANKS TO THIS INTEGRATION, Fabio Perini S.p.A. can progressively consolidate relationships with its customers and a heritage of knowledge that enable it not only to produce excellent technology, but also to become a veritable irreplaceable interlocutor for the handling of production processes. In conclusion, as Guido Finocckì mentioned in a recent interview (see Perini Journal 22, pages 4-13): “Being able to build machinery - and to do it well - is one a precondition for our survival. (…) Confrontation has shifted to another completely non-material level”.

But such immateriality - that represents today the competitive advantage for a company like Fabio Perini S.p.A. - has indeed a material return. ”These integrated instruments of relation with the thousands of customers all over the world cannot be an end in themselves” concludes Alberto Malagoli. “The value of our activity cannot be limited to the relational level. Although immaterial, the relation with customers must have a concrete return in enhanced production efficiency of Fabio Perini S.p.A. equipment and, consequently, a higher profitability of the customers’ companies”. •

Login or Register to publish a comment