Federico Broccoli says Biesse will focus on Industry 4.0 at IWF Atlanta.
In advance of IWF in Atlanta, Federico Broccoli, president/CEO of Biesse America and Canada spoke to Woodworking Canada recently about the record results Biesse Group has been posting over the past two years.
“The company is doing excellent,” Broccoli says.
We have enjoyed 40 per cent growth in sales in 2014 and 2015, and we are on track to repeat our strong numbers in 2016 and that makes us the best performer in the industry, he says.
Broccoli attributes the strong performance of Biesse Group to a combination of factors, chief among them their significant commercial investments in the 30 subsidiaries around the world. We have made significant investments over the last three years both in infrastructure and people. We have strengthened the sales forces in our subsidiaries and invested heavily in showrooms and marketing, he says.
“We have worked very diligently to gain market share and to get these (strong) results.”
And following up on 2015’s strong results, Biesse Group hasn’t missed a step in the first half of 2016 and also reported astounding growth from Xylexpo, in Milan - the biennial trade fair dedicated to technologies for processing wood and components for the furniture industry – where orders received grew by more than 100 per cent over the previous show with more then 20 million Euros.
Broccoli says those numbers don’t lie and are testimony to the fact that investment in human capital, innovation and technology is having an overwhelmingly positive impact.
And not only does technology sell, but it also gets recognition, most recently when Biesse received the XIA Xylexpo Innovation Awards, which bestows a series of prestigious prizes on the most advanced solutions presented at the fair.
Of course having the right product mix also helps and Broccoli says being able to offer a wide range of machines that respond well to market needs, along with the latest technology and value, complete the picture.
“It’s like when you make a cake,” he says, “you need the perfect combination of the ingredients, they are all important.
“We invest a lot in R&D, about five per cent of our numbers are invested every year and that plays an important role. But our real focus these last three years has been a strong commercial investment in our sales and marketing efforts to grow market share and we have been very successful in that.
In his dual role of North American responsibilities and for Biesse Group in general, Broccoli has a unique perspective and is able to comment not only on one market, but the company’s worldwide results and ambitions as well.
And that forecast, based on 2015, is “that we will see 10 per cent growth every year and that by 2018, we anticipate annual sales of more than 700 million Euros.”
“For this year we are right on track to maintain this 10 per cent worldwide growth, so we should be in a good position to reach our forecast, especially considering that we currently have a record order backlog of over 160 million.”
By far the most dramatic growth right now is being seen in North American, which, led by the U.S. market, is producing record results.
“The American market is doing exceptionally well,” Broccoli says and added that their numbers are now above the pre-crisis numbers.
And while it is great to see such unprecedented growth, Broccoli admits it has also presented them with a number of challenges, because it is difficult to manage that kind of growth properly.
“We have added dozens and dozens of new employees across North America to cope with the numbers of machines we are delivering. Just in the last six months we have added nearly 30 people across North America just for sales to keep up with growth.”
Then there are the challenges of hiring good people in times of low unemployment, but Broccoli says they have managed well and will not compromise on the quality of employees.
“It’s a wonderful moment in North America,” he says.”
And even the Canadian market, while nowhere near as hot as that in the U.S., is up around 30 per cent over last year.
“The U.S. and Canadian market are growing at different speeds for sure, but even Canada is doing really well for us. We have never seen the kind of rapid growth we are seeing in the U.S. anywhere else, it really is exceptional. But even in Canada, growth is strong and much better than for example in Europe.
“For us, 30 per cent growth in a mature market like Canada, is looking really good and we are very pleased with that.”
Obviously, after sales support is also hugely important and Broccoli says Biesse Group offices in North America - Biesse North America and Biesse Canada — are working closely together to make sure they are able to offer the best service to customers.
He also had good things to say about the Canadian marketplace in general, where strong technical schools mean the company has no problems finding well-trained technicians. And, with 80 per cent of their customers located in five major metropolitan areas — Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, “most of our technicians sleep in their own beds every night whereas in the U.S. our technicians spend a lot of time on the road and in hotel rooms.
Biesse America and Biesse Canada are two separate subsidiaries and they are tasked to work for their customers and in their unique markets, but Broccoli says that doesn’t mean they don’t work together to share resources.
“Biesse Canada has a North America vision, but a Canadian application,” he says and adds that as a company, Biesse Group takes great pride in its global vision and local implementation. With 3,450 employees worldwide, 53 per cent of whom are in Italy and the rest around the world — Broccoli says that as a company Biesse Group truly has a global mentality.
Industry 4.0 and IoT
In the European market, Industry 4.0 and digital smart factories are already widespread and essential, and more than 30 per cent of Biesse Group’s order entries from Xylexpo, were for Industry 4.0 technologies.
That trend is now coming to North America in a big way and Broccoli says the company is ready for it.
“There is strong demand for that technology in North America now, last year some 25 per cent of our sales were for Industry 4.0 technology and we only expect that to increase,” he says. It’s hard to find good, skilled workers so this technology is essential for companies to keep their edge and stay competitive.
At IWF in Atlanta, Aug. 24-27, Industry 4.0-ready equipment and integrated solutions will make up some 70 per cent of Biesse display areas.
“We are not interested in showing stand-along machines, these days it’s all about integrated and automated solutions. We see a great opportunity in that for our customers and for us as a company, Broccoli says
“We want to show off our technological edge as a company versus those competitors who do not offer that technology. And many medium and small companies are getting into that technology now as well and it is one of the most important and transformative trends for our industry. We firmly believe that Industry 4.0 is for everybody and we have more than 70 people in Biesse Group’s software department alone, who are working on new and better software solutions for the 4.0 smart factory.
And while Industry 4.0 is the here and now, Broccoli says Biesse has already started on the next big thing, namely IoT, the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things revolves around machine-to-machine communication and information gathering sensors that will affect nearly all-physical devices, from cell phones to vehicles and machines, even buildings. IoT has been described as the new infrastructure for the information society and Broccoli says Biesse Group is investing heavily in that new technology.
It will be a game changer, he says, where machines will communicate with us before they get sick, and it will mean predictive and preemptive maintenance rather than just preventative maintenance. It will warn the operator that something is wrong before any possible issues occur. For example, a bearing in an electro spindle may start having problems, increasing the temperature, the diagnostics will report on that before the operator would even know that it’s happening. It’s proactive rather than reactive and protective rather than preemptive.
It’s not just a routine, like checking every 1,000 hours, this is better, as soon as anything is out of the ordinary, you will know about it and then be able to schedule maintenance when it suits you and your operations, he says.
“Like a Formula 1 car, it monitors everything all the time and this kind of predictive maintenance and the Internet of Things is a revolution and Biesse is ready.”
Of course this is just the beginning of what Broccoli describes as a continuing development, which means they have to tell people about it and educate customers before they can fully appreciate it.
“We are an innovator, we want to lead with technology, and we don’t want to follow because if you follow you lose market share. We want to lead, Broccoli says.
“Our 40 per cent growth is based on that kind of leading edge technology and we are well on our way to implement that across of our wide product range, but of course it will take some time and it is part of our commitment to lead with innovation.”
We are entering a time of extreme efficiency and extreme competitiveness and we want our customers to embrace changes, he says.
“In North America, we have to develop these kinds of advantages in order to stay competitive. We don’t need to go overseas to manufacture, we have everything we need right here. We just have to embrace technology and update our factories and become more efficient.”
Broccoli says Biesse will use its more than 17,000 sq. ft of exhibition space at IWF to demonstrate how anyone can implement Industry 4.0.
The company will also show many great improvements of existing machines. Many of these changes are not hardware related, but rather in the intelligence of the machine through software advances.
“If you want, it’s like the difference between an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 6,” he says. “They largely do the same thing, but the newer one does it faster and more efficiently and that’s what we offer, upgrades that do the job faster and more efficiently.