Working together to optimize production potential and meet market demands.
Chief Operating Officer, Automation Systems
Creating value is not simply about having the best technology; it’s also about having the best people.
Tell us about your career in Comau.
A control engineer by trade, my entire career has been in the body construction, automotive and automation sectors. If I consider that the first company I worked for was later acquired by the Comau group, we could technically say I’ve spent my entire career here in Comau. Over the years, I’ve held several key positions within the company including the role of Managing Director for both Comau UK and Comau Germany. I was also responsible for Comau’s European operations before becoming COO of the Body Assembly Business Unit in 2014.
Looking at the course of my career, I would say that one of my main achievements has been the ability to identify talents and capabilities within the organization that are aligned with the demands of the market. What this means is that we are able to realize our full potential by working as a consolidated team. I can use Brazil as an example. My team and I leveraged the full global competencies and capabilities of the organization to deliver an innovative program in a new region with great success. This was made possible thanks to the high level of engagement shown by each and every member of the extended team. In this sense, I feel Comau is a very rich organization that has developed a strong team of people able to satisfy the evolving demands of the global market. I’m proud to have played a part in this.
What are some of the accomplishments or key decisions you’ve made during this time?
I make multiple decisions on a daily basis, and am fortunate to have a very strong and mature team that is able to present the information I need to make them. I recently decided to go after a leading OEM in the automotive sector that Comau had no recent history of working with, for example. It was a challenge, as the customer is known for premium vehicles and very high quality standards. To meet the challenge, my team and I took a behavior-oriented approach that enabled us to prove our added value from a project and human perspective, above and beyond Comau’s solid technological offering. This approach turned out to be exactly what was needed. We not only acquired the customer, we have been able to build a strong and rewarding relationship that will continue well into the future.
The Body Assembly group consists of roughly 2,000 people who work together within a mature and highly effective global network. We invest significant resources in identifying future trends and aligning and adapting our offer accordingly. This is one of the pillars of excellence that drives our success. We have a solid team of people who strive to do their best in circumstances that are often quite difficult, backed by a technologically advanced product and solutions portfolio.
Comau wouldn’t be where it is today if we did not consistently offer the market reliable, high value-add technology solutions designed to meet – and often anticipate – evolving market needs. An example of this can be seen with our standard assembly system, ComauFlex, which has become a building block for developing business and initiating relationships with new customers. It has also allowed us to spearhead projects in new territories and rise to the challenges of the market at large.
Can you provide a few key examples to explain the Comau Body Assembly approach?
Our approach, in terms of how we work with our customers, mirrors the way Comau Body Assembly works as a team. If you look at Comau’s Manifesto, for example, it speaks to openness, transparency and value-creation. These are the same principles that we adhere to on a daily basis. From a practical standpoint, we first listen to our customers in order to understand their true needs, which I might add, are sometimes different than what the customer originally asks for. We then use our full portfolio of competencies, capabilities and experiences to interpret these needs and present options and solutions to address the particular production demands.
In the USA, we recently approached a new customer with a combination of innovative technology, a new business model and a relationship-based approach focused on collaborative planning. The result allowed us to deliver state of the art, premium vehicle production system in a world class program lead time. We not only successfully launched the project as promised, we actually overreached our customer’s expectations. This is the real value of our approach, from both a hard and soft perspective.
The Comau team is known for its strong track record of performing even in the most challenging situations. We work in a high pressure environment with multiple variables and very high stakes, which creates a certain DNA within the group that is hard to find in most organizations. In fact, I feel that one of the successes I’ve had as COO of the Body Assembly group is directly linked to the richness of our team. We work hard to build, foster and nurture the sharing of experiences, best practices or simply innovative ideas to help us better address our customer’s requirements. When combined with the hard-earned technical experience of 40 years of production systems delivery, we have a very strong value proposition for the market.
What are the challenges you typically face when evaluating a new project?
This is a difficult question, as every project has its unique challenges and yet these ‘challenges’ are expected in a market that is constantly fluctuating. I speak for my entire team when I say that we relish the opportunity to continually challenge the status quo, and pride ourselves in the way we partner with our clients to confront these challenges. Our approach to such challenges is rooted in how we conduct our business in general – we leverage our extended knowledge base, core competencies, global best practice experiences to work together with the customer in exploring solutions. We also rely on innovative technologies such as 3D modelling and virtual commissioning to test and refine these solutions, thereby streamlining the entire process.
Comau’s role is to bring innovation and value to our customers’ businesses while helping them adapt to evolving market requirements. Whether working with historical customers, new customers or even potential customers, we strive to do this in various ways: volume efficiency, cost reduction, operating cost optimization, manufacturing footprint optimization or even just our market experience and best practice approach. I should add that as a company, Comau invests extensively in R&D to help meet tomorrow’s challenges as effectively as we meet today’s challenges.
With technology centers located in the USA, Italy and China, the global Comau team is continuously evolving, testing and deploying leading-edge processes for all aspects of production system applications. An example of this can be seen in the development of a comprehensive advanced materials strategy that combines highly-efficient principles and designs to assemble multi-materials including aluminum, carbon fiber composites and magnesium, among others. In this way, we can more effectively meet the need for higher flexibility, shorter commissioning time (time to market) and a reduction of overall commissioning costs (cost efficiency), in order to help our customers reach the full production rate of their manufacturing lines.
What differentiates Comau Body Assembly from its competitors?
One of the most significant differentiators is that we are present in all major industrial countries in the world. This aspect forms part of the very logic of our organization, which is founded upon a strong connection between different functions, regions, businesses and individuals. Our global network allows us to take care of all our customer's requirements, and it is not uncommon to use the full capabilities of the business unit in the execution of projects.
The open and transparent methodology of sharing is a powerful asset. It has even helped us identify a combined technology-behavior approach when pursuing a new client. Unsure at first as to what value-proposition would resonate with the client, we have been able to use the competencies of our people and the capabilities of our technology to create a compelling case that ultimately helped us win the project. Similarly, we were able to leverage the know-how gathered in other projects around the world to capture business within India from large, western OEMs. These are just two examples, but they show how Comau uses the power of its global network to adapt to different clients and their needs. I should add that as an organization, we work very hard to ensure a cultural alignment with our customers. This entails the ability to understand and interpret written and unwritten communications, which is why we try to build multicultural teams able to conduct business in the natural language of the customer's project team.
In terms of innovation, we are constantly advancing the state of technology and we are at the forefront of the market in this regard. If you then add our collaborative approach, in which we strive to deliver specific, tailored solutions to meet the production objectives of each project and work closely with the client's project team to do so, it's a winning combination. Finally, we base these solutions on modular products that are then customized to address the customer's requirements. This helps us ensure the quality, performance and precision that Comau is known for, while meeting shorter than average launch times.
What other values do you feel Comau brings to the table?
Market needs are evolving and business is not just about who has the best products anymore. It’s as much about approach as it is about the technology per se. Our unique value proposition is the ability to listen to the client’s demands and then test the criteria to see if the identified request fully responds to what the client really needs. As I mentioned earlier, our approach is founded upon transparency, honesty, humility, collaboration and above all passion for a job well done. Clearly, our technology cannot be overlooked, nor can our factory-proven expertise. The combination of all of this together is unique to Comau, and what enables us to identify powerful solutions that create real benefits in terms of performance, efficiency, scalability, time to market and ultimately, business growth.
In your opinion, what future industrial challenges will Body Assembly have to face?
I think the biggest challenge that we will need to face is staying aligned with the evolution of the market. There’s a famous saying by a Greek philosopher (Heraclitus) that says, “the only thing constant in life is change”. Body Assembly as we know it is changing, and will continue to change, as the market embraces new technologies and new possibilities.
Without a doubt, buying preferences will change. Legislation will also change, as will technology, geographical footprints and the market drivers themselves. Just look at the changes/challenges that Comau has faced over the past few years between the adoption of lightweight and highly flexible manufacturing technologies, the movement toward open innovation and the deployment of advanced technologies such as in-line dimensional control. And the speed of these changes is accelerating. By systematically anticipating the changing market environment, as well as the potential challenges to our organization and to our customers’ organizations, we can develop appropriate strategies for responding to these challenges. In other words, Body Assembly needs to stay ahead of the market, interpreting well in advance future changes and what they will mean, and adapting our organization accordingly.
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