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July 15, 2008

7 Min Read
Plant tour: Moretto sets sights on industry leadership

Renatto Moretto has set high goals for the company he founded in January 1980. The company took life as a subcontractor making metal parts for his former employer, plastics auxiliary equipment manufacturer Piovan, but in 1987 he decided to enter the auxiliary equipment market with his own brand, Moretto Plastics Automation. During a recent visit to the company’s headquarters in Massanzago, Italy, the firm’s founder described for MPW how his firm has developed and also what steps he is taking to ensure its continued success.

Moretto Plastics Automation (www.moretto.com) makes temperature control units (TCUs), dryers and dehumidifiers; a wide range of materials handling equipment including hoppers, feeders, silos and dosing units; granulators, and equipment specifically for processing of PET. In essence it offers all of the material handling machinery a processor requires from the plastics supplier’s truck or railcar to his own processing machinery.

Humble beginnings, fast start

Success came quickly in the late 1980s and 1990s, as Moretto himself allows it was an opportune time to enter the plastics machinery market. In just three years the firm was able to become a pan-European presence with dryers and materials handling equipment, and in 1998 the firm opened its own research and development unit to promote its machines’ continued development. The R&D department revamped the firm’s existing machines and began to develop new ones, but then the downturn happened, quickly. “I remember Brazilplast in 2000,” recalls the company’s founder. “There were almost no visitors and nobody knew why. Our company had six months of back orders but I could see that a crisis was coming, and of course it came.” The next year proved a poor year, he says, and 2002 was even worse with an 18% drop in sales. “The telephones were quiet….It was scary,” he says.

Moretto met with his firm’s leadership in 2002 to devise a strategy to rise above the market’s malaise. The group decided the only way up was through investment, especially in stock so that orders could be filled very quickly, with the goal to make quick service one of the firm’s top selling points. It remains so to this day with Moretto still doing most of its own metalwork and machining, even stamping of large panels. The firm also operates its own paint lines. “Our characteristic is that we make our own equipment. We don’t just assemble,” he says. The firm makes all of its machines’ “strategic parts”, he says, and manufactures about 40% of all of its needed parts. Its inhouse customer testing hall includes 11 injection molding machines outfitted with a wide range of Moretto-brand equipment; on the day MPW visited two of these were molding parts for Moretto machines, and the firm’s mold bay includes at least 40 molds for molding its machines’ seals, front panels for temperature control units (TCUs) and even the drinking cups used at the factory.

“For us, manufacturing is a strategic part of our business,” says Moretto, noting the firm even makes its own screws for its dosing units. “Doing it ourselves lets us react very quickly to orders. We’ll even make parts that we can probably purchase for a lower price-but we make up for this extra cost with our speed.” The goal he has set for the firm is market leadership. “We’re close in some areas, especially dehumidifers, and we’ll keep working on the rest,” he says. Currently he ranks the firm as among the three leaders in the European market, behind Piovan and Motan, and in the top five globally. Moretto does not manufacture robots, and the owner says he has no intent to do so in the future. In Italy the firm does serve as a distributor for Taiwanese robot supplier Apex. “We don’t really need robots; our sales don’t depend on the robot used,” he explains.

Moretto’s sales have risen from about €21 million in 2005 to €23.8 million last year and will approach €27.3 million this year, he predicts. The company receives about 77 orders daily; 74 fork lifts dot the plant, with ones assigned to different production crews, enabling employees to react swiftly. The firm has about 200 employees and has wholly-owned sales/service subsidiaries in Brazil, England, Germany and Singapore. Its customers cover all plastics processes but injection molders represent the largest group, about 70% of sales, with more than half of these in the automotive market, and the white goods sector representing a second large group. He admits that the firm is as yet best represented in the European market, with sales in fast-growing countries such as India and China primarily to European subsidiaries there.

Slow sales a good sign?

Spare parts sales at Moretto have stalled at about 6% of total revenue. “Either the equipment is better or the parts are too costly,” jokes Renatto Moretto, adding the stagnated spare parts growth is a welcome sign that the company’s move to improve quality has been realized. The firm raised its quality bar in the past years, he says, hiring a number of engineers for its R&D department. “I believe in young people,” says Renatto Moretto, noting the average age of employees at the firm is just 33. He will invest about €4.5 million in the company this year with about half of that in R&D, and with much of that devoted to energy-saving developments. “We just quoted a big order to a German customer who, with our dryers, stands to save about €500,000 (in energy costs) in three years” compared to its current equipment, says Moretto. The firm makes about 35,000 pieces of equipment each year, with about 4000 variations. Andrea Salmosa, technical director, says the firm makes about 40-60 product developments (evolutionary changes) annually, and introduced 4-5 new products each year. Among assets he can call on for R&D are a 3D printer used to form prototypes, an infrared video camera to measure heat distribution on equipment, and a feeding test line 190m long used to test, for instance, the conveying capacity of new equipment. In 2007 Moretto says it was the first company in Europe to acquire Discrete Element Method (DEM) software to help it predict the actions of plastic granulate at bends in a line. The firm also says it is one of less than 10 companies in Italy that have Ansys CFX-brand software to measure fluid dynamics.

To help Moretto, still a relatively young company, reach its goals for growth, Renatto Moretto says he counts on a solid marketing effort, which includes his company participating in about 41 trade shows this year. Pictures of the Moretto kitten mascot, certainly part of the marketing effort, are present everywhere in the company. Why a kitten for a machine manufacturing company? Employees were asked to brainstorm ideas for a potential mascot but couldn’t reach a consensus. The company founder has a soft spot for kittens, and told employees that since they couldn’t reach a decision his vote would be the deciding one. End of story.

Customer success: Injection molder CEL upgrades, saves with centralized system

Moretto’s broad range of equipment appealed to officials at custom injection molder CEL (S. Pietro Di Legnango, Italy; www.cel.it). Already a Moretto customer, in 2004 the molder, which serves a variety of industries including automotive, refrigeration, sporting goods and many more, merged its then-two processing facilities into a single building, and used that move to upgrade its materials handling machinery to a centralized system from Moretto. Maurizio Motterman, managing director at the molder, told MPW the processor’s 40+ molding machines each had its own dryer, with five materials handling systems used for the plant. “This of course increased personnel costs, took up too much space, just too many issues,” he recalls.

The centralized materials handling system is located near the company’s materials storage bay, and meets CEL’s desires for a single air control for the entire system and for the entire system from a single supplier. In addition to the space savings and convenience, he says energy savings have also been substantial. “We didn’t throw away all of our old dryers, and kept using a few for a while, so we could test and see that the new Moretto dryers are saving us at least 25% of energy use,” says Motterman.

Cautionary tale: Renatto Moretto’s company acquired a Geiger counter after a friend of his, also owner of a manufacturing company, bought 3-4 tonnes of steel from Asia that he says turned out to be radioactive. Moretto’s company now checks each incoming order before using it.

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