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July 17, 2003

7 Min Read
Great metalworking skills and everything else

This stack mold for a combination shipping pallet and container is typical of the size and complexity of many Meccanica Generale molds.
These washing machine tubs are production units for a customer experiencing high demand. Since its production runs are relatively short, MG has not installed a central material handling system, but the plant can accommodate one.

“There are about 13,000 moldmakers in Europe, and a lot of them are very good at cutting metal. Being a very good metalworker is not enough to make you stand out in the market.”—Massimo Mancini, Meccanica Generale

Meccanica Generale of Jesi, Italy has been following a carefully crafted strategy for moldmaking success since the mid-1980s. Making top-quality molds is at the heart of that strategy. And like a heart, it is but one part of a system that gets the job done. MG embeds its moldmaking skills in a fabric made of in-depth market/product knowledge, a specialty in complex large molds, and product development meant to expand the definition of single-source supplier.

Meccanica Generale’s company brochure, which is in reality a hardcover book, contains, among many things, two versions of a chart showing all the steps needed to develop the idea for a molded plastic product and bring it into series production. The first version shows how the steps traditionally have been handled between the client and various suppliers such as product designers, prototypers, moldmakers, testing companies, and so forth. The second version is far simpler: It shows all the functions being handled by Meccanica Generale. The lightening of the client’s workload is obvious.

Single-source responsibility, according to general manager Massimo Mancini, cannot apply only to the mold. The full product development process from idea to production is the manufacturer’s concern. It is also the concern of the MG Group, as the total business is known, and is far from a new idea here.

Before the Idea, After the Production

The designer (below) and the moldfilling simulation specialist work side by side in the DATT center, part of a four-person team dedicated to the appliance business.

Of the 200 people employed by Meccanica Generale in its three Italian facilities, more than 40 of them work in some phase of design using up-to-date CAD and CAM tools. Mancini says this higher-than-normal percentage separates MG from most mold suppliers. He refers frequently to CAE throughout the company, noting it is a key to its success. Marco Montevecchio, director of sales and marketing at MG, agrees, adding that the only thing more important than engineering and design skill is the industry knowledge MG has gained over the years, and how that expertise is used to benefit clients.

Combining experience and skills with independent in-house research and development, MG seizes the initiative to supply customers with ideas for new products—or improvements to existing ones—without waiting to be asked. It can do this because MG’s people are deeply involved in the client’s market. As Mancini says, “The client’s client is our client.” For example, knowing the end-user market in household appliances, it sees the trends and recommends product improvements. Its concept of full product development embraces both ideas up front and the continued analysis of products in use.

A Unique Spin on Household Appliances
Meccanica Generale has become a leading product development solutions provider for the household appliances industry, particularly white goods—refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, washers and dryers, and the like. Its clients include a long list of the leading European and global OEMs.

One MG specialty is the large and complex molds for washing machine tubs. These molded tubs might spin at up to 1600 rpm balanced on an inserted central bearing while heavy water-soaked clothes try to obey the laws of physics. The tubs must be very stiff and well balanced, so they are heavily ribbed and filleted.

The devices in this lab were specifically made for testing appliance components, particularly washing machine tubs. Test standards frequently exceed those of the OEM and are often adopted by the client.

To support this specialty in home appliances, in early 2001 MG created its Domestic Appliance Technical Team—DATT. This group of engineers brings together MG’s R&D, CAE skills, moldbuilding, and project coordination for appliances. DATT adds value for clients by optimizing investment/productivity ratios, employing simultaneous engineering, reducing materials and process costs, and optimizing productivity at the eventual manufacturing location. The DATT lab has developed testing procedures and apparatus for critical components. Since MG’s level of testing often exceeds the OEM’s own requirements, many of its systems have been adopted by clients.

Despite all the attention given to appliances, MG is definitely not a one-product or even one-industry supplier. Electro-domestics represent only a third of its business on average. Other markets include automotive, such as wheel well liners and airbag components; large materials handling containers and pallets; luggage; and garden furniture.

More than Large Complex Molds
Although its three facilities are located in fairly close proximity, Meccanica Generale’s capabilities are broad. Each plant has moldmaking machinery, which allows strategic distribution of work. The company started in 1964 at its present headquarters in San Paolo di Jesi, and took over local moldmaker and molder Omas (San Giustino) in 1989. This latter facility specializes in smaller molds, enabling MG to compete when projects call for a family of molds. Moreover, the Jesi area has long been a metalworking center, and MG has working relationships with a number of specialized smaller shops that can support large projects with tight time windows.

In 1991 MG opened a plant in nearby Jesi purpose-built for large mold manufacturing. It features a 63-ton overhead crane, and despite being intentionally oversized, has expanded twice to accommodate growth. Besides moldmaking machinery, it now includes manufacturing space for the line of mold temperature control systems MG began to market in 1993. Primarily sold individually, MG’s mold temperature controls are also included in many of the company’s quotations, eliminating still another task for the client.

The resources of three MG plants can be augmented by nearby small specialty shops for fast delivery on mold families. This luggage project called for MG’s expertise in complex large parts, as well as delivery of all the small component molds in the same time window.

Additional space holds six recent-generation Sandretto injection presses, including two from the Mega Series, ranging from 190 to 1750 metric tons. Even larger machines are available through working relationships with other local firms. The MG presses are dedicated to mold testing and proving, though occasionally they support a client at startup or in meeting demand spikes. Montevecchio says testing and proving molds are internal functions in MG’s business model. When a client sees a mold, it is running under production conditions with verified parameters.

Delivering production-proven tools is one thread woven into the MG strategy. An emphasis on design, large complex molds, and service covering every part of product development are other parts of the mix. He may not say so specifically, but it is clear this full-sweep strategy springs from Massimo Mancini.

Though he is a nephew of the company’s founder, he did not inherit it. He joined after school and was still quite young when the company was sold to investors in the early 1980s. The new owner/investors recognized his ideas for moving beyond metal cutting and appointed him general manager. Within two years, MG had CAE everywhere: 3-D CAD, modern CAM, and full NC machining systems. (When MG wanted Moldflow software it had to go to the U.S.; there was no distributor in Italy at the time.)

Mancini believes in automation and rapid adoption of productive new technology. Having the best technology, specializing in large complex molds, and offering full product development increases MG’s value to clients. Backing that with resources sufficient to meet short time windows and delivering every project on time, chiave in mano (“key in hand”—ready to go), makes you a reliable supplier. Thinking about the clients’ products without being asked keeps clients loyal, and Meccanica Generale’s are long term.

Contact information
Meccanica Generale Srl
San Paolo di Jesi, Italy
Claudio Canellini; +39 (0731) 7871
www.mggroup.it; [email protected]

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