In such a complex period like the current one, telling stories with simple solutions helps represent our way of facing global challenges and changes that naturally concern us. Over the last 20 years, the Meccanotecnica Umbra group underwent considerable development, starting from investments in research and development, along with bringing out the value of human capital. More importantly, we implemented an internationalisation process that led us to control markets experiencing strong growth and with strong domestic demand, which are strategic for our company.
In the late 1990s, Brazil was the first country where we landed, followed by China, takeovers in Sweden (Huhnseal) and the US (John Crane), and more recently India. These are no longer, or not only, foreign markets, but actual extensions of our company. With both Campello sul Clitunno and Italy they share a manufacturing process, a vision, an approach to issues related to the nature of our work and which are based on quality, respect and good practices. And on considering our main resource: human capital. Our attention on personnel, on their selection and growth went hand in hand with the specific needs that every country and every culture naturally have. And in this sense, being rewarded by a truly noticeable loyalty rate fills us with pride and makes us understand we’re heading in the right direction. We have established an actual training company, the MTU Academy, providing continuous professional development programmes, also for external firms. This is our way of tackling the 4.0 revolution in the industry, a context where not only investments in software or automatisation processes are winning choices, but especially the ability to create a sense of community where one can bring out the value of the people sharing this journey with us. This is one of the main reasons that led us to imagine the first issue of this magazine with the voice of those who have experienced and carried out these processes themselves, significant experiences and anecdotes are recounted just like at a family gathering. We would like this magazine to be an open instrument, somewhere where people can speak about themselves in the MTU world.
So let’s start with five different and yet incredibly similar stories, five examples of how the path to excellence is sometimes a complex, though always rewarding one. An initial moment to share something for further integration between the various sides of our group, which in these pages will find a place where to interact, grow and get to knoweach other in view of a future where we imagine MTU willincreasingly be a global leader in the design and manufacturing of mechanical seals, with ongoing internal and external growth also in the aviation and aerospace sectors. We hope you enjoy the read.
We arrived in Brazil between 2000 and 2001, and initially opened a sales office in São Paulo. The market proved to be very interesting and strategic for our products, and at the time the Meccanotecnica Umbra group had no plants outside Italy yet. In terms of manufacturing, the history of Meccanotecnica do Brasil started when Maurizio Calisti, now back in Italy, became the person who promoted the idea inspired by the owners and management of settling in that potentially very interesting market. He arrived here to “explore the area”, to learn a bit more about local laws and regulations. He proved to be clever in seizing an investment opportunity in Curitiba, a financial and economic district 400 km southwest of São Paulo. MTU thus had its first plant in Brazil and we started business for the Automotive sector, which is still currently our core business accounting for 90% of our turnover.
Meccanotecnica do Brasil pays great attention to the management of human resources and this is the same approach found in every branch of the group, which implements the management’s vision. I personally found a difference compared to previous positions held, where there had always been a high employee turnover. On average, around 4 people a year would change job, either by their own choice or that of the company.
Instead, across the whole MTU group, as here in Brazil, it’s not uncommon to meet people who have been working with us for years, even 40, and this applies to most employees.
The company has been here for 17 years, and there are many people who have been working with us right from the start.
Sales Director, Salvatore, has been here forever and is a “historic” figure for us. It’s also thanks to him, who chose the project as a life choice, that the company was able to have a trusted person in Brazil to transfer the project culture and the Italian modus operandi.
He was the first person recruited by the sales office in São Paulo. We now have some 90 employees, with a fair gender balance. In a still predominantly male-dominated country, the mindset on the job market is opening up in a European sense, partly because it is essential to have both parents working in a family. There is a large number of Italian expats in Brazil, now at the second or third generation. This means that, along with a strong emotional bond towards Italy – something rarely found abroad – there is an equally strong cultural bond, which made it easier to promote the MTU “world”.
However, the country is still experiencing difficulties. The market is recovering from the deepest economic crisis over the last 50 years, also following the huge corruption scandal that hit all political and bureaucratic levels in recent years, entirely revolutionising local and national politics, including presidents Lula and Rousseff. This crisis caused enormous economic issues, with a collapse of even 50% of the total turnover of the automotive market. And at the moment it’s not expanding yet, it’s instead trying to recover and go back to the figures it reported 10 years ago. This is why Brazil remains strategic for us, but not like 20 years ago: it’s still a market benchmark for the whole of South America, all the other countries depend on the Brazilian economy. It’s strategic to be here. What has changed is our target market, since there are excellent growth margins in industrial sectors: extraction, paper mills, industries associated with raw materials, which are very active in these countries.
There’s a lot of work to do, both in terms of marketing and sales, as well as of course in terms of product. And we are ready to take up the new challenge.
Meccanotecnica Umbra has been in China since 2005. I followed all the stages, from its establishment to its development, after graduating in International Communications in Perugia and working two years for MTU in Campello sul Clitunno. In these years I did a bit of everything: first I was the PA to the Italian General Manager, then I worked in finance, purchasing, sales and communications. I served as an interpreter, even a lawyer when needed! I am proud of being the first employee, I was 33 when it all started and today I'm one of the oldest in the company. We’re a very young team and this is why we have enormous potential. If we think of China today, however, we are looking at a very different scenario to that of 12 years ago: rules and regulations on industrial emissions, pollution, environmental protection and labour protection have been established. But at the beginning it was hard for us: we chose to want to adopt the same environmental and quality standards in place in Italy, and we had to deal with a context with no rules. For example, when it came to setting up our production, we sent a bottle of water to a government agency, which according to our parameters needed to be purified in order to know what type of purification plant was required.
They replied that according to their parameters there was no need to purify it! We stubbornly decided to go ahead with our standards, even without a law imposing us to do so and even if it involved high costs. Today, that regulations have become exhaustive and strict, many factories in China experience difficulties as they need to adapt. We have full peace of mind instead:
our approach, which immediately focused on environmental protection and safety, is now an enormous competitive edge.
Also, our relationship with employees followed this approach. Right from the start, we aimed at guaranteeing a pension fund by withdrawing a sum from payslips that would cover our employees’ contributions. But it was hard to get workers to understand this, to get them to accept the idea that the company was not taking away money from them, but was actually paying more for their work, allowing them to have a sum set aside to access, for example, in order to buy a house. Years later, this decision proved to be a winning one, with the employees very happy with what initially appeared as an unpopular decision.
This all contributed to making us feel like a big family and as such, we have a number of opportunities to share experiences. In 2015, on the occasion of our first 10-year anniversary, we rewarded 10 employees who worked with us for 10 years, from the very first day the company was founded. Plus, every year we celebrate the Chinese New Year, before which we hold a party with all employees, during which theatrical performances involving all our staff are staged. We organise a company trip a year: we visited Beijing and the Great Wall (there were almost 100 of us!) and last year we went to the beach. We also organise frequent Team Building events involving everyone, both workers and staff, as well as any Italians on site for the twinning events with Campello sul Clitunno. Precisely with Italy, there are frequent opportunities to exchange ideas and talk for all the sectors of the company, from sales to purchases to HR, with members of our staff who go to Campello. Just like the parent company often sends strategic resources off on a visit to China. Quality, integration, protection, safety and a strong sense of being part of a team make us feel part of a beautiful journey.
My name’s Jeff Sneed, I joined MTU eight years ago, after 19 years at John Crane in the automotive sector. At the moment, we havea plant in San Fernando, Mexico, a distribution network in Texas and a sales office, which is my head office, in Detroit. I oversee the entire North American and Canadian market, as well as the Mexican manufacturing plant, where I worked for the first four years until I become General Manager. Deciding to work for MTU meant accepting a challenge and it gave me great satisfaction. The company did not have a defined programme yet for North America, so we had to start from the beginning: in some ways an ideal situation. For the last seven to eight years, we found ourselves managing the need to migrate the manufacturing process from Italy to San Fernando, in Mexico. We know how to do it, MTU is really efficient when it comes to opening new plants: China 10 years ago, India 5 years ago. But Mexico involved various complex aspects, including many issues related to security and safety, both in the workplace and outside, due to the difficulties when entering and leaving Mexico for people and goods.
But this was an inevitable and unavoidable step for the company’s growth. The underlying concept is that clients naturally tend to buy from other companies in the same country, with whom they share a context.
Sharing the same cultural background is really important when you have to sell a product.
However, to do this without losing your distinctive features, it is essential to be able to
not only migrate a manufacturing process, but an entire vision, a working method and an approach to design.
Italians are usually internationally renowned for their design and food culture: so I think it’s great to tell stories like this one, which are about other winning aspects to export. This whole journey shaped our current working method. Before, we designed and manufactured in Italy and sold products to clients here. Now, the idea is seeing if we can manufacture here, with the same certified quality and the same imprint on the manufacturing process. At the moment, we can really start producing with the same quality standards applied to Italian manufacturing processes.
Therefore, my new mission is to carry out tests entirely independently in the Mexican plant. While the first stage focused on operating aspects, now the objective is to replicate the quality of the parent company. The first quality operation required from us was the reproduction of the ring seals manufactured in Campello, obviously in accordance with specifications. Due to the different instruments, we managed to do it but it wasn’t economical in terms of costs and production volumes. By doing so, we realised that we needed the same instruments used in Italy to perform like the Umbrian factory. We have similar test equipment, but the finished products are slightly different from those manufactured in Italy. The product is the same, we can test it and measure it consistently, but the assembly is different, in terms of details such as the use of glue, which is not employed at all in the Italian process.
In any case, our path is now traced and constantly growing. In Italy, there will always be technical resources and human and creative energy to develop products. But from the group’s perspective, we can say we have manufacturing potential also in China, India, Brazil and now in Mexico: this allows for closer and better focus on local markets.
I have been the General Manager of Meccanotecnica India since 2015. We have been operating in India for almost 10 years and at the moment there are two offices: one in Pune, where seven people work on the design of Huhnseal products and another one near Madurai, the production unit of MTU products with over 100 employees. The average age is very low, for various reasons: on the one hand we chose to focus more on young graduates or those who completed their secondary studies, rather than on people with a certain experience, to make it easier to insert them in the manufacturing and operating processes of MTU. Moreover, women, who are in charge of many visual inspection processes, tend to leave work after marrying and prefer to devote themselves to housework and their family rather than their career. These are examples of elements deeply engrained in the local culture, which obviously influence company decisions.
India is a complex and wonderful country, which is difficult to understand immediately, but full of human and social resources.
While corporate responsibility is a well-established idea in Italy, in India adopting an approach that pays attention to environmental and community aspects can mean making a difference, both at the workplace and in terms of the quality of life of its employees and the context where you operate. MTU has always focused greatly on local customs and the needs expressed by employees, most of them are Hindu here, but there are significant minorities of other religions. And for example, the request of building a Hindu temple to pray at the beginning of the working day was taken into consideration, but it’s not an easy project to put in place. It’s delicate and emblematic of the complexity of the country, in our attempt not to favour one religion compared to others.
When we started operating in India, we chose to adopt the same quality, safety and environmental standards defined for Italy, even if there were no corresponding regulations.
This approach generated a true collective growth process. For example, a district of Pallapatti, the village with 10,000 inhabitants near the company, has no running water due to failures in the existing system. The inhabitants are forced to make do with makeshift solutions to use such a fundamental asset on a daily basis. We are therefore taking care of building a well to provide drinking water to the entire district, as well as maintenance of some obsolete tanks by working with local private individuals. Our commitment in this sense is growing: we have set up a Committee for Corporate Responsibility towards the local population, following agreement with the administrators, with whom we define social and solidarity projects to be funded and implemented, also in accordance with Indian law, which requires the devolution of a part of the profits for social and rural purposes.
As in the case of another law, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act of 2013 has enabled us to set up an internal committee for the defence of women from sexual harassment at the workplace, an alarmingly growing phenomenon in India. We provide training on rights and protection, and all employees of Meccanotecnica India can get in touch with the committee in case of problems or pressure. The committee has 4 members, chaired by Sajina (HR manager of Meccanotecnica India) and by Professor Denisa S.P. of the Mother Teresa Women’s University of Pallapatti, as an external representative, as well as myself and the Company Secretary, Muthukumar.
My name is Paul Beddows, I'm the General Manager at Huhnseal. I joined the company in January 2017 and I have 13 years of experience in the industrial fluid management industry. Huhnseal has 70 employees working in sales, head office services, product engineering and manufacturing: we are an independent business unit, in a certain sense independent from MTU, whose core business is the automotive market.
We can say we are the “tailor-made” department in Meccanotecnica’s world. The specific nature of our working method leads us to constantly ask ourselves how we can improve our clients’ experience with us, starting from how we present ourselves and how we can represent the way we work. Indeed, unlike most of our competitors, we don’t have a product catalogue, but we develop custom seals starting from requests. There is a significant difference, both in terms of features and cost. By purchasing products from a catalogue, you also pay for non-required specifications.
With customised specifications, you only pay for the ones you need. It’s a tailor-made service. Clients discuss their needs with us and we work with them to develop project specifications, the details of how they want to use the seal and how they want to incorporate it into their process, up to the design of the solution for specific needs. It’s a process made up of small common steps, continuous comparison and corrections, cost limitation, tests carried out by clients in their production processes, up to the actual manufacturing of the product. As a result, the challenge we are constantly facing is:
how do we present our work to clients? How do we turn our tailor-made service into something tangible?
In early summer last year, all our manufacturing and design capacity was located in Sweden. Finding yourself making business agreements with clients in countries far away from development and production resources can be a limitation: this may cause concern in the client. Their experience of working with us may be affected by the fact that we have agents and sales offices in North America, South America, China and the rest of Europe, but technical resources far away from the markets we operate in. So we took a decision:
decentralising our working method to be even closer to them and to clients’ needs.
We started recruiting new people, employing them in those markets, rather than having them all here in Sweden. We set up a production development chain outside Sweden – in Italy, where one of our engineers, Mario, moved to Campello Sul Clitunno – and in North America. Then we introduced new company resources in China and North America and also in the UK.
The customisation of hydraulic seals is our unique selling preposition. However, from now on this also applies to the challenge of shaping the entire manufacturing process in line with our direct relationship with the client, even if this means delocalising processes and adopting a decentralised mindset. This is no longer just a sale and purchase relationship, but an actual shared experience. Customizing the hydraulic seal is our main selling argument [unique selling preposition, ndt.]. But from today it is also the challenge of shaping the entire production process according to our direct relationship with the client, even if this means delocalizing the processes and adopting a decentralized way of thinking. It is no longer just a relationship of sale and purchase, but a real common experience.