Where does innovation come from?

From the desire for continuous improvement, going beyond the regulatory obligation.

― Andrea Duranti - Health, Safety, Environment Manager

“From the continuous benchmark between what customers expect and what competitors can offer.”

― Marco Benincasa - Business Development Director

“It's an evolutionary need, a drive to grow, to increase its muscles on the global market.”

― Paolo Zenone - Industrial Dividion Director

“From the enhancement of workmanship, technology,human resources.”

― Daniele Biagioni - Production Manager

“The maturity of some markets pushes us to innovate products or our presence, anticipating the demands of the systems.”

― Alessandro Ventura - Corporate Technical Director

“We have to work hard on innovation in everyday life: be ready with new solutions even without expecting them to be requested directly from us.”

― Stefano Laurenti - Corporate HR, Organization, ICT Manager

What is innovation?


A term often abused in the Italian entrepreneurial world, yet an essential and unavoidable interpretation to understand the value of our work. Innovation must be contextualised, defined and put into practice: filled with meaning.

In this second issue of the Magazine, we want to explain what innovation means according to MTU. A commitment. A vocation, a transversal attitude that is reflected in every stage of the life of the company, even in the ones less intuitively connected to it: we innovate by doing research on materials; we innovate by developing new products and improving existing ones; we innovate by seeking new markets and new commercial contexts. But we also innovate with our work, improving our relationships, in the way we manage the human resources of our group that involves four continents, integrating in our daily work methodology, responsibility, vision and respect for the differences that enrich us.

How does this setup direct our choices and our decisions? And lastly, how does all this translate into a differential and competitive advantage? We asked those who help us every day to shift our horizon forward, one step at a time: you.

Where does innovation come from? Sometimes from the maturity reached in a market, and sometimes from encounters with evolutionary leaps and commercial needs. And always from our willingness to not be caught unprepared for the constant challenges that the market presents us with. Innovating is a need that we cannot ignore, neither as part of a company nor as human beings. We hope you enjoy the read.

Stimulation leads to the answer: innovation as a daily practice


Innovation takes on different shapes at MTU. But the common denominator is being a daily exercise of growth, which involves both small and big things. It translates in various ways, from the evolution of the product, to commercial strategies, to good practices implemented also in business sectors that are not usually perceived as strategic in terms of innovation, but which can actually generate surprising results and advantages in the medium term. As is the case of Environment and Safety, where we find two innovative projects: Andrea Duranti, tells us how MTU is involved in projects that concern the Circular Economy, an economic system designed to be able to regenerate itself, expressed through the desire to prolong the useful life of products, determining a reuse at the end of their life cycle, considering this aspect from the design stages.

This is achieved innovation: this approach reduces the amount of waste and stimulates the  functional recovery of parts and products. The project of industrial symbiosis, in collaboration with Umbria’s regional authority and other local companies, aims to create a sort of common stock exchange of materials, giving away what a company considers as waste to other companies for which it can be a raw material.

The Proper pilot project, on the other hand, is developed with ENEA and Sviluppumbria for the purposes of resource efficiency, identifying the best management system. In the Safety sector, MTU is applying the risk assessment and risk prediction method to identify unsafe conditions, and above all incorrect actions: this activity, introduced by launching WCM, helps to better examine the risk analysis that already exists, going beyond the regulatory obligation of the Risk Assessment Document.

In other cases, on the other hand, innovating means changing the way we think about the product: it happens especially in mature markets, such as those related to home appliances. “The evolution in this sector meant that the development of the seal is no longer the object to great innovation: we had to focus on other functions, developing, for example, PTFE bushings, which are unique on the market. The market itself has driven us to innovate by changing the product to provide a different function,” says Alessandro Ventura.

Industrial development also plays a part in this process. According to Paolo Zenone, “the strategy differs from the past, where we concentrated on searching for new customers in the traditional sector of small-sized centrifugal pumps (Low duty – non-heavy duty use). Whichever way we want to consider the degree of maturity of a market, or the evolution of our societies,

one fact remains central: water must be moved. It must be conveyed to where it is not found, or have it flow from where there is too much water.

This awareness explains how the know-how accumulated by MTU will always be strategic, if we are ready to adapt it to emerging needs, also by innovating our way of being on the market: for example, by extending our intervention sectors and  our product portfolio, as we are doing with the acquisitions of HUHNSEAL ( for more heavy-duty jobs, as in the wastewater or slurry sector, or in the paper industry, in Food & Beverage,  where an extremely high level of hygiene for the mechanical seal is sought), of Fugesco (a Canadian company in the Hydro- Power sector for very large diameter seals – up to 4 m), and a company in Germany that specialises in seals for double screw compressors, a completely new sector for MTU”.

Product, market, sustainability. But the process too can be innovated. “Since April 2018, the organisation of the Process falls under the technical area, with one management: Development and Process must go hand in hand. The product must be designed according to its process, also to manage product cost specifications from a feasibility perspective, for a unique and shared vision. Innovation must follow the evolution of the market: it is a constant journey, it means being ready for change. Evolutionary times have accelerated compared to the past. In just a few months, yesterday becomes tomorrow, compared to the technology integrated in machinery – where among other things, details are essential, there is no longer any space for improvisation.

Somehow, you must already be an expert, and this is something you can face only through continuous evolution, asking the right questions.

and understanding the answers offered by research. Particularly in a low-competitive sector (such as the automotive one), we work on unknown products, for which there is no worldwide know-how, and it is difficult to line up solutions that are ready or available on the market. Therefore, liaising with suppliers is also a fundamental step in this process, to avoid unsuitable responses. Innovation is the ability to perceive and interpret changes, thanks to the internal expertise not only of design, but also of production and process. We must be ready to review our beliefs and expertise, working on the ability to compete with suppliers, because technical innovation is also outside the company,” says Alessandro Ventura.

Industry plan 4.0 and WMC. Innovate beyonf the standards


The term Industry 4.0 indicates a trend of industrial automation that integrates some new production technologies to improve working conditions and increase the productivity and production quality of systems. Industry Plan 4.0 is the regulatory implementation of the European initiative Industry 4.0 (measures to encourage functional investments for technological change).

World Class Manufacturing is a methodology, not a regulatory obligation. But it is establishing itself as an operating standard in the industrial production sector, addressing the problems (maintenance, logistics, quality, safety, organisational, organisation of the workplace) based on their economic impact. The activities of all the teams are aimed towards implementing zero-objective projects: zero defects, zero failures, zero accidents and zero stocks.

However, both topics share the fact that they offer ideas for the innovation of every aspect of the company's work cycle. But, as often happens, the ability to see beyond the standard or the protocol allows for even greater results, to modify and metabolise elements of change, to discover new forms of growth and development and, above all, to anticipate the future.

This is how Andrea Duranti explains how the new Computerised Energetic Monitoring System is emblematic in this sense. “For some time now, we have started energy monitoring to check consumption and to comply with the law (Italian Law 102/2014). But we have exceeded the regulatory dictate. We are making it ever more automated and we are increasing the number of sensors for energy carriers. This will facilitate the energy diagnosis of 2019, which will have to be carried out starting from measured data, and will allow us to develop a customised control panel to manage the key indicators by monitoring the performance of each department and the main machines.

Investing in innovation beyond the obligation, translates into a strategic advantage, even in the short term.

Immediate interventions are possible for malfunctions, namely programmatic interventions on processes that consume too much energy. All this could also become the basis for future certifications of management systems with increasingly evolved indicators, projecting MTU by right in the future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

As said by Daniele Biagioni, we find the synthesis of how an open and integrated approach can generate tangible consequences. “The WCM protocol has led to an increase in the analysis of processes, technologies and human resources. We have highly developed facilities in terms of innovation, high-tech and with high automation levels, with vision systems providing 100% control over components and processes. We are trying to introduce artificial intelligence also in industrial systems, for example in sorting operations. By doing so, we combine the regulatory input with many operational ideas: waste reduction, production process improvement, increased productivity to be competitive on the global market and produce products with low costs but excellent quality, thereby also increasing marketability.”

This all has consequences also outside Italy, in what MTU considers “foreign relocation, and not delocalisation,” as Marco Benincasa says. The Innovation processes are mainly linked to the activities of the Campello sul Clitunno facility, especially in terms of the design of products and processes. Then, as Dario Beccari said, “with the input of the parent company, it is important that all the foreign facilities know how to keep up”.

Clearly, there are different conditions and different times, though in this case predisposition and attitude become fundamental. “Methodologies and work times could change from one day to the next, and we are working to incorporate and address these issues, by also working on human resources, preparing the ground in terms of cultural background to welcome innovation. We are paving the way to be able to align ourselves with the parent company, preparing our resources for change. Sometimes, it is necessary to intervene on the structure, to make it functional to adaptation. We cannot afford the opposite, especially at such a historic point in time.”

The topic of reaction to innovation is extremely important. “Nowadays, innovation implies a change, often also in one's own habits and in the practice of their work.

To innovate means to question oneself in various ways.

It is natural for this to generate resistance, initially at least. It is instead very interesting to observe how at MTU people are getting used to change, also when it comes to procedures. The environment has become responsive to innovation and improvement, and this makes it easier for individuals to adapt,” says Andrea Duranti.

This process is particularly visible to those who, like Daniele Biagioni, work on Workplace Organisation alongside employees. “Our WCM is focused on involvement, to increase understanding and acceptance. The criteria are those of WCM, but we highly consider people's operativeness. 

Ergonomics, work environment, easiness. This leads to willingly accept innovation that otherwise generates resistance, when it implies a change in ingrained habits. These, obviously, can also depend on demographic and cultural issues, but involving the operator is the first step to make the change real: at times, in the unawareness of gestures, there already lies a form of intelligence that improves processes. If we only focus on the numerical aspect of productivity we could have negative reactions. Instead, with participation improvements are noted, together with the physical effort saved and the new simplicity discovered.

Being ready for the emergence of new scenarios is essential. It puts into practice that long-term vision that allows us to anticipate technological leaps.”

The emotional intelligence of systems


The architecture of information systems is rarely associated with human resource management in a company structure. The choice made in this sense by MTU is programmatic: the management and development of information systems is an exceptional development leverage that responds directly to the company's strong commitment to innovation, which can also translate it into tangible terms and everyday actions.

We spoke about this with Stefano Laurenti. We use the development of Human Resources to introduce highly innovative concepts also from the point of view of management and the safeguarding of skills,” he says. We are supported by projects such as Enterprise 4.0 and Digital Transformation, which have a very high innovative potential. But already in less suspicious times we started innovative activities by building an enclosing method, which starts from the evaluation of company positions to define a profile of required skills, then working on the people who have those skills.

There is always a gap between what is expected and what one actually has, compared to a position held: with an innovative methodology, algorithms and objective evaluation activities, we bridge this difference, even with interventions that I would define as education (overcoming the concept of training), seeking the active involvement of people. There is clearly some resistance associated with the operational and managerial habits of a very technical area, such as ours, in which it is often difficult to enter into more transversal mechanisms.

Therefore, two years ago we started on a deep journey, which involves many people in the company, on emotional intelligence. We realised we had very good technicians from a know-how perspective, but many of them had difficulty managing the relational aspects of the work and enhancing their emotional resources. We began to hold classroom meetings with psychologists, and had great and very positive feedback, with coaching courses to contextualise everything in the reality of work. This produced a significant increase in participation in company life, putting the concept of innovation into practice.”

The development of empathy in companies and work contexts is a challenge that has distinguished many organisations over the years. MTU accepted the challenge, aware of how much this step could represent an important multiplier of the company's potential.

“They are slow revolutions and resistance can also be very strong if the potential benefit is not perceived:

it is a matter of questioning habits and aspects that are also very ingrained in our personality and behaviour. MTU is a company that takes care of the growth of the person around the individual. All employees have their own paths, with their own gaps to fill, their journeys of psychological, emotional, personal and professional growth. There are also those who do not want to be involved, moving to the side of a journey of growth, but everyone contributes to the result and to the success – they are all important.

Innovation in the field of Human Resources also concerns other methodologies – how things are done. Here, the choice of placing System management alongside HR is strategic. We are developing an innovative method from an algorithm perspective that manages relationships and work roles, especially where statistics, benchmarks and data management are crucial elements. This, among other things, blends well with digital transformation: availability of information, usability of many indices and technical tools available.

As for the part concerning information systems, we are digitising all the main procedures, which are currently in printed form: from the purchase request to the evaluation of a supplier, all activities that involve information that is passed on or stored are now entered into project management software that will be in able to monitor and manage every process, with resolution times and transmission of alerts and reminders. The goal is to have a fully digitalised company in a couple of years. Innovation turns into an accelerated business process even in existing aspects and everyone must be involved in the innovation: to make this easier, we organise specific courses on innovation and creativity for all those holding key roles within the company, with stories, laboratory situations and courses on project methodology. All these actions will then be extended abroad, with the managers of the various facilities that will have to apply this method to their structures. Everyone must take part in the innovation.

The algorithmic management platform is going to be distributed and will be in use as from 2019. We will present it in India in February 2019, on the occasion of the annual group meeting on Human Resources. It will allow us to manage all the development dynamics of the group in a fully integrated way. The same tool and information provided by everyone. With all these paths in action, we form a mapping of knowledge, a very defined Knowledge Inventory: we know who can do what, even beyond the most obvious technical or professional skills. We are very familiar with the profiles of our people, even with managerial and interpersonal connotations.

We can claim we have converted a traditionally rigid sector, such as the metalworking sector, into an emotionally intelligent sector, 

making the internal intelligence of the processes and company structures systemic. We also acquired an enormous procedural know-how, which can now be exploited in an intelligent and pervasive way.”

The competitive advantage

The attitude towards innovation, structured thinking and the daily practice of pushing limits forward and research lead to competitive advantages that take shape in various forms and contexts. “Sometimes innovation follows winding paths: roads that seem a cul-de-sac, which actually allow for a different thinking path that is then reflected throughout our attitude to work.

An exercise, which should be done every day”. Paolo Zenone tells us how MTU has found itself developing “a product for concentrating solar systems, where the standard application is one with oil”. Some years ago Nobel Laureate Carlo Rubbia tried to use molten salts instead of oil to improve the efficiency of this type of system. 

We followed this theory and developed a product after a few years, and we were the only ones in the world. The fact is that we arrived with our product, but the relative market never developed, since solar systems with molten salts have problems that prevented them from becoming popular. There is only one in the world, which is under construction in China. Therefore, the old oil technology is still the main one. We have innovated, but designed a non-usable product that cannot be sold yet. We will be the first if this market takes off!

 It was an investment in any case, which allowed us to make big steps forward in technological areas, which are not within our norm, modifying our work habits, making us think out of the box: we are good at working with water, but when we talk about molten salts (an extremely corrosive fluid, with temperatures that exceed 500°C and pressures of over 20 bar) this leap forward was an excellent challenge, good training to leave our comfort zone”.

Sometimes innovation does not follow the market, but precedes it.When the company manages to adapt itself, or where complete product maturity is encountered, that is where one’s survival disposition emerges,” says Alessandro Ventura. This happens with the electrification process of the Automotive sector: initially, this process could have led us to think that the mechanical seal for the cooling system in electric motors was no longer necessary. In fact, different types of electric motors have different cooling systems and a mechanical seal is needed where cooling is required. Based on performance and dimensions, the characteristics of this product are completely different from our standards, but while developing new seals we realised that the cooling circuits in electric motors multiplied: what seemed to be a problem turned out to be an opportunity. We understood that what we felt to be the end of our world, was the beginning of a new phase:

the skill of a company lies in being ready to go along with these evolutionary leaps, and they are faced while always focusing on all the potential product innovations.

Also because approaching a new sector, as in this case, every producer interprets the product in their own way, since no benchmarks are available. The additional positive note is that our products are decidedly different, and are being highlighted compared to competitors.” Even in particular situations, complex historical-social conjunctures like that which is going on now in Brazil, for example, it is necessary to work on innovation: it is a ray of hope to recover and survive, which translates into a future advantage. Innovation is also based on attitude, predisposition or preparation.” says Dario Beccari. A way for us to be in pole position should the country system start over.”

After all, the entire history of MTU moves in a continuum of evolution and innovation,” says Marco Benincasa. We must continue to do research: on basic technologies, on commercial and production alliances, finding the contexts that need specific knowledge, in high-tech sectors where low-cost competition is lower. There are many processes in progress: this is really a rewarding system.”

Leisure time as collective growth

A Cultural Association was founded in 2017 among the employees of MTU to enhance the free time of all those who interact with our company with recreational, sports and cultural activities. Tennis and volleyball competitions are held, as well as cycling and cultural trips and moments to get together. Furthermore, there are various conventions available for members. For now, only MTU employees can register, with the member’s status also being extended to family members for some activities. To date there already are 150 members. Being in different contexts from the usual work tasks us recognise ourselves, discover common interests, and often overcome the natural closure that different tasks and duties generate within a company.

Download pdf


View Comments +

Leave a comment +