PETnology Europe 2024_summiteer

heroPET4.0 - The Beginning of a Revolution in the Beverage and Filling Industry?

Meeting with Sacmi Pietro Cassani, General Manager Vezio Bernardi, General Manager, Beverage Daniele Marastoni, Technical Director, Beverage

Piovan April

What is the most important cornerstone for Sacmi?  

Cassani:  We got our start in the ceramics industry in 1919. So we are approaching our 100th anniversary.  

Who owns Sacmi?

Cassani:  Sacmi is more or less owned by the 400 shareholders, who are working for or coming from our company itself. This is important to know. Six to eight times a year, we have shareholder meetings, where all the strategic decisions are made. It sometimes takes a little bit longer to come to a conclusion, but in the end, the decision is based on a broad consensus. 

How is the Sacmi Group organized?

Cassani:  We have more than 4.000 people in our organisation. Here in Imola, we have about 1,200 employees. Sacmi also has a worldwide presence with production facilities in China, Brazil and India. Today we focus on four different business sectors, and therefore we are active in four different worldwide markets. These business sectors are: ceramics, packaging and beverage (closure, preform, blowing, filling, labelling and end-of-line technologies), food (today mainly chocolate) and automation. When people come to Sacmi for the first time, they are astonished by the different technologies we have in our portfolio. As for our packaging and beverage production, our labelling facilities are located in Verona, filling is conducted in Parma, and everything else is in Imola.

How do the different segments contribute to the turnover of the Sacmi Group?

Cassani:  In 2015, we had a turnover of about 1.4 billion € for the whole Sacmi Group. Approximately 60% was generated by ceramics, 30% by packaging and beverage and 10% by food. In 2016, we expect a turnover of 1.7 billion €.

What future trends are expected? In which segments will Sacmi grow?

Bernardi:  Ceramics are relatively constant. So we have to create growth in the other segments: beverage and also food. Beverage will be the key sector for growth.

How different are these markets in terms of customer requirements, customer purchase activities and competitive pressure?

Bernardi:  The ceramics market is completely different from the beverage market. The beverage market is multifaceted and more complex, and includes some brands that operate worldwide and purchase centrally. We all know that there is a ruinous global price war in the beverage market. We don’t find this in the ceramic market, or at least not to such an extent. This is perhaps due to the long history of nearly 100 years of partnership.

Don’t the ceramics and beverages markets overlap?

Cassani:  You are right. Between ceramics and beverage there are also some sales synergies – some customers operate in both sectors, and the technology overlaps in some cases. So we sometimes encounter situations in which we can use developments we made in the ceramic business for the beverage business and vice versa. With different sectors like ceramic, packaging, beverage/food and automation, there is sometimes incredible potential to transfer the ideas from one sector to the other to create innovations. We never expected that, but we see the benefits again and again. The idea of compression moulded closures, for example, came from ceramics; compression moulded preforms started with compression moulded closures. Digitally printed tiles and digitally printed closure surfaces also use comparable technologies. We have a lot of synergies which help us to develop the best products to meet market challenges.

Digital printing, digitisation and preform compression moulding are all innovative technologies. Let’s talk about preform compression moulding and the heroPET4.0 strategy. What is the strategic relevance of this technology for Sacmi?

Marastoni:  We have been working on this technology for ten years. It was our aim to develop something different in preform moulding, a new technique or even a new philosophy. The result should not just be different, but even better. The innovation should offer the customers the opportunity to improve their technology and reduce costs. Cassani:  We see the whole production and filling process, so we have to focus on the blown, filled, labelled and closed bottle. For this reason, we have developed heroPET4.0, which is definitely a strategic decision for Sacmi. heroPET4.0 will be a revolution for the packaging and beverage industry.

What are the key market barriers that heroPET4.0 has to overcome to be a revolution in the market?

Bernardi:  Sometimes, we hear from filling companies, “plastic is not our job”. We see this attitude as a big opportunity for us. The heroPET4.0 process is not complicated, and it is important that we communicate this. heroPET4.0 is a really strong innovation. It takes time. When you are presenting a new development, an innovation, you don’t have examples in the market. Also the costs are probably not yet optimized for the first production machine. This can make it difficult to convince customers. We have to demonstrate and communicate the advantages of this technology, and here we are on the right track.  Cassani:  The first machine concept has been commissioned and accepted by a strong customer with a lot of experience in PET processing, blowing and filling. For many years, we have had an excellent partnership. The first commission is always just the first step. Now we have to reach a certain level of market share for this technology – or should I say production philosophy? It is an evolution. For the beverage market, it is even a revolution. Our competitors already recognize the potential and are trying to copy this type of technology – that’s competition. So we must also work on further innovations in this new field of preform production. The only way to be successful is to be different. This is in our DNA. That is why we invest 60 – 80 million euros in innovation, R&D and buildings each year. Currently, a new production plant for the beverage segment is under construction, and another building is being built for our Industry 4.0 academy.

What does Industry 4.0 mean for Sacmi?

Cassani:  For us, digitisation plays an important role. What is happening today and what will be possible in future? Industry 4.0 increases the level of knowledge within a company – and it also improves the communication within the company. We think that Industry 4.0 is so important that we have installed an academy within Sacmi to follow the evolution in digitisation and to design our own platform for Industry 4.0. Our roots lie in mechanics and machinery (the name “Sacmi” means cooperative of mechanics). Mechanics are important, for sure – but these days software communication and communication itself play an increasingly significant role. Mechanics are the foundation. For example, the software for production, production control or even the whole process of ceramics is a platform that we also use for the heroPET4.0 concept. Based on the same strategy, we can use the software to control, visualize and measure the properties and the characteristics of the process. Cassani:  For us, digitisation has three important aspects: -Transparency and better control of the total cost of production. -Managing the labour force, controlling production and saving time. -Checking all data and activity by installations and start-ups. The overall key point is efficiency; however, it’s important to know the process. If you don’t understand the process in detail, you won’t be able to work on improving efficiency. For example, sometimes special sensors are needed in order to get the necessary information from the process. We develop these sensors ourselves, and we check all market segments to find new sensor possibilities. Marastoni:  Digitization 4.0 is more than just the equipment. A lot of software and new apps are necessary and possible. We have already implemented this in the form of special services and innovations for our heroPET4.0 project. For example, we have developed new PET bottles by using higher IV PET grade, and we provide a service to help customers learn how to start buying resin instead of preforms. Compare this to the mobile phone market: don’t just sell the smart phone - you need the app store as well..

Mr Cassani, Mr. Bernadi, Mr. Marastoni thank you for talking to us.

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