When people make the difference

Made in Italy technology, innovation, excellence, dynamism, diversification, growth, territorial regeneration and employment are just some of the aspects that emerged from an interview with Davide Masnada, the CEO and managing director of CMS.

Reading the history of the last fifty years of CMS provides a valuable insight into Italy’s industrial fabric where certain companies demonstrate how entrepreneurial commitment can lead to real satisfaction. More specifically, it shows that if the “machine” that has brought you success is continually updated, it will grow together with the people who make it work and the area it is located in.

“From small to big” means retracing the various steps in CMS’ history that have taken the company, from 1969 – the year in which it was founded by Pietro Aceti, and who remained its president until 2013 – to when the company joined the SCM Group. The Rimini-based group is a world leader in the creation, production and distribution of technologically advanced woodworking solutions, with 3300 employees and a turnover of 600 million euro - and as Davide Masnada it, “the group leader that has done so much for CMS.”

In July 2015, in fact, CMS was taken over completely by the SCM Group, and its recent history reveals a concrete industrial strategy based on successful takeovers, entrepreneurial intelligence and a capacity to continually update. CMS is made up of two divisions, represented by 4 major trademarks, a consolidated turnover of more than 120 million euro, over 600 employees, five foreign branches and a sales network that covers every geographical area in the world.

The company was originally established as a manufacturer of woodworking machines that were first semiautomatic, then automatic, and last of all, numerically controlled. The first NC machine was built in 1977 for the Minelli company and only replaced a few years ago. It is now proudly exhibited at the entrance to the production area of the factory in Zogno.

In addition to woodworking machines, thanks to the takeover of Brembana Macchine, the company now also produces CNC work centres for processing tombstones, especially marble. Following this, the product range was expanded with the takeover of Tecnometal (a flat glass processing machine manufacturer), Villa Termoformatrici (thermoforming machines), Masnada Macchine (machines for processing plastics), Tecnocut (water jet cutting machines) and Balestrini (solid wood).

Today, CMS’ core business is the manufacture of CNC multi-axis work centres and sheet thermoformers for the plastics and composites sector. This area boasts a turnover of approximately 70 million euro and has established the company’s reputation for excellence at an international level, as well as earning it an enviable customer base that ranges from aerospace, with Boeing - “where twenty or so CMS brand machines work in a continuous cycle,”, notes Davide Masnada - to Embraer in Brazil and IAI in Israel. CMS also supplies machines to McLaren and Williams in the Formula1 sector and Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Volkswagen and Ferrari in the automotive industry. Last, but by no means least, CMS machines are also used in the yacht sector, where components used by Luna Rossa, Oracle Racing and Artemis all carry the CMS logo. “Chapeau!” as the French would say.


Can you diversify and integrate at the same time?

There is one particular added value behind the acquisitions that have marked the history of CMS since the early 1980s. This is a value that goes beyond the group’s growth in terms of turnover and which derives from certain aspects that it is important to highlight: largely Italian takeovers, the regeneration and enhancement of the local area with a precious boost to employment levels, an ability to diversify and the interaction between the development and integration of different production departments. Design intelligence has also been required to take advantage of the group’s wide range of products, bring out existing synergies between different sectors and create a competitive sales proposal.

But what does all this mean and where does it lead? Davide Masnada sums it up perfectly: “we are too busy, too focused on everyday business and work and we simply don’t have the time to concentrate on launching strategic projects other than the development of our own machines. This is why we have gone back to trying to grow as a “group”. In other words, mainly through takeovers rather than internal growth.”

The takeovers made over the years have diversified the company’s product and widened its sales range, but at CMS the concept of “diversification” goes hand-in-hand with “integration”. It is the people who work in the company who have made the difference by focusing on creativity and engineering, and creating a high degree of interaction between different production sectors in order to develop a capacity for redesigning bespoke devices and parts and applying them to other systems.

This flexible approach offers design freedom and a wealth of technological solutions that together with the company’s engineering intelligence, gives CMS a clear advantage in terms of both costs and product range versatility, especially over other companies offering a standard product range with limited flexibility. The CMS range can be “customised” in no time at all. The production departments in the various sectors interact in a way that is both practical and efficient so made-to-measure design alternatives are always on hand... right in the factory.

This has led to some major successes, especially with regard to German competitors, whose customers have now begun to look at Italian products with genuine interest. They often now opt for Made in Italy technology instead of their long standing local suppliers. This claim is backed up by some remarkable statistics, which show that German plastics transformers are now Italian machine manufacturers’ leading customer block. So, in a relatively short time, CMS has caught up with its German competitors.

“In the last year, we have developed special thermoformers that can mould, not only in vacuum mode, but also by “pressure forming” that allows harder, stiffer, more structured surfaces to be processed. We can also thermoform the plastic materials improperly called “composites” – a typical example of which are suitcases. Then there are our “twin sheet” applications too. Thanks to these various breakthroughs our machines can now even be found in German companies who for the last twenty years have only ever bought German-made machines,” explains Davide Masnada.

All this is handled extremely strategically at CMS and is explained clearly by Fabio Gaiazzi, the thermoforming product manager. “At CMS we have the advantage of being able to count on a wide range of products, and this inevitably brings a stream of new technology into the company. To remain in line with the market, this technology is always maintained at the highest standard. So, each individual product benefits from the experience inherited from all the other production sectors. For example, the servomotors we use for thermoformers are the same as the ones on the 5-axis work centres we produce for the aerospace sector. So, on a machine that 10 years ago was driven by pneumatic pistons or the kind of motor used for washing machines, you can now find the same servomotors as the ones on the work centres used to cut parts for military fighter planes…”.


The local area and the social community

Even if its sales network extends from one end of the globe to the other, CMS has only taken over Italian companies, in line with a winning formula that has successfully brought together seemingly distant sectors such as: wood, glass, marble, stone, metal, plastic and composites. With the constant support of the group leader, SCM, in just a few years Davide Masnada, has completed a series of reindustrialisation projects involving various abandoned factory areas in the Val Brembana and the surrounding areas.

Without doubt the local social and economic community has enjoyed the benefits, especially in terms of employment opportunities. A number of historic local brands have also enjoyed a second life by joining the extended family of the SCM Group, where a well-oiled mechanism succeeds in effectively coordinating the efforts of the entire group.

In the Municipality of Zogno, CMS recently completed the purchase of an area measuring approximately 27,000 square metres that belonged to the former Manifattura Valle Brembana (MvB) company. To enter the auction, an initial investment of 2.2 million euro was needed, that will rise to approximately 10 million, by the time the regeneration works are completed. The operation should be completed by the beginning of 2018, when all the warehouses will be converted from textile production to mechanical engineering. This operation confirms the company’s roots in the local area and the trust that the owners (the Aureli and Gemmani families who direct SCM) have placed in its management.


On board the machine, in the CMS plastics and composites compartment

The CMS research and development department has an important ace in the hole: the benefits of long years of experience and the combined knowhow of different sectors. The result is a competitive sales portfolio and a ground-breaking range of work centres and thermoforming machines.

During the open house that took place between 28th and 30th September the BR5 thermoformer series was put on display. Designed for “pressure forming” and vacuum thermoforming processing, these machines boast completely automatic or manual loading technology. They can operate with standard thermoplastic materials and with more technical materials, like composites, for more complex processes that require considerable force to transform material. The thermoforming system also features advanced infrared heating technology with halogen lamps and a computerised control system that allows sheet processing cycle times – and therefore energy consumption - to be notably reduced.

“In recent years, R&D at CMS has focused on reducing machine downtime as this inevitably increases the final cost. Technological developments aimed at reducing energy consumption is an aspect that CMS has focused on particularly over time. Heating is optimised by means of high performance motors that recycle energy into the network instead of letting it dissipate in heat. This recycling format enhances our systems considerably. Energy saving is linked specifically to the type of production and/or the type and quantity of the material being processed. To simplify matters, we can safely say that, compared to the same machine configuration ten years ago, our latest developments allow our machines to produce 30% more. This is thanks to improvements in heating systems, faster machines and a more efficient piece cooling process,” states Massimo Guerra, the plastics and thermoforming division sales manager.

CMS stands for Costruzione Macchine Speciali (Special Machine Construction), so it is not surprising that flexibility is the quality that best defines the company. Its sales solutions are tailored to meet its customers’ needs and its machine range is truly comprehensive. The company never tires of comparing its results with its main competitor country, Germany, as this has become a sort of continuous challenge. Fortunately, there are a number of important differences between CMS and German companies. The macro-parameters change... in fact, the whole approach is different.

“CMS offers customers a completely different mindset with all the brilliant and dynamic qualities typical of top-class Italian industries. And with added value: flexibility. As a group, we are capable of supplying an entire production line, as shown in the recent open house that included machines for creating a mould and machines for using it. This means that we can satisfy all our customers’ needs, from the creation of the first model to the creation of the mould, thermoforming, cutting and packaging. So, CMS can really accompany the customer throughout the whole manufacturing process. No one can compete with the comprehensive nature of our product range,” states Massimo Guerra.


Article by Girolamo Dagostino