New Connections28 September 2020
CMC Texpan found itself near the epicentre of Italy’s initial Covid-19 outbreak but it has worked hard to maintain contact with customers, adapt its operations to continue supplying projects and look for new business opportunities. Stephen Powney talks to CMC Texpan chairman of the board Paolo Gattesco
Earlier this year the world’s news organisations were, for a time, focused on the province of Bergamo in northern Italy, where one of the first and most serious outbreaks of Covid-19 in Europe was taking place.
For CMC Texpan, based in the municipality of Colzate, the company was right in the heart of the area affected.
CMC Texpan chairman of the board Paolo Gattesco described it as a very strange and poignant time.
“The situation with Covid came very quickly and without any possibility to react,” he said. “I decided personally to close the production in advance of the decision of the local authorities because we had many colleagues that lived in the villages around here that were in the red areas where Covid started. In total the production on site was closed for seven weeks.
“I came into the office sometimes just to check the buildings and machines and it was very strange because it was really silent everywhere, but it was a ‘noisy’ silence. “Just on the main street you could hear ambulances and church bells ringing for funerals.
“It was really a shock for everyone here. Luckily none of our people had problems, but some of them did with friends or parents.” CMC Texpan implemented a new way of “smart” working in order to support customers and continue with projects. Technical and commercial support was made possible through video-conferencing and other methods.
The company’s specialism in the wood-based panels industry is extensive and extends to multiple areas including chips and particles – extraction systems for storage silos, chip cleaners, magnetic separators, roller separators, gravimetric separators and oscillating screens; as well as glue blending systems and, of course, forming systems.
Mr Gattesco says there was an inevitable impact of Covid on turnover for the first half of 2020, with it reducing 15-17%, following on from a difficult market situation in 2019.
Forecasting accurately for the second half of 2020 and into 2021 is also difficult. Some projects are obviously being delayed by customers and competition has increased.
Stronger After Covid
“But I believe we can be stronger due to Covid,” added Mr Gattesco. “We reacted strongly and we realise that when unexpected problems come like this we learn a lot to support each other and the customers, while improving our concepts.
“We are working intensively on marketing activities in order to consolidate and increase brand awareness. In this, we are strengthening digital channels. Everyone here is so motivated to follow this path. We feel good, positive and full of energy to take this situation into our hands and solve it.” CMC Texpan has not reduced its staff this year and still maintain its 75 employees. It will also look to exhibit at the WMF show in Shanghai, Intermob in Turkey and Lesdrevmash in Moscow, while also taking part in special conventions organised by CMC Texpan’s parent company Siempelkamp.
Being part of Siempelkamp has allowed the company to be flexible in its Covid response to ensure project deliveries. Some fabrication activities have been relocated to other production units of the Siempelkamp Group in order to better meet the momentary needs and ensure a quick response to the requests of the market, with special regard to the Southeast Asian market.
Fabrication of some components in production units closer to the installation sites makes it possible to speed up the whole shipping process and to have quicker delivery times.
While key components are still manufactured in Colzate, fabrication of others off-site is followed step-by-step by CMC Texpan technical staff using videos to ensure quality.
“Most of the projects are in Asia so we took the opportunity to build them up there,” said Mr Gattesco. “That gave us the opportunity to maintain the deliveries for the contracts that we had scheduled.
“The only missing part has been the technical service visits to customers because our people weren’t travelling. So, for different customers and projects we gave technical assistance by video – it is important to give real support for the customers and not leave them alone.
“That reinforced relationships because the customer feels we are really helping them and they have given us good feedback.”
While the wood industry is CMC Texpan’s core market, the company is looking to diversify into other markets where its technology can also be used. With Covid’s impact, innovation and R&D are more important than ever.
“We are focusing much more on the recycling process and we are now testing some new machines to separate pollutants from the wood,” said Mr Gattesco. “We are also working on technology for OSB because the Chinese market especially requires new plants for combined OSB/PB and super PB boards.
“We are working on new machines for the classification of the material and also in the resination to apply the glue in the strands,” he added. In the recycling markets, CMC Texpan is also looking at glass, the chemicals industry and the petrochemicals sector.
The company already has experience in the past for producing machines for the petrochemical industry, also submarines and wind tunnels for the automotive sectors. “We have created a specialised team – NBA (New Business Areas) – to focus on these areas,” said Mr Gattesco.
CMC Texpan is also advancing its digital technology, utilising new 3D presentation software.
“With this we can effectively transport the customer so he is in the plant and we can show the machine with all the details. This is also an alternative channel to promote our products,” said Mr Gattesco.
Advances have also been made in systems to control moisture content and density. CMC Texpan has developed a machine utilising wave technology for this purpose and testing has already taken place in an industrial process and revealed “important” results.
It will be targeted at alternative markets such as fibreglass and has machine learning capabilities so it is self-adjusting.
“There is more and more focus on electronics and sophisticated controls to avoid a reliance on people and prevent mistakes,” added Mr Gattesco. “This is the only way for the future to move.”
CMC Texpan is continuing with existing projects but also on some new ones that have emerged during the lockdown period.
Its reference markets are strongly represented by Asia and Russia.
“The Chinese market is now a really important market for us and is the biggest market for us today,” added Mr Gattesco.
“They are still running with the projects, they have not been postponed or changed as has happened in Europe. That is also why we decide to be at the Shanghai fair to be in more direct contact with the customers.”
Important Chinese projects include for Hui Dian, MaoYou Timber and Xiangsheng. CMC Texpan is embarking on a strategy to hire local technicians for direct assistance to customers – and it is starting with China on this front.
In Europe some big groups are also reportedly wanting to invest some money.
“In Spain there is some movement on the market,” said Mr Gattesco. “In Italy there are also some ideas to invest in new particleboard lines. So, it seems there is something moving but the question is, when and how long from now?
“In South America there are a few projects which are interesting,” he continued.
“We expect when the Covid situation improves there then customers will decide to go ahead.
“We were launching an important marketing campaign directed to the Latin American market but, unfortunately, it had a slowdown due to the current situation.”