Italian Special Steels Maker ABS Bets on Big Data and Innovation for Growth (US)

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ABS acciai

Alessandro Trivillin, ABS CEO

 Focus : 

  • ABS was founded in 1988
  • ABS belongs to Danieli Group 
  • CEO :  Alessandro Trivillin
  • Employees : 1300 , 1100 in Italy and 200 in Croatia
  • Markets : automotive, heavy equipment, mechanical industry, energy, Oil & Gas
  • Turnover up  by 16 % from  € 686 million   in 2013 to €795 million in 2014 
  • Net result doubled  and reached € 28.2 millions in 2014
  • “We can not compete with Chinese and indian companies on cost, we must focus on product quality and Customer service” .
  • “We must invest in technological Innovation and Human capital”
  • ” Further than selling high quality steels , we have to meet customers needs ” 
  • ” We are thinking  about the steels of  the next coming 15 years”
  •  ” We launched a €360 million Investment Program”
  • Innovation structure is divided in the 3 areas  : Process Innovation, Product Innovation and

     Non Core Business Innovation

  • A special board is dedicated to follow and manage the innovation Process with a logic of ” Project Management”
    ” We have to reimagine the company with a logic of customer centric-logic.
  • Compagnies relies on Digitalisation and Big Data to analyse a large volumes of data in real time 
  • Installing a serie of Special cameras along the process help the company to allow the customers to follow  their products not after shipping but in real time.
  • Implementing SAP helped the ABS  to increase the digitalization of the company
  • “Our CRM moves  to Business 2.0 : from Fax and business cards to  Social Network  to better serving customer



Innovation for growth: the choices of ABS Steels

Sensors and cameras along the lines, to monitor in real time the production and provide information to customers. Substantial investment in new technologies. 2.0 tools to communicate with customers, from the definition of specifications to shipping of products. Here’s how the company faces the Friulian Asian competitors and provides high-quality special steels. Interview with the CEO Alessandro Trivillin

Producing steel in Italy today is a difficult challenge. With Chinese and Indian companies certainly can not compete on cost, but you can do it successfully on another level: that of the product quality and tailored service .

Means selling a steel not only excellent, but made ​​specifically for the needs of customers. And this is feasible thanks to substantial investment in technological innovation and a great attention to human capital .

This is confirmed by the history of the steelworks Bertoli Safau , born 26 years ago in the province of Udine, in a time of deep crisis in the sector, from the merger of two companies with a long history behind it. At the same time, in the company’s capital has entered the Danieli Group , which today represents the ABS Steelmaking division, which has more than 1,300 employees, 1,100 in Italy and about 200 in Croatia, with a turnover of about 800 million, up.

“Pushing technological innovation, which is not only plant but concerns the entire company, for us it was essential to remain competitive. The fact that we still exist is the proof: every day in the newspapers we read of some company in the steel industry that closes or that is in trouble, “says Alessandro Trivillin, Managing Director of the company since 2011, the manager who has managed to bring in World steel models and approaches to innovation in other sectors are very common , with an attention to customer from the retail business.


Dott. Trivillin, what is important to her innovation?

There is a slogan that normally use: “Not only those who do not innovate is lost, but also innovators slowly.”Through innovation of production processes, today we produce thousands of different types of steels, which a few years ago were not even conceivable: us right now we are already thinking about the products the next 15 years, that will be totally different.

For this, we have launched an investment program in Italy for 360 million euro and now we are right in the middle.Of these, 220 million are destined for a facility fails to take the last step of the technology, but it is over: it is a prototype. It is essential, however, organize innovation within the company. ABS by a year and a half we created a structured model, dividing it into three areas: process innovation, product innovation and technology “non-core”.

We have a responsibility in each of these areas, with central coordination, in order to have a single thread. There is a board dedicated to innovation, with regular meetings in which they are presented products and potential projects. There is much method also in innovation, with a logic of project management: in this field, 99% perspiration and only 1% inspiration. Before we had a much Latin, creative did however much innovation but we lacked these solid foundations of the organization.


What are the objectives of innovation in ABS?

For some years we have tried to re-imagine the entire company in a customer-centric logic. In the world steel industry, what dominates are the facilities: we are a capital intensive, with millions of Euros of investments, so the focus has always been on making the most effi cient plants. We changed this logic by putting the customer at the center, and from here, the first liaison to go to meet the needs are innovative processes. The classic product now arriving by ship from Korea, India or China.

We must do more, differentiate ourselves by producing special steels intended for particular niches: we look at the individual client, to his specifi c production process and go to promptly satisfy the needs, producing tailor-made. Without the digitization and without the support of technology we would not be able to do the steps that we did not fi now, but especially not be able to do the steps we take in anticipation of the coming years.


Can you give some examples of this approach to steel tailor-made?

A very simple example In the steel for the pistons. The compression engine in the 70s were at most 110 bar, are now more than double, with the prospect of getting to 270. Here, the pistons have to be made with steel that have mechanical unimaginable a few years ago.

Another client is a world leader in chains to anchor oil platforms, installed in all the seas of the world. With him we are working to develop steels different for each type of site, according salinity, acidity and the depth of the sea.To produce these chains, which have a diameter of 5-6 meters, it uses a certain type of steel in the bottom, where they are anchored, while the characteristics are different as it goes toward the surfaces there. This explains well what it means tailorizzare maximum individual customer’s product.

Another important element are the sensors: we have thousands in our factories.


That collect data sensors? And how do you use them?

Hundreds of the key elements that can affect a good casting of steel, steel production is not a perfect science.For this, we analyze thousands of parameters. Here you enter more fully into the world of Big Data: the technology allows us to analysis of large volumes of data in real time to be close to the customer, giving him instant communication on its products.

One of our production lines is more than a mile long and has many sensors: each of these is an important element for the customer, because it tells him that at that point in the production process, the steel had certain characteristics, information that will be useful in processing phase. We use the Business Object solution for data analysis, and now we are pushing towards predictive analytics.

We are also installing a series of cameras, very special, because steel melts at 1600 °, to take photographs of the product during processing and, through a portal, make them available to the customer in real time: this, again, while we produce it, not when we shipped. This system facilitates the tracking of products and facilitates the logic of just in time, for the optimization of warehouse and inventory reduction. The digitization is critical to be close to the customer and compete with the service.


In general, what is pushing the digitization of your processes?

They are now 5-6 years of working in this direction, to eliminate paper and streamline processes, and some results we obtained. The first step was the certainty of fact: we started putting the base with a SAP management.The second step, thanks to the platform, is the integration of the data, from the beginning to the end of all our processes. We are working on this, and we add the pieces every year.

It must be said that our supply chain is a bit ‘special, we have completely different levels of digitization. Our raw material is scrap and our suppliers are the scrap dealers, we can not ask him to use digital platforms to make us offers.

Different if we are going to approach the world’s leading manufacturer of bearings. The world steel industry is not brilliant in the use of digital, so let contamination with other sectors. For example, from the world of large retailers have been inspired to organize the management of our contractors. Now we are focusing on the digitization of the relationship with the market.

What do you mean?

It is one step more than the classic CRM: part by the needs of the customer, from the initial report, from the moment we begin to speculate with him the development of a product, to the development and final delivery.There are thousands of parameters ranging identify a product. We no longer use the card, sending a fax as it was a few years ago, but we create a 2.0, which is closer to the logic of social networks.

Another key aspect that distinguishes ABS concerns the attention to the people …

Pay special attention to people, to put them in the best position to be able to give my best. And technology platforms can also help to achieve this. At the beginning of the year has started a project to install SuccessFactors, who will live in June: in addition to the master data, the first module will be that of training. Then there is the issue of safety at work, which to us is very very expensive.

We made wearable device, worn by our employees, who through special sensors are able to detect if there are problems: for example, if a person falls, in case of accident, or if they are detected gas, which sometimes are odorless but dangerous, an alarm is generated.


ABS is part of the Danieli Group. This helps you to be innovative?

The Danieli Group represents for us a very strong push for innovation. We are a research laboratory and a showroom for the Group. It happens that is studied with us a new plant, and after two, three, four years of fine tuning is sold to our competitor, maybe a short distance. This obliges us to always be a step forward: we can make use of the best technology in the world for a limited period, but we know that after these will pass to our competitor.



Who is Alessandro Trivillin ****** ******

Trivillin born in Treviso in 1968 and graduated in Business Administration from the University Ca ‘Foscari of Venice in 1992. In the same year found work in Selina Spa (apparel industry) and remains fi no to 1995 when he moved to Fassa Bortolo (building materials sector) to occupy, until 2007, the role of Head of Administration / Personnel. Then arrives in Steelworks Bertoli Safau initially covering the role of CFO to be appointed, a few years later – in 2011 – CEO of the same company. He is a proponent of evolution as concrete concept to be applied daily both in the organization of work and in developing human resources. It is his firm belief that the human resource is the main asset of any organization and believes that only through the development of technical, organizational and behavioral of people can pursue new goals and make innovation in the enterprise through the support and the ‘ design of new technologies.



****** Steelworks Bertoli Safau: a history that began in 1800 ******

ABS was founded in 1988 by the merger of two steel mills of long experience and high qualification, the “Officine Bertoli”, founded in 1813, and “Safau”, which dates back to 1934. Today, ABS is the division Steelmaking the Danieli Group, a world leader in the construction of plants for the steel industry, which distributes its steel of the highest quality in 41 Nations. The production is for the automotive, heavy equipment, mechanical industry, energy and oil. In the budget approved in September 2014, revenues have gone 686.4000000 to 795.1000000 euros, up 16 percent from the previous year. The net result of EUR 28.2 million more than doubled. the number of employees at 30 June 2014 was 1367 units.

Posted in Strategy.

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