Adapting to a Changing World

According to its CEO, Fabio Perini lives off building close relationships with its customers

GRAEME RODDEN

“We live on that!” Stefano Di Santo, CEO of Fabio Perini, exclaims when asked about the interplay between suppliers, producers/converters, and the end customers in meeting the demands of an increasingly sophisticated tissue market.

In fact, he adds, “Perini has a rare co-existence between technology trend setters and market leaders.”

To succeed, a “strong handshake” is needed with its customers from the beginning. “We want partnerships with customers who can give us an edge. We do joint engineering every year with select customers.”

One of Perini’s most successful developments, the Constellation series, was born through collaborative effort.

Di Santo explains that this type of development and collaboration “allows us to fail. This is the difference between being a technology leader and a market leader.”

He has an interesting take on the modern trends in converting. “The biggest concern is that tissue rolls are difficult to sell, not produce.”

The recent growth in the tissue market led to many new brands and new players. “We sell our technology by trying to help our customers sell their products.”

He cited Industry 4.0 as an example. “We digitize everything we can. We can sell a complete line, from converting to palletizing, in a single software.”

Di Santo goes back to the 2008-09 world economic crisis as one reason for this evolution toward digitalization. The crisis led to a “massive retraction in employment.” As many senior personnel left, this had the effect of reducing workmanship quality. “Therefore, we needed more user-friendly machines,” he says. “Our approach takes into account the driver (technology) and the environment (human resources).”

Di Santo says Digital Tissue™ is the extension of Industry 4.0 applied to tissue. “Digitalization is everything in the tissue production process: converting, invoicing, and wearable. The latter allows customers to connect to the Perini center in Lucca. We can intervene in real time.” (See sidebar.)

NOT JUST MORE SENSORS

It is not just a matter of adding sensors into its technology, he says. Rather, it creates “predictive and self-learning systems that allow maximizing the production efficiency of the individual machines and even more, the efficiency of the complete line.”

So what are customers asking of their suppliers? “Reliable and innovative technology,” says Di Santo.

In a pulp or paper mill, maintenance contracts are becoming popular. However, in converting Di Santo says the situation is somewhat different as machines are more specialized. Perini does have a dedicated division for customer service and does offer continuous maintenance contracts.

The benefit to a supplier is a continuous rather than incremental source of income. “I wish I had more,” Di Santo says.

Always strong in the European market, in recent years, Italian converting machinery companies have seen a rise in their North American business. Some Italian tissue producers have also made their way west to tap into the North American market, particularly in private label offerings.

The move west came after some North American producers decided the European market was not for them. “Companies (North American) have been sleeping for years,” Di Santo says. He uses a basketball analogy to explain, saying the traditional companies were using a “man-on-man” defense, looking only at their immediate competition while ignoring newcomers and the evolving market. Complacency may also have been a factor.

Looking ahead, Di Santo sees the retrofit market as having great potential. Geographically, Asia has potential, perhaps with different, less sophisticated technology as rolls per minute is still the most important parameter.

The Middle East is starting to do business, he adds. “They believe in the brand. But, the population in the area is small, so potential is limited.”

Worldwide, Perini has manufacturing sites in Italy, the US, Brazil, China, and Japan.

Although based in Lucca, Italy, the heart of “Tissue Valley,” Perini is now part of Körber AG, headquartered in Germany. It has just celebrated its 50th anniversary, having been founded in 1966.

Its vast facility in Lucca houses the production of converting equipment as well as three assembly halls. The company also has a production facility in Bologna that makes packaging equipment: wrappers, bundlers, handlers, and conveyors. There is also a dedicated R&D center for packaging in Bologna.

THE TECHNOLOGIES THAT DRIVE GROWTH

In his interview with Tissue360°, Di Santo spoke about the new technologies that are driving Perini’s growth. Chief among them is Constellation™. This is tissue converting technology that the company claims offers “unprecedented winding technology.”

Di Santo declares, “An innovative geometry consisting of mobile rolls with independent drives accompanies the log from first to last sheet with consistency and uniformity. Log growth during winding is managed by an innovative algorithm that characterizes the technology and eliminates variability and ensures repeatability.”

It was developed after a patent on a previous technology ran out in 2013. Di Santo continues, “When that patent ended, we had to decide what to do. R&D led us to Constellation. The market accepted it with gusto.”

As Di Santo adds, Perini was worried about what would happen if it could not make up the business. “But, we were wrong in an order of magnitude, thank God!”

Launched in mid-2015, more than 70 lines have already been sold. Nicola Scaramuzza, global marketing director of Fabio Perini, says the company identified all the factors driving growth globally. “How could we meet all the challenges? How could we fulfill expectations?”

North America is the largest market in the world, but with mature production assets. Through air dried (TAD) tissue is the most popular. Producers were looking at “desheeting,” which makes the same diameter roll, but with less paper. That’s possible with conventional technology, but speed needs to be reduced. Maintaining speed causes the paper’s mechanical properties to suffer.

In South America, the brands are still the market leaders. Differentiation is a must with specific local needs. For example, in Brazil, one-ply tissue prevails. In Columbia, lotionized tissue is popular. Producers also want larger diameter rolls without increasing the amount of paper used.

Europe is the most dynamic market for Perini. Private label is strong. State-of-the-art technology is the norm, although TAD tissue is not popular. “They concentrate on embossing to provide the differentiation,” Scaramuzza says. “Tensile strength is the key to achieving super products.”

Japan is marked by a mature and flat market. They prefer cutting edge technology, and softness is the key desired parameter. “You need maximum operating performance combined with softness to gain an edge in a mature market,” Di Santo adds. “We can provide reliable and robust technology to avoid product variability at high production speeds and improve softness,” says Scaramuzza.

 

The Middle East and North Africa are developing markets with low per capita consumption of tissue. Differentiation on the shelf is key. There is fast changing demand is terms of product. With a lack of skilled labor, versatile and easy to use technology is important.

Customers are also differentiated by short and long run. The short-run producers are usually the smaller brands or private labels. Long-run producers look for production efficiency and high performance machinery. Short-run producers tend to specialize in niche markets. They are looking for flexibility.

“So how did we connect all the dots?” Scaramuzza adds: “We needed to have different technology than conventional. We linked all the requests in Constellation.”

“It’s been a great innovation for our industry,” Di Santo continues. “We can preserve embossing quality and still give the same number of rolls with less paper, or use lower quality fiber. Constellation has two times the productivity of a standard line and it is fully automated.

“No single feature is good for everybody, but we offer a set of features where each customer can find a specific quality that it is looking for.”

The technology allows the same roll time after time, both in physical dimensions and mechanical properties (tear strength, absorbency). This comes down to customer experience. When Perini shows a Constellation roll, especially a fluff product, the reaction is immediate.

Nowhere is the popularity of the technology more evident than in the US, where Constellation has enjoyed great success. Not only is there a Constellation pilot line installed in Perini’s Green Bay, WI, facility, full lines can be built there. To maintain its growth in North America, Perini realized that producing there was important. “It‘s been very good for us,” Di Santo adds. “It has cut delivery times and customer feedback has been very good.”

As noted earlier, the producers are demanding more of their suppliers when it comes to after sales service. Scaramuzza says this is not just a question of maintenance for Perini. “We help maintain the value of our products over the years through technical upgrades and other ongoing improvements. When a TIP (Technical Improvement Program) is released, there is also software based on the TIP configuration. We can figure out which customers are best suited to installing it. In the last two years, this has helped us stay closer to our customers.”

Scaramuzza says Perini can provide turnkey systems for converting and packaging. “We try to conceive a project in a holistic way, starting with how the customer wants the product to look on the shelf. We then link the shelf back to the beginning of the process.” 

 

Some Other Technology

Weareable follows the Industry 4.0 trend, and similar devices have found favor elsewhere in the pulp and paper industry. Weareable has an incorporated visor with two full HD support video cameras (one on the helmet, one pivoting) to the integrated audio system and to the data connection, allowing the technician at the Perini operational center to precisely understand what the operator with the Weareable helmet is showing by directly “facing” the problem. The technician can interact with the operator or directly with the machine.

MyPerini is a portfolio of converting technology that are complete lines starting with the unwinder. “We configure the equipment in a bundle that fits the customer’s needs to get the best TCO of our industry,” explains Nicola Scaramuzza, global marketing director.

The lines can be set to run at 450, 550 or 800 m/min. “We can set up the faster lines, 550 and 800 m/min so that it is flexible,” he adds. For example, the customer could opt for Catalyst, an embosser that allows roll changes without cranes. It is totally automated, with a huge benefit on the OEE complete line. It can clean the embossing roll while it is operating.

Stephano Di Santo, CEO, Fabio Perini.

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