Beretta Holding, the oldest firearms manufacturing company in the world, is going digital
Founded in 1526 by Maestro Bartolomeo Beretta, the eponymous firearms maker is one of the oldest manufacturing firms in existence. At the ripe young age of 495 years old, the oldest gun manufacturer in the world is still l'impresa familiare, owned and operated by the Beretta family. The roots of the dynasty reach back to their first major sale: providing 185 gun arquebus barrels to the highly discriminating Republic of Venice. Today, Beretta remains a hallmark of excellence not just in craftmanship, but also in global manufacturing and leadership, with an uncompromising commitment to quality and style.
The firm’s corporate umbrella, Beretta Holding, oversees the organization. A dominant presence in the hunting, sporting, electro optics, defense, and law enforcement markets, as well as apparel and accessories, Beretta Holding’s 32 sister companies include Burris Optics, Steiner, Benelli, Uberti, Holland and Holland, Sako, and Beretta.
Future-forward from its beginnings in the European Renaissance, Beretta has embraced continuous modernization. The current leg of their digital journey represents yet another step in their uninterrupted quest for peerless quality, reliability, and performance. As Beretta Holding’s general manager of North American shared IT services (CIO, CISO), Massimo Marchi is steering the organization through this phase of technological advancement.
“At my company we talk about digital transformation every day,” he recently told BOSS, “and now it’s the right time to push the envelope in advanced digital technology, even in a traditional industry like ours,” he said. “We’re not a tech company, we’re not extremely advanced. We are humble but ambitious, and we want to use and introduce technology in a step-by-step, sustainable way for our size and scope.”
Strategically, Marchi approaches applying technology from three perspectives: deploying digital technology to create efficiency and cost savings via the automation of existing business processes, creating new digital business processes and revenue streams, and considering potential impact of new technology such as AI/ML, blockchains, cloud, and IoT.
Despite their prominence on the world stage and a workforce of at least 3,000 people, Beretta is considered an SMB in the vast global manufacturing universe. Growth is both organic and a result of vigorous M&A activity. “The group acquires companies that are very different from each other,” he said. “Our shareholders and executives have launched a program to progressively organize the companies around a few critical aspects, such as accounting standards and global branding, but not much more than that. The companies are still independent, and in some cases, competing with each other.”
Their expanding collection of business units share the same IT goals: security, core enterprise applications, and a common hybrid infrastructure that will soon be fully migrated to the cloud. “If you think about it, IT is an interesting place to start standardization and simplification because the byproduct of IT is organization,” he said.
Remarkably, most operations share the same ERP and same CRM systems. “The process was very complex, and at times painful,” he admitted. “The key success factors were to do it simply, step by step, one project at a time, one sister company at a time, one process at a time. It was important to gain the trust of the business users. It can’t be forced from the top down; you build consensus from the bottom up. Simplification is key. Finally, the sponsorship of shareholders and executives was of paramount importance.” Oracle JD Edwards E1 9.2 is their ERP of choice.
Marchi is quick to point out that while having the IT system infrastructure company-wide is a necessity, it’s insufficient for true intraoperative collaboration, especially when some units compete with each other. Sharing objectives is essential. “True collaboration emerges from trust between partners and sharing the same goals and visions,” he said. “We have several intercompany projects, and we have an organic vision across the board. Sister companies are often in a supplier-buyer relationship; they sell finished goods and components to each other to build a vertically integrated organization in supply chain.”
That integrated vision is also evidenced in their approach to selling to global military and government agencies. “We have an organization, BDT, that vertically coordinates the selling process of many different brands from different sister companies to the governments."
At present, the organization is aiming to gather real time information from every factory at multiple levels — single machine, cell, department, line — with the ultimate goal of building a closed-loop manufacturing process. “We’re experimenting with this in different factories around the world, with the introduction of more and more automation. That includes our state-of-the-art campus in Gallatin, Tenn."
The risk of drowning in all that data is real and accessing actionable business intelligence is a critical life-preserver. Marchi applies creative data-driven management and a working-by-exception approach. “We don’t have the resources to chase every single detail, and that’s why the business intelligence layer is very important. We use Microsoft Power BI to create executive dashboards as well as drill-down detailed reports.”
Operating any enterprise in a highly regulated and competitive industry requires a laser focus on expense control, and Beretta is no exception. “The downside of all this, in respect to technology investments, is that our budget is limited. We can’t compete with Fortune 100 corporations that have unlimited dollars for extreme technology,” Marchi said. “Generally speaking, we mitigate technology risks using platforms and standards that are global and well-established leaders in their markets (Oracle, SalesForce, Microsoft, Siemens), however we use smaller, sometimes local partners to interact with Big Tech, as we find that this is the most efficient way in consideration of our size and scope.”
Beretta leverages Cloud Inventory® to provide a sharp, unblinking eye over its intricate supply chain. Beretta, with its complex bills of material and omnichannel distribution network benefits from using Cloud Inventory, a pioneer in mobile-first inventory applications, providing end-to-end inventory visibility and control. Furthermore, Cloud Inventory's supply chain centric, cloud data model provides unparalleled flexibility to capture high resolution inventory data at the point of activity, enhancing Beretta's business execution and agility.
A byproduct of Beretta’s multi-generational investments in technology has been the development of close partner relationships, many of which span decades. “We executed tens of enterprise-level projects, and in retrospect I'm pretty sure that wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our strategic partners,” he stressed. “These organizations, after so many years, are now deeply familiar with the good and bad of our organization, our complex business model, our strengths, and potential. Our partners are very important.”
Beretta’s complex business processes, omnichannel sales approach, and customers that include a plethora of governments, present a large attack surface for cybercriminals. As part of the centralization and standardization effort, the company launched a formal enterprise cybersecurity program that includes a dedicated governance process with periodic audits and a corporate committee charged with monitoring its continuous improvement.
A semi-formal risk assessment process helps to prioritize security investments and to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their networks, systems and data, and enables them to pursue the compliance and industry standards they need to sustain their market position and remain competitive
“While we are aware that no organization in the world can achieve absolute security, especially when constrained by limited resources and scale like us, we keep on investing in cybersecurity in a continuous improvement process, in the smartest possible way,” Marchi said.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of Beretta’s ambitious trek isn’t related to technology. “Yes, technology’s important and we try to apply technology everywhere, streamlining processes, creating efficiencies, but in retrospect, when I look at what we have done in the last 15 years, I’m proud that we really transformed the mindset of people,” Marchi concluded.
“Not even 15 years ago we were a traditional manufacturer; our people weren’t really so familiar with technology, using a lot of manual, paper-based processes and Excel spreadsheets, and now company’s processes are digitized and automated, each one of our employees in North America take cyber-awareness training, and simulated phishing campaigns are deployed periodically. We are very proud of the transformation that we’ve seen in the culture of the company.”
Beretta Holding S.A. is the holding company for the famous industrial group and holds direct or indirect participation in the 32 companies that currently make up the group which is a recognized leader in the sector of light firearms dedicated to hunting, sporting and personal defense.
Since its inception, the number of subsidiaries has continued to grow, as a result of a prudent investment policy of strategic acquisitions, carried out to both extend and complete the product offering, and to globally consolidate the Group’s direct commercial presence on the markets in which the group operates.
Beretta Holding Group has increasingly become a markedly international corporation and a global player in its sector, as a result of a growth that has led to a manufacturing presence all over the world, but even more important thanks to a vision of the world as its natural space of action.
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