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There’s something to be said for Italian craftsmanship. Modern companies from this creative part of the world produce products at a level of quality and elegance often unmatched.
Italy is also known for the craftsmanship of its stunning cars. But it’s the company behind the machinery that manufactures nearly one third of the world’s automobiles that impresses like no other.
Comau, the Italian multinational company based in the car capital of Italy, Turin, is the worldwide leader in sustainable automation and has been leading its industry since the beginning of its 40-year history. The company and its name have been through many iterations—starting with Consorzio Macchine Utensili and one location in Italy to simplifying its name to Comau and expanding to 33 locations (including three locations and one innovation center in the U.S.) spanning 17 countries in the present day.
“We’re a knowledgeable company. Comau drives innovation and has strong automation strategies—we set the benchmark for the industry,” shared Mauro Fenzi, CEO.
I had the great opportunity to talk to several members of the Comau team, and there were a couple of things that were consistent through each voice—confidence in the brand, and an unwavering appreciation for the company’s Italian heritage.
“We want to bring a little Italian style to every product we create, no matter what country or company it ends up with,” said Donatella Pinto, Head of Human Resources.
Comau’s machinery builds cars. Walk into FCA, Tesla, Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, or any other car manufacturing company you can think of, and the floor is full of Comau’s innovations. But this is possible not just because of the Italian flair of the machinery, but the application of technologies like the Internet of Things.
Bringing IoT to Comau’s Manufacturing Floor
The IoT has finally reached manufacturing floors industry-wide, but Comau has been taking advantage of the trend for some time now. Comau has spent the last ten years preparing for ‘smart’ factories, a move that the rest of the industry is now attempting to follow.
“Comau is leveraging its automotive expertise to engineer open and easy-to-use automated factories that are, in parts, open to certain customer’s applications,” shared Fenzi. “This leveraging of our collaborative culture allows us to coach our customers on how to use their Comau robots in their own factories.
“We’re providing a level of interconnectivity not often seen in the rest of the industry, and this new strategy is proof of our commitment to drive the future of automation.”
Automation on this level has been closed to specialized competitors until now, and the change in strategy means more companies and more parts of companies are open to this future technological mainstay.
For Comau, this means that the factory floor becomes even more important in its client’s strategy. Factories are no longer the grungy, dangerous places they once were; more often than not, companies are making manufacturing floors a part of their marketing tools. This is where Comau’s Italian flair comes in.
“High-tech factories are being used to promote high-tech cars,” Fenzi said. “The manufacturing floor has almost become a showroom for companies.”
Companies like Tesla are utilizing this approach, which aligns with Comau’s commitment to innovation and technological excellence.
Working With the Future of the Automotive Industry
Comau’s working relationship with Tesla started a few years ago when the Model X was in early development stages. Tesla, like Comau, understands the changes the industry is going through, and is triumphing at adapting and setting the trends.
The close, collaborative partnership means that much of the machinery on Tesla’s floors is provided by Comau and has been designed simultaneously with the development of the vehicle. Each Tesla vehicle is designed to combine high tech with functional features, and Comau’s ability to deliver machinery that is customizable to Tesla’s needs has set the foundation for a strong, effective relationship well into the future.
Tesla isn’t just known as a car manufacturer, the company produces knowledge and innovative ideas as well. Comau is able to validate their manufacturing solutions, and through this Comau became an integral part of their development plan which has extended to the manufacturing floor.
Of course, a major piece of both companies’ strategies is innovation; for Comau, this means innovating not just in car manufacturing machinery, but in other industries as well.
Committing to Continuing Innovation
While car manufacturing drives a lot of Comau’s business, the company is also successfully involved in a number of other markets.
For example, the company is supplying the aircraft’s main assembly and test stations for Airbus’s final assembly line at its new plant in Mobile, Alabama.
Comau is also looking to break into wearables, which would provide a way to use robotics close to other workers with the potential to avoid major safety concerns. It’s a growing trend in healthcare, a field Comau is looking to enter.
Comau’s most significant contribution to the continuous innovation of its products, however, is the amount of customization it allows for its clients.
Comau’s Client Relationships
Comau works with the largest car brand names in the world, which means its relationships with its clients have to be top-notch. Forty-plus years of factory-proven experience combined with its technological excellence places Comau in a position to provide superior services to a host of major players in the industry. “We pass along a culture of automation to our customers,” said Fenzi. “It’s a true partnership between our team at Comau and the client. We can leverage our automotive skills and deliver what our clients need in a shorter time frame than many of our competitors.”
Comau is the provider of manufacturing floor technology for one-third of the world’s car producers, and customization has been the key to many of these working relationships. This is largely because Comau delivers highly specialized machinery that has to be modular and flexible to fit each company’s distinct wants and needs.
The client’s requirements are often for very specific, accurate machinery, so Comau’s designs for its Powertrain solutions are based on a standard feature that constitutes 70 percent of the final solution, a tailorable 20 percent, and 10 percent which can be completely custom-related to a specific project. In simpler terms, a majority of each machine is standard from one to the next, but there are general adaptations that can be made for a small part of the machine’s operations, and further specific customizations if they are called for.
“Each product can address unique requirements,” said Maurizio Cremonini, Head of Marketing. “The customization allows us to ensure the highest level of productivity for the client. Each robot we make tends to have standard ties that can be used for just about any customer, but the customization option means they don’t have to adapt to us.
“Our welding machines as well as body assembling lines offer the highest level of customization, but also have standard ties that could be applied for any customer use.”
Building a Robust Supply Chain
Automotive manufacturing is an incredibly complex industry—one where there are a number of constraints, especially at the supply chain level. There is little consistency with the level of supply. Timing is a huge factor. Customers want to standardize across factories and have consistency with their commodities, which creates issues through the traditional purchasing aspect.
“If we can manage to negotiate most of the commercial aspects of our scope in advance of project commencement, we can execute our commitments in a swifter manner,” said Brad Pelachyk, Head of Purchasing for Comau. “This permits us to drastically reduce the back office work through the execution phase of the project.”
Comau’s partnership with their strategic supply base allows them to co-manage objectives, optimizing the supply base and the value brought to both organizations. This also creates more opportunities for suppliers to work with Comau when new products and solutions need to be developed.
“These are unique partnerships and advanced supply chain processes that enable us to improve our performance and solutions over time,” said Pelachyk.
And although clients are on the front end of the process, Comau’s relationship with its client base sets the foundation for the company’s supply chain relationships.
Comau works with its customers at a business unit level to understand their needs better, and at a portfolio level, to understand what programs are forecasted so it can capture accurate volumes to communicate aggregate demands to suppliers. This equates to clearer production demands and reduced lead times, leading to improvements in Comau’s delivery performance.
Comau’s Global Footprint
Comau has a large supply base of 9,000 suppliers made up mostly of small-to-midsize companies. The larger suppliers offer the company more strategic options—with the opportunity to work more dynamically on a global scale—while the smaller suppliers fill gaps and offer more specialized products necessary for Comau’s machinery.
What Comau’s global network of numerous suppliers— especially smaller suppliers—offer the company is a tremendous amount of flexibility.
“Our global footprint gives us suppliers all over the world, so when specific regions may be at capacity at some point, we can go deeper in our supply chain and still have the right options for our clients,” said Pelachyk.
“We have a diverse customer base across several industries with unique needs and specifications which is reflected in our supply base.”
Comau’s involvement in the construction of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA) new Brazilian Factory in Pernambuco demonstrates the strength of the company’s global footprint. FCA is one of the top-selling car manufacturers in the region, and wanted to bring a plant to Latin America to capitalize more on the popularity of their brands.
“The region is not an extensive industrialized area, it lacked resources and a supply chain, and was difficult to access” shared Pelachyk. “We really had to dig deep on a global scale. We utilized experts from all around: geometry tools were manufactured in Mexico, design came from the U.S. and Italy, open gate framers came from China. There really was a multinational approach to the execution of this job, which was reflected in our chosen suppliers.
“They had to establish themselves in the region in order to support us. It’s a flagship example of how a global organization like Comau can optimize its footprint and have the comparative advantage.”
An Industry Standout
Comau provides a collection of machinery to several industries that drive life as we know it. This collection, when depicted as separate pieces, can demonstrate just how strong and dominant the company is.
But when you look at the company as a whole, there is no comparison.
“We truly believe we can be the leaders— in conceptualization, in production, in the client’s final product,” said Cremonini. “We’re a different type of player. Our innovative design philosophy and the unique needs of our customers come together in a culture of automation that we are committed to sharing with the industry.”
What we do?
We simplify industrial processes and make them more efficient through automation. This principle is a good start to begin exploring the Comau world. Within this site you will find our skills told in their strategic aspects as well as in solutions, products, references, and through the hands of our experts.
Go to: Our Competencies
Who we do it for
Automotive is the industry where we got our start, for which we have recognized expertise. But during our forty-year history we have accumulated experience in a huge variety of industrial companies for whom we want to leave enough room to create new opportunities for all of us.
Go to: Industries
How we collaborate
You can enter the world of Comau immediately, even if you’re not yet a customer. Try the new Robot product selector; it’s the fastest and most immediate way to get an idea of the wide range of solutions we offer. Our experts are always available to provide additional information and answer your questions.
Go to: The Robot Selector
How we approach higher education
Comau excellence is not only rooted in the world of industrial automation, but also in the field of specialized training. Our Academy is at the core of the Comau offer: training clients and new talents means getting to know each other better and working together toward common goals.
Go to: Comau Academy
How we think
In our way of working, nothing is left to chance: we have principles and values that guide us at every stage – from design to production, and from training to customer care.
Go to: Comau Manifesto
comau.com is available as your pathway to entering the rich world of industrial automation, Comau-style. There is much more still to discover, but the most effective and complete way to exploit the business opportunities made possible with our automation is to start working together. If this is the automation that you would like, let’s connect: every page offers you the right tools.
Via Rivalta, 30, 10095
Grugliasco (TO) – Italy
Website - www.comau.com