The headquarters of Novac Engineering, world leader in the field of systems for the application of vitreous enamel, are in Cura Carpignano, near Pavia. Research and Innovation in production processes, energy saving and ecology are the byword of the company. “Much more must be done for the promotion of vitreous enamel,” says Managing Director Mario Codecà.
It has been raining for days and the day is gloomy, the sky, the roads and the roadside ditches, the brimming Po river, the herons and the crows in the flooded mirrors of the rice fields are all muddy grey. The area around Pavia is mainly agricultural and at Cura Carpignano, just a few kilometres from Pavia, we are in the midst of the rice-growing country: rice paddies flank the roads, the lorries are blazoned with producers’ logos, billboards invite travellers to purchase the local product directly from the farms.
What led the company, which today is at the forefront of its sector to build a factory in a scarcely industrialized area? This is inevitably the first question we put to Mario Codecà the managing director of Novac Engineering srl, Cura Carpignano, località Dossino. Codecà, aged 46, is from the area and has a close bond with the land and the dialect: he often uses dialect during the interview, without affectation, when speaking of work to his colleagues.
And this is already an answer to the first question, the reason Novac is located here. The environment padano doc, but the atmosphere in the company is far from local or provincial. That we are in a technologically advanced place – in spite of being in an agricultural area – is obvious from the reception, managed by computerised telephone.
“Novac,” says Mr Codecà, who founded the company, “began operating in 1984 in the field of systems for application of vitreous enamel and PTFE on aluminium and steel, which became our core business after we purchased Ci.Ti.Emme of Paderno Dugnano. We can supply complete turnkey lines for factories or individual machines. The second sector of our entrepreneurial activity, is the thermal treatment of aluminium – initially this was only marginal, over the last two years has become considerable. Recently, we also began the treatment of gaseous effluents – the third sector we operate in; initially we tested the systems in our furnaces and then installed systems for other companies. We have taken over a company with 15 years experience in the sector, and we intend to grow rapidly in this area, too.
For the construction of our systems we outsource only the steelworks, everything else is carried out in-company: the sales, the design of the mechanics and the software, purchase of components, electrical panels, fitting, start-up, and after-sales service. The technological evolution of Novac” emphasises Mr Codecà, with satisfaction, “has always been constant: in 1984, unknown abroad, we were operating exclusively on the Italian market; today we can state that we are the undisputed leaders in the sector of systems for the application of vitreous enamel on aluminium and we hold a very good position in the sector of aluminium-coated steel.
This is because we have not rested on our laurels and we have been capable of overtaking the competition. Moreover, working in fields with different ranges of technology, from aeronautics to automotive, we can exchange the technologies between the sectors, with excellent results. In fact, our company slogan is “Tomorrow’s technology today.”
Q: what are Novac’s strengths?
“The reliability of the systems and the reduction of management costs, above all thanks to energy saving, which can reach 20% and reduction of water and atmospheric pollution.
Smalto: are there still interesting possibilities in this field?
“I would say that there are, but not many. At present the emphasis is on automation – since this can mean a reduction in personnel – and the quality of the final product in terms of repeatability or reproducibility of the same quality, whether the lines are manned by expert operators, or not.
Q: Are you referring to the lack of qualified manpower, often workers from abroad and therefore with problems of communication and rapid learning times?
“Definitely, and I would like to point out the risks that derive from the fact that the knowledge of the more expert workers – knowledge accumulated in decades of work – is being lost: it is no longer transmitted to those who take their place, because no-one takes their place, and the work is organised differently. The loss of this human component will lead to a dangerous depletion and a loss of quality all-round, the effects can already be seen in Germany and in the United States. Another negative factor is that there is no longer an exchange of ideas between the end user and the designer, an exchange that, in the past, stimulated constant and efficacious innovation. A new, positive aspect for them is the fact that the emerging countries (China, Indonesia, Thailand, the Far East in general) want modern, avant-garde systems and they are also capable of making them work well…”
Q: Who are your clients for enamel, and what do they want from you?
“They are particularly manufacturers of pans, aluminium goods and small household appliances for aluminium-coated steel. Very often they want us to combine two factors that do not go well together: higher production capability and greater flexibility of the plant, with increasingly frequent colour and size changes, for increasingly smaller batches. This is a bit too much. Although in the last four or five years we have done a lot to meet their demands. For the future, if we want to continue on the road to automation, it will be necessary to re-think the lines and foresee greater investments; in any case it will not be possible to attain the high production levels they dream of 1,800/2,000 pieces per hour, but only around 1,000 pieces per hour, and at high investment costs. Another factor that the users aim for is the reduction of the use of enamels and paints, thanks to automation, robots and reclaim devices.
The latter, however, do not go well with frequent changes of widely differing colours.”
Q: What is your relationship with the frit manufacturers?
“It has always been very good, a collaborative relationship. Although recently the research has evolved more slowly, only one new product has been developed: enamel for application on aluminium-coated steel, for which there is demand, but very little supply. The only plant active in Italy is near Cuneo, but at the moment it is on hold, because it is in an agricultural area. The low-temperature vitreous enamels on which the producers are working are good for our company, because since we began we have specialised in hot-air ventilated furnaces, convection rather than irradiation.
Smalto: What do you think of CISP and its activities?
“We have been members for some years and we have appreciated the efforts and the competency of those who are working on behalf of vitreous enamel, although as systems engineers we are involved only marginally in the problems linked to the evolution of the products. However, I would like to offer one piece of advice: in my opinion, vitreous enamel is known and appreciated in full only by those in the sector. It is necessary to make the public aware of its merits, with a well-planned publicity campaign, although I realise that this would be expensive and complex. The individual companies should also do their part, beginning for example, with the application of descriptive and informative stickers and labels on their products, brochures and material explaining the qualities of vitreous enamel. The image continues to be that of grandmother’s blue and white pots and pans, that chipped and rusted. Very few know that enamel is ecological, hygenic and long lasting.
Q: Novac exports around 60% of its production. How do you see the market situation?
“We also feel the general conditions of the markets: instability, cyclic changes, the effects of the major economies, and with the “flock of sheep effect”: if in one country a major manufacturer changes the plant everyone does so… In recent years the plant has become increasingly reliable, the business for maintenance and spare parts is quite low; a system is changed after 15 years, even if it is still working well, just to increase productivity.
Our main competitors are the Germans; however Chinese companies are growing at a worrying pace and are beginning to export their products, copied from ours, but at much lower prices, There – in China, – in a short time we intend to open a production facility. The situation is static, almost nil, for our sector in Eastern Europe.”
Q: A final consideration on globalisation.
“We have always worked throughout the world. Today the clients are knowledgeable and they move around more than we do, both physically and through the Internet. It is increasingly difficult to sell complete lines and turnkey plant: the clients ‘construct’ their own lines, piece by piece.
They want systems that they can amortize, that give advantages in the production and therefore competitive advantages. All this does not frighten us; we are well equipped both mentally and technologically. Remember our slogan is “The technology of tomorrow, today.”
Everything is still grey outside: the sky, the roads, the canals, the rice fields, the herons, the crows, it is still raining and we look apprehensively at the swollen Po thrusting under the historic bridge Ponte della Becca. Yet, as we have heard, the balance and the prospects at Novac Engineering in Cura Carpignano, località Dossino,
just a few kilometres from Pavia are good, have been serene for some time, while the weather forecast promises better things to come the day after tomorrow.
Novac Engineering Srl
The Gruppo Novac Engineering was founded in 1984, but has been present on the international market for thirty years with the brand Ci. Ti. Emme, bought out when the company was founded. Today it employs 35 workers, and in 2001 it registered a turnover of more than 6 million euro, 60% of which was made abroad. For the current year turnover is estimated at 7 – 8 million euro.
Novac is specialised in the production of machines for industrial degreasing of kitchenware and aluminium and steel goods, developed on the principle of reduction of water pollution and consumption; spray, roller and curtain painting lines, with particular attention for the reduction of pollution and paint consumption; furnaces for non-stick paint, organic and enamel coatings, which make it possible to increase productivity, reduce energy consumption and improve thermal qualities. Novac also produces systems for the treatment of light aluminium alloys and – in collaboration with international companies – conventional furnaces, controlled atmosphere furnaces and fluid bed furnaces for the treatment of castings, solution heat treatment and tempering of aluminium castings.
They are partners of companies in industrial compartments operating throughout the world, both in industrialised countries and in emerging nations.
The Novac company system is based on ISO 9001 standards.