Figures speak clearly: Berbentina is a top household appliances plant, a landmark for its innovation, processes and product development. We asked its manager director Giorgio Rossi to tell us why it’s considered the group’s centre of excellence.
- What are the assets that make Berbentina di Sassoferrato one of the most advanced home appliance plants?
The Berbentina plant in Sassoferrato is the Faber Group’s biggest in terms of sales. More than 65% of the technologies the Group has developed all over the world are concentrated here. We have fully automated systems, starting with our hood production line for all hood models, offering maximum quality and productivity: we now produce 1 hood every 20 seconds. Moreover, it is here that Faber became the first in the industry to introduce nanotechnologies in anti-corrosion preparation for painting, in place of traditional phosphating methods. This has allowed us to double our products’ resistance to corrosion while completely eliminating sludge residues thanks to a 100% sustainable process.
- In 2005 the plant adopted Lean Six Sigma, a governance system used by multinationals such as Toyota and General Electric. What goals have you achieved in terms of savings and optimisation of production processes?
The most advanced methods from the Toyota Production System allowed us to completely overhaul the way we organise our work, cutting waste and standardising processes. We now produce the same quantity by volume as we used to produce in 52,000 m2 in only 32,000 m2. Year be year we have significantly cut our operating costs while improving our productivity and final product quality. Lean Production has made our factory more flexible, while at the same time cutting stock levels by up to 50% in proportion to sales. And, last but not least, changing our production methods has allowed us to create a safer working environment.
- A few years ago, you made an important investment in the production line for the Value hood. Can you tell us about the figures and the advanced technological processes linked with production of this model?
The automatic system for production of the new Value hood has decidedly innovative features. Five robot-operated workstations perform the entire production process. A robot-operated arm makes the mantle (shaping and press-cutting). At the same time, other arms pick up the back and the base of the hood. The three components are brought onto the central automatic carousel together for assembly and riveting. The hood then goes on to the assembly stage, where the motor, filters and wires are assembled by hand. It then passes through an intermediate testing station, which is also automatic, to conclude with packaging along with flues. We now have a total daily capacity of 1500 units, that is, one finished hood every 40 seconds. We can claim to have Europe’s most advanced production line. In terms of performance, we have improved the energy efficiency of all Value models and cut the number of components by 30%: an outstanding result.
- Can you describe the typical production process of a Faber hood made in Sassoferrato for us? (question aimed at illustrating the care and attention dedicated to processes and working)
Hood production starts with primary processes, in which highly sophisticated automatic laser machines are used to cut sheet metal, which must have absolutely no flaws. The sheets then go on to robot-operated folding islands, and then to welding, using the most modern technologies to guarantee the perfect union of components with no addition of material. Cleaning operations make the welds perfectly invisible. Powder painting with nanotechnology preparation ensures perfect aesthetic quality. The whole unit then goes on to the assembly area on flexible lines that bring in all the other components just in time. Each line is associated with real time control of production, quality and productivity. Additional quality checks are conducted at various points in the process, and are of great importance for guaranteeing the high standards our products must meet. Finally, hoods are automatically transferred to the warehouse on a separate conveyor for each production line.
- How is the Berbentina plant different from the Group’s other facilities all over the world?
Ongoing innovation, and the skills of all the people who work there, thanks to targeted professional development programmes for all employees and painstaking care, dedication, a sense of belonging and involvement of the local workers in the Fabriano area, one of Europe’s most important hood production districts.
- Berbentina and the challenges of the global economy: what are your goals for the future?
The market is increasingly polarised toward the low and high ends of the range. There is only one way to go in the future: we must focus on high-end production, making products truly representing the concept of “made in Italy”. We need to focus on innovation, uniqueness, quality and technology, and we lead the way in all these areas. We will continue to do new things that others do not do, or do not do as well as us.