Over the last five years Italian specialist Mecavit has been focusing on adding value to its production process by investing significantly in its machinery – in order to increase not the quantity, but the quality of the products.
Mecavit Srl is an authority in unified and special screws – made of high resistance carbon steel and stainless steel – and has the ability to produce to customers’ exacting demands. Adding value to the production process is seen by the company as a key factor in retaining customers – especially for its target market the automotive sector.
“Nowadays with the low margins; standard parts being produced in the Far East; and the challenges of producing in Italy; it is very hard to be competitive within the standards market,” explains Giuseppe Verdoliva, sales director at Mecavit. “That is why we have been pushing a lot in the automotive sector, especially over the last two years, as we believe added value in production will become an even bigger focus for customers in the future.”
Mecavit’s production capabilities include 17 cold forging machines with a mix of four-step, five-step and six-step multistation platforms, and some two-step. In 2010 Mecavit also installed a new generation heat treatment line that has helped it to keep under control a vital part of the manufacturing process. “Adding the heat treatment line was very important for us because it is a delicate phase of the production and it is crucial the process is professionally monitored to produce the quality standards necessary,” points out Giuseppe.
Working in the automotive sector
Mecavit supplies the automotive market through distributors, it does not supply directly to the OEMs. “We are not prepared logistically to supply directly to OEMs,” states Giuseppe. “That is why we sell ex-works to distributors and they then take care of the safety stock, the logistics, the delivery, etc.”
Whilst the company doesn’t supply directly to the OEMs, it still has a close relationship with them to ensure it is supplying the products required. “We are able to partner with customers on co-projects and help finalise designs of products if necessary,” points out Giuseppe. “Obviously there are some times when you just work with a customer according to their drawing.However, there are other times when a customer has an idea and you can help them find the best solution – which is the most economic, with the correct tolerances and using the perfect material.”
He adds: “In fact we had an end user visit our facility last month with a part they were experiencing problems with in a specific application. By working with them, and listening to their requirements, we worked out the part they were using was made from the wrong type of steel, which meant it was breaking under heavy vibration. Once we had found the problem, we worked with the customer and helped them change to the correct material.”
OEMs also regularly visit Mecavit’s headquarters, together with the distributors, to carry out audits on the production process and to verify Mecavit can produce the necessary products. “The automotive industry cannot risk their production line stopping due to missing or poor quality screws,” says Giuseppe. “This means delivery, reliability and quality of products are big factors in the final decision. We welcome customers to visit our site, so they can audit our production and see first-hand our capabilities.”
Assortment of standard products
Whilst the automotive market is a key focus for the company, it currently only represents 30% of its overall sales. “In addition to our special parts, we also produce a wide range of standard parts – available in stock with 4,000 pallets ready for distribution,” mentions Giuseppe. “In fact, with the growing lead times from Asia, we have seen a big increase in orders for standard products since the beginning of the year. A lot of distributors are counting on the huge assortment we are able to provide.”
Giuseppe continues: “With special parts you get homologation and you might produce the parts for five, six or even ten years. In fact, we have several parts in the portfolio we have been consistently producing for 15 years. However, with standard parts it is more about the price and availability of stock. This means you cannot count on the sales because it depends on a variety of different factors, such as imports from Asia, the price in the market, the dollar exchange rate, anti-dumping, and many other things. At Mecavit we ensure we have a range of products available in stock so we can meet any changes in demand.”
Benefiting from automation
A big part of Mecavit’s move to added value has been the investment in the capability of its production process. “A helping factor has been the Italian government supporting the industry to invest in new technology for Industry 4.0. Thanks to this initiative we have been able to invest in two additional sorting machines, one new thread rolling machine and an additional one multistation machine in order to enlarge our potential,” explains Giuseppe. “I believe Industry 4.0 is a big opportunity, as it enables you to streamline your processes and cut unnecessary costs. It also means you can provide a better service to customers. Thanks to the production systems and processes we already had in place, we have been able to quickly adapt to Industry 4.0 and the continuous automation of processes will only become more important in the future, as companies look to become more efficient.”
One of the key benefits of Industry 4.0 is it provides further traceability throughout the production chain. “Every single lot in production is identified by a barcode – providing, in real time, an overview of the process situation,” points out Giuseppe. “We have also built our own computer system with software that has been designed for our production. This means every single step in production is under the system’s control and can be monitored. We even have scales to measure the weight of each completed pallet – so we know every order is 100% correct.”
Through using this dedicated computer system Mecavit can also collect and store all the necessary details for every batch of specials. “In addition to storing the data on the system, we also keep a stock of samples from every batch of specials, which are identified with the date of production, the lot number, and any other details that may be needed,” says Giuseppe. “That way if we do have a customer that comes back to us asking for details, we can provide everything they need.”
With Mecavit already seeing the benefits from its investments, what opportunities and challenges does the company see for the future? “A big impact on the market recently was raw material prices, where we experienced an increase of around 30% between January 2017 and January 2018. For our production we use the highest quality wire rod to ensure the chemical analysis of the steel. We have been working with our supplier for a long time and we have built a very good relationship, so it is important for us to continue to build on this partnership and not use inferior material. However, it is not easy to pass this increase onto our customers. As a manufacturer we have a very low margin, which means we are counting on the rest of the industry to also increase prices. It’s not possible to increase prices out of the average. Whilst the market has now stabilised in the last few months, forecasts are for it to increase again towards the next quarter.”
“As an Italian manufacturer we are close to our customers and we have a good relationship, so they are aware of the situation. I believe our customers see us as one of the biggest in our range of production, in terms of reliability, and we want to continue to be a consistent supplier that produces special parts along with a quick service, which is crucial in today’s market.”
Giuseppe concludes: “We will be exhibiting at Fastener Fair Italy and I invite all visitors to our stand to see our range of special parts and our ability to work with customers according to their drawings – including safety critical parts.”
Find Mecavit at Fastener Fair Italy on Stand 1034.
Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 10 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector - interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe.
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