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Engineering on a grand scale


One of the most recent coups for Grande Meccanica was landing the contract to build a loop reactor, a prepoly reactor, as well as a MZCR (Multi Zone Circulating Reactor) for Liaoning Baolai Petrochemical in China. Its successful bid even beat the biggest Chinese supplier, clearly signalizing the client’s preference to work with the Italian company. Deputy Managing Director Mirco Bartollini was heavily involved in putting together the successful bid: “This contract is hugely important for us from a commercial point of view. It gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our expertise in a very important market for the future,” he says.

Loop reactors are a highly specialized product that were first developed by Grande Meccanica and for which it has few competitors. “We are one of the very few suppliers in the world, qualified by the most important worldwide licensors, for many of our products,” says Mr. Bartollini.

“Each represents a technological advance over what has gone before. In effect our entire company is engaged in research and development. For example, we are currently engaged in developing a simulated 3D model to apply to the tender, as the only company worldwide.”

Building a reactor of this size is a lengthy undertaking, with projects of this nature generally taking between ten and twelve months to complete. Smaller projects can be finished in just three to four months. “All of the projects are unique which means we cannot fall back on standard solutions,” says Mr. Bartollini.

“Each customer has different requirements and conditions. This means that the test phase of any project is extremely important for success.”

In such a highly specialized and technical field, finding people with the right expertise is a constant challenge. “We were recently very pleased to introduce in our company a new head of our Technical Department. She is one of the most qualified engineers and a well-known person in the world of pressure vessels,” says Mr. Bartollini. “She is an engineer with an incredible CV and strong track record who is a real asset to the company.”

Grande Meccanica currently employs 90 people at its headquarters in Narni and a second production site in the port of Civitavecchia, with a total surface of 11,000 m2. “This is where the largest reactors are built,” explains Mr. Bartollini.

“The advantage of building close to the port is that they can be loaded straight onto the ship for transportation. Otherwise it is too expensive to deliver them by road transportation.”

Nevertheless, 90% of Grande Meccanica’s pressure vessels and reactors are delivered to foreign customers. In 2017, Russia was a particularly important export market but other countries in the region are growing in importance.

“Our customers appeciate our professionalism so that we are asked to work around the world, from the USA and North America to the Philippines, and from India to South Korea,” says Mr. Bartollini. “We expect the business to grow strongly in the coming years as orders from countries in Asia and the Far East pick up. We will not be surprised if turnover reaches 25 million EUR over the next two years.”

To support this growth, Grande Meccanica is planning a very important investment worth six million EUR in new software and new technologies. “We will be investing in both human resources and production machinery,” says Mr. Bartollini. “The opportunities are there for us in the coming years. We must make sure we are prepared.”

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