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Leading the way with mechatronics

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“e-core enabled us to engage with Industry 4.0 and offer compatible products,” says Commercial Director Giuseppe Benelli. “e-core allows communication between different pieces of machinery in order for information to be exchanged.”

This is the fundamental capability at the heart of Industry 4.0, which is not so much a trend as a paradigm shift. Automation augmented through communication to achieve even greater manufacturing efficiency. “We were pioneers at the time as no one was yet talking about Industry 4.0 as an identifiable movement,” explains Mr. Benelli. “It was not until later that that the name was coined to refer to innovations such as e-core.”

Having made the first steps in the direction of intelligent machinery, HSD now identifies itself as a mechatronics company. It has become an expert in combining mechanical, electrical and electronic components to create a competitive advantage for its customers. Electrospindles hold and drive drill bits used to work wood, metal, aluminium, plastics, glass and stone.

“With our extremely broad product range, we can process virtually any material with the exception of textiles,” says Mr. Benelli. “Although we are only positioned second in the market in terms of turnover, we rank as the market leader in terms of the breadth of applications we can cater to.”

Electrospindles make up the bulk of HSD’s annual production output. The company produced 38,000 spindles in 2017. Its new 2-axis heads have already proved highly successful with more than 1,000 produced last year to meet demand.

“This area offers huge potential for us to grow in the future,” says Mr. Benelli. “We plan to invest heavily in this product line over the next three years following its successful launch in 2014.”

The remainder of its product range covers smart motors, aggregates, boring heads and multifunctional modular units. All of the company’s products are made entirely in Italy at its headquarters in Gradara using components delivered by Italian suppliers.

HSD sells to the machine tool industry worldwide. It has established branch offices to serve its key markets in the USA, Germany, China and most recently South Korea. As well as providing sales advice, the company’s local offices also provide after sales service and maintenance.

A new office is slated to open in the near future although its location is still under wraps. Exports are key to HSD’s business, accounting for 85% of its annual 100 million EUR turnover. “As well as having a local presence in key markets, we also exhibit at as many as 50 trade fairs each year around the world,” says Mr. Benelli. “Of these, the most important are the EMO and Ligna fairs in Hanover and several fairs in China. These we attend ourselves while at others we are represented by our local sales partners.”

Like many engineering companies, HSD struggles at times to recruit suitably qualified engineers to fill vacancies. “This is an ongoing problem for everyone in the industry and the answer has to start earlier in schools by encouraging more children to take an interest in STEM subjects,” says Mr. Benelli. “We work together with schools and universities and have our own academy where we provide training for our employees. It is vital that we bring on a new generation of engineers in order to safeguard Italy’s position as a center for engineering expertise, which is why we are playing our own part in the process.”

At present, the future looks rosy for HSD. Having got in on the Industry 4.0 revolution at the beginning, it has cornered a lucrative and growing market. “We are currently growing at a phenomenal rate,” says Mr. Benelli. “Since the financial crisis, we have grown by 10% per year on average and in the last three years by as much as 15%. As a result, we will double our production capacity by 2019.”

According to Mr. Benelli, the reasons for this rapid growth can be traced back to its entry into the metalworking sector in 2006 and the consolidation of its sales subsidiaries, primarily those in Germany and China. Geographically-speaking, the market for machine tools is focused on Europe, China and the USA.

“By targeting the metal industry in these countries, we have been able to widen our product range and generate a significant competitive advantage,” explains Mr. Benelli. “In order to capitalize on these gains, we will continue to add innovative new products for the metal and plastics processing sectors to our range. We will also continue to develop products that are compatible with Industry 4.0. This technology is much in demand from the manufacturing sector and helps to achieve even greater process efficiencies, thereby cutting costs.”

With the backing of its parent company, a stock market-listed group, HSD hopes to double its turnover within the next three to five years through organic expansion as well as acquisitions. “This is an ambitious target but the necessary conditions and opportunities are all waiting to be exploited,” insists Mr. Benelli. “Our fortunes are, of course, closely tied together with those of the machine tool manufacturers that we supply, but that particular industry is also booming which is why we can be so optimistic about the future. Nevertheless, we must find new customers as well as grow together with our existing customers.”

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