A day with Bergi Spa, Great challenges for the upturn phase

30 June 2022 - Autore: BERGI SPA


The major development that will characterize 2022 is the new facility, covering an area of 2200 sqm., connected to the current headquarters (3500 sqm.), thus increasing the amount of available space as well as resulting in a redistribution of the corporate departments. The ultimate goal is to guarantee an efficient organization of work, while paving the way for possible new developments concerning the making of cuttingedge machinery for other business sectors. Moreover, BERGI can rely on a site based in Gambellara, a 3500 square meter unit located 500 metres away from Montebello Vicentino’s highway exit – a facility that deals mainly with carpentry and with the components’ whole processing cycle, equipped with innovative machine tools. Once the project is complete, the overall production area, including the used parts warehouse of 1500 sqm. next to the Gambellara-based unit, will amount to approximately 10,700 square metres.
The expansion of the headquarters located in Arzignano – a substantial financial investment – is a major milestone for the company, a 57-year-long journey full of successes and marked by a steady increase both in terms of turnover and in the number of machines produced. BERGI was established in 1965 by Giovanni Bergozza, who passed away in 2018 and who handed the firm’s management to his three sons: Mauro, CEO and sole director, business partner together with his brothers Alberto and Federico. A beautiful entrepreneurial as well as family history, given that the corporate staff has already welcomed Mauro’s children, that is, Samantha, Nicola and Leonardo, the third generation of the Bergozza family. The following pages will feature their interviews, together with the one taken with Raffaele Palma, head of electronics.
“The expansion and reorganization of our headquarters,” explained Mauro Bergozza, acting as vice president of Assomac as well, the national association bringing together Italian manufacturers of machinery and accessories for the footwear, leatherware and tanning sectors, “is a project we had nurtured for years and that turned into reality at the end of 2017 when we purchased the necessary plot of land. Unfortunately, the issues caused by the lockdown and, in the last few months, by the lack of raw materials, has slowed down the project, although the latter should see its completion by the end of summer, so as to give us the chance to be fully operational for the reopening after the vacation. Provided that we manage to get the licence of habitability in the short term. The two facilities are connected, a feat that will help us move safely from one department to the other. The new indoor goods loading/unloading area has been placed between the two units, as overhead cranes can move through the various production divisions, from inside to outside, thus reducing the risks for the assembly employees.”
What can you tell us about the main innovations logistics-wise?
“In addition to a large underground parking area, the new facility will feature the assembly lines for buffing, dedusting, polishing, through-feed ironing and embossing machines as well as for other single-piece technologies, while the automations such as stackers and leather selection systems will remain in the current location, yet benefitting from the increase in space. Besides the manufacturing department, the new site will ensure additional 900 sqm. spread over three floors to house sales and administration offices. The technical, production and post-sales offices will not change their position in the current headquarters, while the new spaces available will be used efficiently for assistance and to widen the warehouse, the latter to be automated. As for the new facility, it will be divided in different production areas, each one with enough space for the machine to be assembled and the required components: every workstation will be an “island”, with the chance to keep everything at hand, so as to guarantee, according to the Japanese Lean production philosophy, a decrease in downtime and in movements for assemblers. Moreover, a 400 square-metre area will house the showroom, where we will put on display the main technologies in our range, a space devoted to the development of prototypes and of the latest systems as well as to testing.”
Lately, you have hired several people: how has the integration of the corporate staff proceeded?
“Overall, with the newly recruited workers, our workforce comprises approximately 75 employees. For the headquarters located in Arzignano, we have hired two electricians, one maintenance technician, one lathe operator, one warehouse worker and an assembler, while two carpenters joined the Gambellara-based facility last fall. As for the sales department, there is a new secretary who is fluent in both spoken and written Chinese. Part of this new recruitment campaign is linked to future retirements, so we have taken action well in advance.”
Will you launch new products in 2022?
“The ultimate goal is to strengthen the corporate core business, that is, buffing machines, through-feed ironing and embossing machines, and automations. In both cases, in the last couple of years, we have launched on the market new, cutting-edge solutions, the same goes for dedusting systems. We aim at reinforcing this range of products, implementing technological upgrades; we have been focusing on the development of these models via optimization, industrialization and set-up. To launch new solutions every year, as it happens in other sectors, is not a benefit for us. Ours is a small-sized company operating in a niche field: oftentimes, we have to comply with the customers’ requirements, on the lookout for specific customization options that are not easy to implement.”
Can you give us an example?
“As for some foreign companies, where certain hides have lower quality standards than average, in addiction to quality we must deal with high humidity levels, a factor that can affect some processes. The goal was to overcome the obstacle and find a solution: for this reason, we have established a work team that, “step by step”, carried out analysis to understand if we were on track. In this specific case, solving the humidity issue was of pivotal importance, because the same situation could be found in other countries featuring the same climate conditions and whose production focuses on certain types of leathers.”
What innovations do you plan to showcase at the September edition of Simac Tanning Tech?
“Since the deadline is approaching, we are working to arrange the stand. What I can say is that we will exhibit machines for the footwear and leatherware sectors. We will showcase a new range of automations too: we are satisfied with the results achieved in this field, with orders up until the end of the year. We are pleased and confident. The trade show in Milan will be a pivotal event, because we will have a more precise overview concerning the global market situation. In the meantime, we hope for a more marked recovery. This year as well, the participation of Asian professionals and buyers is not certain, as they were forced to miss the latest editions. We hope to see them again soon.”
Market-wise, where do you expect major developments in the postpandemic period?
“A difficult question because right now, in addition to economic issues, there are also historic dynamics that are difficult to analyse. At present, we are focusing on Italy, China and Europe, whereas classic markets such as South America, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are at a standstill. Obviously, specific situations must be taken into account: Covid emergency has resulted in enterprises closing down, while some small-sized firms are currently experiencing a growth and development phases, without forgetting mergers. Therefore, those who move from small to larger hides, now require bigger processing machines: this type of expansion applies especially to Chinese, Taiwanese, US and German groups. We expect good results from the North American market as well, while some areas in South-East Asia are more interested in cheaper products, below our cost.”
What are your prospects for 2022 and for the years to come?
“As a company, we are placed in the high-end market segment. Looking to the numbers, one third of our workforce does not operate in the production department, but rather in the technical office, in the service, R&D and sales division. They must guarantee a prompt response and timely assistance. Suffice it to say that we have an employee whose sole task is to collect and package spare parts ready to be shipped out. An expensive workforce, that includes several senior professionals. Therefore, we have to keep up with the highest quality standards.”
Will BERGI have the chance to explore new opportunities in other sectors beyond the tanning industry?
“This is what we intend to do, given that, due to the resources invested in the headquarters expansion, we must widen our clientele. Right now, we are trying to understand if the range of machines we currently produce, could be adjusted to manufacture different types of articles. The fact that we are not forced to start from scratch is a plus, as we can rely on the experience of our know-how. However, the transition will not be easy: for example, we may need new recruits in the sales office. We will take one step at a time, but we are ready for the evolution process.”
Let’s talk about the need to produce at lower costs: in your opinion, is this going to be a key trend in the years to come on a global level?
“Here as well, we are experiencing an odd situation: currently, the renowned brands’ goal lies in safeguarding their exclusivity, a trend that has resulted in a rise in retail prices. So much so that some high-end articles, such as women’s bags, are sold for thousands of euros, thus creating a “status symbol”. The most prominent brands have collected data on consumers, have noticed an increase in the number of people worldwide who, compared to the past, can afford to buy a designer piece and, in order to protect their exclusive status, have raised prices. However, this decision has not helped leather, fabrics and accessories manufacturers who, on the one hand, have to deal with the growing retail prices, while, in some cases, are even forced to lower them to fight off the competition. A new source of concern is the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, an event that has been affecting the early months of 2022, two countries with strategic markets for the leather world, in terms of wet-blue supply as well as of purchase rate. As everyone knows, leather consumption levels are way higher in colder countries.”
Is sustainability still a cornerstone in your corporate philosophy?
“Absolutely. We believe we are well on track, by summer we will get the ISO 14000 certification and we are implementing a coherent policy document. Recently, we were interviewed by a large Italian banking group with regard to this topic and we got a score far superior to the average of the other polls: we were truly satisfied with the result achieved. The first step lies in fostering a “green” philosophy in our employees: I believe we should try and leave a better world to future generations. In the most advanced markets, including the Italian one, the situation is good, our district has made further progress in the last few decades. When I was boy, the water of the stream running through Arzignano did not have a reassuring colour, while now it is fit for fishing. The same goes for smells, now a rare occurrence. In Europe and in developed nations, sustainability has turned into a strategic priority, while in many other countries, alas, there is still a lot to do to promote environmental awareness. This gap will deeply affect our future.”

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