Throughout the year the Group was committed to ensuring workplace safety and continuity of production and assistance. Investment in product innovation and a new in-company ‘digital culture’ continued apace.
Sales above 1.1 billion euro, net equity stable at 682 million euro. Moreover, the number of employees remained steady at almost 4,600 and the company retained its technological leadership on all markets. These were the key Sacmi Group stats - contained in the 2020 Annual Report approved by the Board of Directors - presented to the parent company’s Members’ Assembly yesterday, 14 May 2021.
These figures represent an extraordinary response to a year marred by the pandemic: a year that saw, especially in the first two quarters, interruptions to international supply chains and the temporary suspension of manufacturing in some sectors.
“In this incredibly hard year, Sacmi demonstrated just how prepared it is to face such challenges”, highlighted the President, Paolo Mongardi. The first step was to safeguard the health of every worker, “making it possible to ensure continuity of both production and assistance in Italy and worldwide. A result”, adds Mongardi, “achieved thanks to the responsibility, passion and skill of all our people and handled via an immediate nurturing, at every level, of a new digital culture”.
Working from home arrangements, a special program to protect personnel travelling internationally, reorganization of in-company layouts and workflows, plus an array of solutions to keep us close to customers at all times; this, then, was Sacmi's strategy for weathering the global storm, seizing on the first signs of economic recovery in the second half of the year and closing the year with healthy order books. In short, a strategy that lets us look to 2021 with confidence, with the added boost of a return to relative calm on markets and the development of effective vaccines.
In the Group’s most important business unit, Tiles, Sacmi responded to the generalized decline in volumes with even more decisive investment in product and process innovation. This ranged from new forming and decoration solutions that enhance product quality/aesthetics to machines and systems (kilns, filters, heat recovery and cogeneration systems) that reduce energy consumption and environmental impact, raising ceramic factories’ competitiveness. In parallel, Sacmi strengthened its position on the Sanitaryware & Tableware market. Here, despite sluggish global demand, the company continues to pursue a policy of ever-greater automation that has raised both the quality and recognizability of Sacmi products.
Moving on to packaging, 2020 closed with the inauguration of the new Rigid Packaging Technologies Business Unit, into which all Sacmi’s closures, containers, preform, post-processing and vision system operations have been merged. Again, Sacmi’s ability to stay several steps ahead of both standards and markets saw a near-repetition of its 2019 results. Investment in new lightweight solutions and tethered caps continued apace, with the product range now encompassing complex cap assembly solutions (following the acquisition of Velomat and its rapid integration into the Group).
On the Beverage front, labeling machine sales remained healthy, especially on the US market; however, the pandemic did make customers somewhat more cautious when making investment decisions on complete plants. Defranceschi (Wine) enjoyed a positive 2020; by year’s end it had completed several major projects and established a firm lead in the specialized segment of producing/marketing pigmented steel designer tanks.
Advanced Technologies and Advanced Materials continue to play an ever-greater role in the Group portfolio. The progress made together with German subsidiaries in developing new components (lithium-ion batteries) for electric vehicles is particularly noteworthy. Likewise, 2020 saw Packaging & Chocolate strengthen both its product range and sales organization, especially on the strategic European market.
Throughout the year customer assistance services played a pivotal role, with Sacmi developing an ability to perform machine/plant start-ups remotely (i.e. ‘virtual’ FATs and SATs). Moreover, all Customer Services are now organized by individual Business Unit, a move designed to provide service packages that are more attuned to each sector’s individual needs.
In 2020 the total number of patents registered by Sacmi (4,650 to date) continued to grow, as did the number and quality of projects in collaboration with universities. In terms of internal and external cooperation, instead, Sacmi renewed its commitment to the local community by donating a latest-generation MRI scanner to the Imola Hospital. This latest donation takes the Cooperative's three-year total to over 3 million euro.
Lastly, and more importantly due to the large number of people involved and its service role within the main Italian ceramic-making district, came the project that saw five Sacmi companies merge to form two legal entities, Sacmi Forni & Filters (formerly Sacmi Forni and Eurofilter) and Sacmi Tech (CMC, Intesa and Nuova Sima), thus creating more efficient, effective supply chains in the various fields. In parallel with this operation, management, production and assistance logics were also integrated; this means customers within the ceramic district now refer to just two adjoining Sacmi-owned offices, located in Casalgrande (RE, Italy).